Before we start this one, I need to explain what I mean about a few things. First, I am not about to suggest that you can say whatever you want and by magic you will become it. I don’t believe that it is as simple as deciding what you want to be and telling yourself that you already are that thing. Changing takes time and effort. But I am telling you that the words you say to yourself, much like the words you read, do have power over you. Negative words of self-doubt have an annoying way of coming out when you least need them, and reinforcing these words so that they are the ones you constantly hear in your head only makes that more likely.

Why not find ways of replacing those negative words, the ones from the old story, with new ones that can help you get to where you want to be? It may well be that it takes more than just words to change your life, but trying to change while those old-story negative words are speaking themselves over you is like trying to win a Formula 1 race with your brakes on. Taking the brakes off might not win the race by itself – you clearly need an engine and a bunch of driving talent as well – but you at least have a sporting chance.

Something I’ve found very useful in this battle of words is deliberately writing out and reading, often aloud, some positive words that counteract the negative ones I believe about myself. Many people call these affirmations. There’s a lot said about these, and it’s important to realise that there are probably some terrible ways to do them that make you more deluded than empowered, but there are some benefits if you can avoid the pitfalls. The main thing you’re trying to achieve is shifting your focus from all your negative aspects onto your positive ones – as well as reminding yourself of your commitment to improving some of your negatives.

There’s a few things that you should find happening when you start doing this. First, you’ll be a little more likely to see opportunities to achieve work towards your goal, as well as seeing the little steps you’re making towards when you get somewhere. The presence of those words in your mind every day means you’re less likely to dwell on setbacks or overlook your progress. Next, when you’re faced with a choice between doing something constructive or something lazy, you’ll make the constructive choice just a little more often at first until it becomes a good habit. What we always do becomes what we always have done, and what we are most likely to do in future. So being able to make even a tiny difference to this can have huge benefits. And finally, your perception of events in your life defines the enjoyment and contentment you have in your life. What you tell yourself to frame your experience can transform how you perceive it. And having these words ready as a pattern in your mind before you need them means you’re a lot less likely to slip into believing the negative voices that creep in when you’re not sure of yourself. You’ll find yourself more confident, which will have knock-on effects in other situations, and you’ll get more evidence that you can use to remind yourself that you are making progress.

Everyone has negative thoughts, worries and fears, and sometimes it can even help to use them rather than always trying to shut them down. You’re alive today because you have self preservation built in. But you don’t want to let them be the dominant voice. When self preservation makes you doubt yourself so you can’t take action that you are actually capable of, it’s time to stop believing that voice and replace it with one that works.