Archana Law explains why self-image is the key to life

Whether you have conducted or participated in them, everyone can relate to performance reviews. While some of us find it difficult to continuously enhance our performance, the highest achievers in the world do. Are they more intelligent, talented or privileged?

This is best explained by Timothy Gallwey in his famous ‘The Inner Game’ series of books.

Now a highly sought after business performance coach, he says that “every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. The outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles and to reach an external goal. The inner game is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”

The inner game or ‘performance equation’ is defined as ‘performance equals potential minus interference.’ We can choose to grow our potential by expanding our comfort zone and stretching ourselves; or we can choose to overcome internal obstacles like fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus and limiting assumptions etc.

The self-interference cycle refers to a tendency as human beings to create our own obstacles and sabotage one’s journey.

Perception, responses and results are the basic elements of any human action. But between perception and response, there is some degree of interpretation. At each stage, a meaning is being attributed to each part of the action and often to the performer himself. These interpretations have a huge impact on performance and unsuccessful efforts prompt a distorted self-image.

Whether you realise it or not, each of us carries a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. However vague or ill-defined it may be, this self-image is your perception of who you are. Built on your own subconscious beliefs formed through experiences, successes, failures, humiliation and triumphs, and how others have reacted to you (especially in early childhood), these ideas or beliefs become ‘truths’ that you rarely question.

Your self-image then controls what you can and can’t accomplish; and you act like the person you perceive yourself to be. More importantly, you can’t act otherwise – in spite of all your conscious efforts. So willpower isn’t the answer; self-image management is!

We build our personality, behaviour and even circumstances around our self-image. But it can be changed when one’s experiences either strengthen or weaken our perception of ourselves. Often we fail to realise that the trouble with a faltering self-image lies in how we evaluate ourselves.

Obviously, the (possibly) hidden patterns of thought, if altered, will free you to tap into more of your potential and experience vastly different results. One of the earliest experiments along this line was conducted by the late Prescott Lecky, one of the pioneers in self-image psychology.

Lecky conceived the personality as a system of ideas, all of which must be consistent with each other. Ideas that are inconsistent with the system are rejected and not acted upon whereas those that seem consistent are accepted. At the very centre of this system of ideas is the individual’s self-image.

To live a satisfying life, your self-image must be positive. You should possess wholesome self-esteem and a positive self-image that you can trust and believe in. You need to know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, and honestly address both. Your self-image must be a reasonable approximation of ‘you’ and not more or less than who you are.

When this self-image is intact and secure, you feel good. When it is threatened, you feel anxious and insecure. And when it is adequate and one that you can be proud of, you feel self-confident and function at your optimum.

When your subconscious is used and directed by the mind, it will work automatically and impersonally to achieve the goals you set for it. Present it with ‘success goals’ and it functions as a ‘success mechanism.’ This is because the goals are filtered through one’s self-image. By discovering how to alter your self-image, you end its conflict with your goals.

This is literally the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle.

Achieve the 5:1 positive to negative ratio. According to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, we experience approximately 20,000 ‘moments’ (a few seconds during which our brain records an experience) every day. The quality of our day is determined by how the brain recognises and categorises these moments – i.e. as positive, negative or neutral. By consciously tracking positive and negative moments, we can ensure that the resulting score contributes to our overall mood.

So put your instinct of success into action. Our creator did not short-change us because we have been blessed with a choice of goals as well as a creative imagination with which to direct our success.