To Reach Beyond Your Limits by Training Your Mind by Marisa Peer (Transcript)

Marisa Peer at TEDxKCS

Full transcript of world renowned therapist Marisa Peer’s TEDx Talk: To Reach Beyond Your Limits by Training Your Mind at TEDxKCS conference.

Best quote from this talk: 

“Your body doesn’t care if what you tell it is right or wrong, good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, you respond only to those words and images.”

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: to-reach-beyond-your-limits-by-training-your-mind-by-marisa-peer-at-tedxkcs


Marisa Peer – Internationally known therapist, speaker, author, and columnist

Today is about collaboration and I’m going to talk to you about what I think is the most important collaboration you will ever get. And that is the collaboration between you and your mind.

When you can collaborate with your mind and tell it what you want, you will get what you want. Now I’m very lucky that I’ve been voted Britain’s best therapist several times. And I’m in the tab to guide to the best of the best. And people say to me but you know the brain, that’s really complex and complicated and takes years to understand. Actually that’s not true.

What I believe is you need to know 4 things about your mind. And if you put these 4 things into practice, you will have success across the board at every level. So let me tell you what these 4 things are about your mind.

Your mind does exactly, specifically, what it thinks you want it to do. It always does what it thinks is in your very best interest. If you haven’t got what you want but you’ve got behaviors you don’t want — you are not collaborating properly with your mind. I’m going to change that for you.

Secondly, your mind is hardwired to move you towards pleasure and away from pain. And that’s why it’s interesting that thrives people — you survive on the planet by avoiding pain.

Thirdly, the way you feel about everything all the time is only down to two things. The pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself.

And fourthly, your mind loves what is familiar. It is programmed to keep going over and over again of what is familiar. If you want to succeed at any level, you have got to make what is familiar unfamiliar and what is unfamiliar familiar.

So let’s start with one.

Your mind does what it really thinks you want it to do.

It’s always acting in your own interests and your mind listens all the time to your language. It works out what you’re doing and feeling by the words you are using. So if you say, these exams are killing me, I’m dying under this paperwork, my boss is a nightmare, I’m overwhelmed, I can’t cope with the stress.

When you say “I’m dying under the pressure, this workload is killing me” you are telling your mind you don’t want to do it. And if your mind thinks you don’t want to do it, guess what? It will encourage you to procrastinate, bunk off and not apply yourself.

Your mind is so very very specific to the words you use that if you say, I’d love a week off in bed, I’m overwhelmed with this stress. I just wish I could have a week off at home lounging around.

Your mind goes, there you go, I’ve given you the flu. Didn’t you ask for that? You said you wanted a week off in bed and I’ve given you the flu. There’s your week off.

If you say, I’m dreading having to give that presentation next Wednesday. I’d do anything to get out of it. Your mind’s like, OK, why don’t I wake you up with a migraine or an upset stomach? There’s your get-out-the-presentation behavior.

And that sounds a little silly but that is how your mind works. It does what it thinks you want. If you haven’t got what you want, it’s because you use words like, it’s too hard, it’s too difficult, it takes all my time.

When I wrote my first book I was only in my twenties. And when I got a book deal, I kind of knew that, that involved isolating myself in writing and I didn’t want to do it. And I spent a long time procrastinating. Until I realized I had to say I want to write.

I have chosen to write. I’ve chosen to feel great about it. And those words, I have chosen to do this and chosen to feel great about it will change your life. This is way more than positive thinking. It is collaborating with your mind.

So, look at your behavior and if you haven’t got what you want, you’re not communicating properly with your mind. And I learned this when I worked with premier footballers and marines.

I was doing a television show with some marines. And I was watching them running in pitch black, little miner lights on their head. It was raining sideways, it was muddy and they were singing. And of course when you sing, your mind is like, OK, it’s pouring with rain, it’s dark, it’s freezing cold, you’re running up a hill with a big pack on your back and you’re singing. Oh I get it! You like this.

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Now imagine if you were to run a marathon and you started by going, OK, 24 miles to go, oh I hate this, oh it’s so boring, oh it’s so hard, it’s so difficult. You’re not going to finish it. You have to go, I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it. Even when it isn’t true.

So that is how you collaborate with your mind. You must tell it using very specific, very detailed, very precise words, what you want. And when you are doing, you say, I want this, I’ve chosen this, I like this. And you must link pleasure.

Because here’s Step 2.

Your mind will always move you towards pleasure and away from pain.

If you eat something that makes you sick and you link pain to it, you can never eat that again for the rest of your life. You are hardwired to avoid pain. But if you link pain to studying, speaking in public, being – in some way of getting attention, that’s very very difficult.

And you can choose everyday what is pain and pleasure. You are the only person that can do that. You can’t put a cat in a Jacuzzi and it goes, it’s cool, the bubbles, the heat. They don’t like water. But you can choose.

And I have some clients who link pleasure to pain and some who link pain to pleasure. And I learned this when I worked with drug addicts. And not just street drug addicts, people who were right at the top of their game – Hollywood actors, movie stars, models who would link absolute pleasure to sticking a needle in their body because they would get high. And to them that pain was pleasure.

I have other clients who were being given a first class trip and they go “Uh, I’m not going to go because I think the plane is going to blow up.” So they link pain to pleasure.

So a couple of years ago, I broke my arm and when they took the cast off it was up here. And they were like “Oh.” And I said “Okay, how do I get it straight?”

And they went, “We can’t actually get it straight. You know you can have some physio and it might drop another inch.”

I’m like “No, no you don’t understand. I do yoga. I can’t do the downward dog with an arm like that, I can’t do the warrior with an arm like that. I must have my arm straight.”

And they’re like, well we can break it under surgery but it might not work and it might make it worse. So I don’t do no. I want a straight arm. So I found the best physio.

And I said “Can you straighten my arm?”

And he said ‘Oh yes, but it will really really hurt and it will take a lot of commitment. You got to come in twice a week and I’ve got to break all the little capillaries’.

So I knew it was going to hurt. But I know how to collaborate with my brain.

So I went along and kept saying to my brain, I want it, I want it. I have chosen to have a straight arm. I can take the pain, I want the pain. And I was singing this song by The Black Eyed Peas called Let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s get this started.

And so when he started to pull my arm, he wasn’t kidding when he said it hurt. And of course when someone’s hurting you, your instinct is to pull back. And I couldn’t do that, I had to pull forward. But I’m always singing this song, telling my mind I want it. And I got my arm completely straight. And at the end he said, “I don’t know how you did that because most people give up halfway”.

I said, “No I told my brain I wanted it.” That’s what I did. I kept saying I want it. I linked pain to not getting it and pleasure to the pain, if you like. And that’s very important.

So if ever you’ve had to read in class and you got the word wrong and everyone’s laughed at you and you think, right that’s it. I’m never going to speak in public again. I’m never going to be the focus of attention again. Of course you forget.

10 years later, you’re about to give a speech or give a presentation or chair a meeting and you are about to have a panic attack, because your mind’s like, oh no no no no no no no, speaking in public is pain, don’t you remember? And you have got to change that.

So you have got to tell your mind exactly what you want. And you’ve got to link pleasure not pain to doing the things that are hard.

And the third thing about the brain is that it responds only to 2 things.

The pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself.

That’s all there is. So if you were on a flight going to LA and you’re sitting right next to him on the same flight and your pictures are: going to LA, great beaches, great people, fantastic weather, places to go – you’re having one experience.

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But if you’re saying, do you know this plane sounds really funny and that guy looks very suspicious. I think he is a terrorist. I think he is going to blow up the plane. You’re having a totally different experience. Because of two things. The pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself.

And when you collaborate with your brain, you must change those pictures and you must change those words. So I worked with a footballer who came from nowhere, he was playing for not any division team and he went straight into the premier league. And he wasn’t very tall. And he said “You know I feel daunted because I’m not tall.”

And I said, OK, so imagine that you’re Maradona. Do you think Maradona says that when he goes on the pitch? I don’t feel tall enough. Of course he doesn’t. Do you think Michael Owen does that? You have to change your thinking and change your words.

Because the pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself will change everything. That’s all you have to do.

So let me show you. Just put your arm out in front of you. And I want you to imagine, in your hand you’re holding half of a big fat juicy lemon. A big fat lemon. Close your eyes and please keep your eyes closed. And I want you to imagine, bring the lemon up to your mouth and you can squeeze it and you can feel that wonderful lemon feeling. And you can inhale it and you can smell that great lemon.

So now open your mouth and take a massive bite. Bite this lemon in half and chew that around. And as you start to chew it, you will find immediately you are pumping out masses of saliva to a thought. You can open it – and there’s no lemon.

But, you see two things. The picture you made in your head was a lemon. The words you made were – eating a lemon. You weren’t eating a lemon. Your body doesn’t care if what you tell it is right or wrong, good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, you respond only to those words and images.

So let’s do another one. Just stand up. And I want everyone – in fact you can do this sitting down, it’s fine. I want everyone to put their left arm in front of them or use your left arm. And all I want you to do is swing your arm as far back behind as it will go. Just take it to its maximum.

And just notice where it is. Just notice where it’s gone to. Bring it back – bring it back, close your eyes. And I want you to tell your left arm that in a minute you’re going to repeat this. And it is going to go a third further.

So see your arm going a third further. Don’t move it yet. Tell your arm that it will go a third further. See all those muscles in your left shoulder like elastic. Tell your arm to go a third further. Open your eyes. Point your left arm. And as you do it again you will see it will go a third further. Because you saw it. Because you told it to. And you can practice this at home.

But you really need to get these things that this is how you collaborate. You see the right things, you tell yourself the right words. When I was working with the Olympic Bobsleigh team, they did not get on at all and that was a big disadvantage for them.

So I told them to imagine they were like hunting dogs, all working on the same brain wave. Which is how fish swim and how birds fly. They move in the shape of a big animal and they kind of communicate differently and that really worked for them.

So the fourth thing about your mind is that it loves what is familiar and it will go for what is familiar. And if what is familiar is procrastinating, messing about, not applying yourself, feeling uncomfortable in public and not believing in yourself.

You have got to make that completely unfamiliar. And you have to make what is unfamiliar familiar – working hard, believing in yourself, putting in the hours, deciding to love it. And it’s a really English thing that we don’t like to say – I’m the best, I’m the greatest, I’m really good at what I do, I’m an expert at this.

And of course that’s because we think we are faking it. But I just showed you that when you believed you are eating a lemon, you actually start to make that happen.

So Arnold Schwarzenegger said:

“Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way at all and I hope it never ever does.”

And I love that.

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And Muhammad Ali said:

“It’s people fear that stops them taking on challenges. I told myself I was the greatest before I even was. I believed in myself. And guess what? I became the greatest.”

So, what a concept. He told himself he was the best and he became the best. And he didn’t just go, yeah, I’m the greatest me. He trained, he worked out, he was disciplined, he believed he was the best.

And I have worked with those at the top of their game, top CEOs, top actors, top everything, top rockstars. They all have to tell themselves they are the best. Because what is the opposite of that? “Oh I’m just average, I’m not really good enough, I can’t really do this, it’s too hard, it requires too much commitment.”

I just showed you whatever you tell your mind – it believes. So tell it better things.

First you make your beliefs and then your beliefs make you. And if you believe in yourself, other people will believe in you too. And when you stretch your mind to a new dimension, it never ever ever ever goes back. Because your potential expands as you move towards it. You can’t even know what your potential is.

So when Roger Bannister wanted to run a mile in under 4 minutes and no one had done that, he did these 4 things. He told himself, “I want to do that. I want to make it happen.” He linked massive pleasure to doing that. He saw constantly his body going through the tape at 239 seconds and he made it familiar because he did run a mile in under 4 minutes.

And that same year, 8 more people did it. The following year, 57 people did exactly the same thing. So he made what was unfamiliar familiar.

When Mark Spitz won 7 Olympic gold medals for swimming, before most of you were even born, he was a hero. That was amazing that he did that. And now his speeds aren’t even that special. Because your potential expands as you move towards it.

So if you want to have the most fantastic collaboration with yourself, you got to remember these 4 things. Tell your mind what you want. Link massive pleasure to going there and pain to not going there. So you can motivate your mind. Use very detailed words. Change the pictures, change the words and, make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar.

So when I wrote my first book, I went along to paying for it. And they said, “We love this book but we want to change it. I want you to write 10 chapters on this particular brain psychology. Can you do that?” And you know, I couldn’t. I could come up with 4 or maybe 5.

And I have a choice. I could go no sorry I can’t do that, here’s your advance back or to go yes of course I could do that. So I said yes of course I could do that. 10? Yes that’s fine, no problem. And I had faith – that’s all I had – absolute faith that my brain would come up with the other chapters.

And in fact I was driving along on Isle’s Court Road one day and two of them came to into my head and I stopped the car and wrote them on a piece of paper. By the time I sent that book, I could have given them 35 chapters because my brain was expanding all the time because I programmed it the right way. I told it to go ahead and find that information.

Okay, so I could talk to you a lot but it’s not really about how much I talk to you. It’s how much you take this on board. If it’s familiar to go to lectures, listen to people, go home and do something else – make that unfamiliar.

You have everything to gain by doing these 4 things. Tell your mind exactly what you want. Use really detailed, descriptive, positive powerful words. It’s not positive thinking. It’s rewiring your brain for success and that is success across the board – not just in business, not just in athletics but in everything, even in your relationships.

Link massive huge enormous pleasure to getting there and pain to staying the same. Change the pictures, change the words. When you have a brilliant brain and we all have a brilliant brain, you have two choices.

Rationalize why you feel so bad or talk yourself out of it. “I can’t cope with these exams, I’m not getting enough sleep.” Or change that to “This is temporary, I can do this, I want to do it, I will sleep later.” And make the familiar unfamiliar.

Most important, make self-belief so normal to you that everyone else believes in you too. And thank you for listening.


Resources for Further Reading: 

Mind is Everything: Dr. David Hendricks (Transcript)

Colin O’Brady: Change Your Mindset and Achieve Anything at TEDxPortland (Transcript)

Dr. Alia Crum: Change Your Mindset, Change The Game at TEDxTraverseCity (Transcript)

Are We Our Mind: Dan Siegel (Full Transcript)


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