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You are what you repeat

“You are what you repeat”

Several years ago I write a poem called “You are what you repeat.”

You are what you repeat,
I know it is true,
Words that you say,
And deeds that you do.

Words become plans,
Plans become deeds,
This is what determines,
Where your life leads. 

Once is a chance,
Twice is a choice,
If you do it again,
Will your future rejoice. 

Whether the outcome,
Is victory or defeat,
It’s all because
Of what you repeat.

Take a look at yourself…

Are you as fit as you would like to be?
Are you the kind of person you want to be?
Are you where you would like to be in life?

However you answered those questions, it’s because of what you repeated on a daily basis. Anything you repeatedly do becomes a habit. Habitual thoughts are as powerful as habitual actions. If you keep telling yourself you don’t have time to go to the gym or that you don’t like evercise – guess what you will never exercise. If you keep telling yourself you are someone who can’t tolerate people who are one way – guess what, you won’t be able to tolerate them. If you keep telling yourself you aren’t someone who can learn new skills – guess what, you will never bother taking classes.

All action begins with a thought.

All action begins with a thought – in fact most action begins with the same thought being repeated. The more you hear something the more you believe it to be true – and the more likely you are to act that way. It doesn’t matter if you hear it from yourself repeatedly or from someone else, the affect is the same. This is why brainwashing, or thought reformation, works. When people hear the same message over and over again they start to believe it and the more they believe it the more they will start acting in that way. This is why cult leaders can get their followers to do things we hear about in the news.

You hear your own voice the most.

The average person is believed to have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day. There is no accepted number, partly because there isn’t a clear definition of what constitutes a thought. MRI’s show that self talk is the dominant activity in the brain at rest. If we go with the lower number and assume just 50% of our thoughts are connected to a current activity (for example, “I must write down I need to buy eggs at the store”), that leaves 6,000 thoughts a day. That’s 6,000 thoughts a day that can shape your actions and ultimately your habits. If you keep thinking “I am fat, I am fat, I am fat” you will help yourself to a second cookie “because it doesn’t matter anyway, I am fat.” You will also tell yourself “I can’t exercise because I am fat.”

Sports psychology

What do Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Tiger Woods have in common? You guessed it, they all have sports psychologists helping them with their self talk. Changing self talk can make the 1% difference between winning and losing for a top athlete but it can make 100% difference for a regular person between creating a good new habit or not. There is a growing body of research that shows positive self talk makes a measurable difference in performance.

Self talk

The first thing to know is up to 70% of thoughts are negative. Before you can start using positive self talk you need to be aware of the negative thoughts that are sabotaging you. Be mindful of what you are thinking and when you tell yourself something negative like “I hate exercising” tell your to “STOP.” Literally tell yourself to stop. Then take a moment and think about what the positive opposite it – and tell yourself that. The most effective self talk is achievable, positive and in the third person.


For self talk to work it has to be something you can realistically achieve. For example telling myself I will play in the NBA isn’t achievable because I am 45 years old and 5′ 6″ tall. Telling myself that if I practice I can make 10 hoops in a row is totally achievable.


Frame your self talk in terms of what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, instead of saying “I won’t skip my workout every morning” say “I will workout every morning.”
Third person. Lastly, research has shown that self talk is most effective in the third person. Say “(Your name) exercises” or “You exercise.”


The difference between people who grow and people who don’t, is accountability. Own your actions. If you skip going to the gym don’t say “it’s not my fault, it was raining, I didn’t have clean socks and my friend didn’t want to go.” If you blame other people you can’t do anything about it. Hold yourself accountable. Say “today I couldn’t be bothered to go to the gym, but tomorrow I will go.” There is something liberating about being accountable for your own actions. Instead of being held back by others, you are free to make a change.

Final thoughts

Wherever you are now is because of your past habits. Whereever you end up in the future will be because of your current habits. Think about your goals for the future and make habits to get you there. This whole blog is about goal-based habits. Regular habits just form. Goalbits are deliberate. If you want to change, own your actions and keep repeating the right things. Know that the first time you do something its a chance, subsequent times are a choice. And you are free to make a different choice every time.