Scripting For Success – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

When I started working for Goodlife Fitness as a membership coordinator I was filled with passion but lacked the sales experience to feel immediately comfortable about it. That isn’t anything new for them, they do hire a lot of young or inexperienced people who have the right values to help offer other Canadians the opportunity to improve their fitness, health and quality of life.

To this end, they have scripts; they are not unique in this regard, it is done by most companies who wish to standardize their level of service. The purpose of the scripts is to help the new team members overcome doubt, insecurity and negative self-talk that often comes with asking someone to do something they should or need to do but haven’t been willing to commit to. And the scripts are effective if you role play and automate them.

Les Mills International, the organization that Goodlife selected as their provider for the Group Fitness classes they offer, uses a very similar approach with their choreography. The movements are set to music and the instructors are required to say the same sorts of things at particular times as cuing, precuing and coaching. In both cases, IF you follow the script you will cover the bare minimum and deliver a class / experience that will get good results. The more experience one gets with the scripts, the more they adjust them to make them their own, yet still capture all of the critical pieces. Overtime you become the script – they start to flow out of you automatically and your performance becomes the mindless expression of the words you once struggled to remember.

This is beautiful and deadly.

When I comes to teaching a group fitness class or presenting someone with a sincere opportunity to improve their fitness very little can go wrong. When it comes to who you think you are the effects of an uncoached script can be a confident and still presence or they can be an anxiety laden nightmarish existence of doubt, anguish, fear and shattered potential.

When I first had a notion of this I was 15 and drunk. Tony Robins was on an infomercial and he was selling tapes to help reprogram the mind by filling it with positive ideas about yourself. I didn’t buy the tapes. Alcohol seemed to improve my confidence and being 15 and he being Tony Robins, I didn’t bother.

Then one night I heard my mind telling me that I was a piece of crap and that everything I did wouldn’t work. I posted about it in “I Hear Voices They Tell Me It Is Called Thinking” and that moment remains the beginning of an actual reawakening. But I went back to sleep again without capturing the lesson. Gallons a booze, cubic meters of smoke, kilograms of food, a number of addictive relationships and countless wasted moments later I found myself smashing my room apart upon the realization that my dad, one of the finest proxy’s for actual confidence I had, was gone.

That was a lonely moment in spite of my moms efforts to calm me. I was alone, I always have been even when my dad was here. I was scared, I always have been, even when I felt protected by my relationships. The things I was saying to myself were so messed-up. They were the same things I had always been saying to myself and there wasn’t anything that I could do to get them in check; it was a rough time in my head (my thoughts), my body (my feelings) and my environment (my actions).

This was the bottom, just me with my thoughts, feelings and self-destructive actions. It was evident when my mom left for work that my life had become unworkable because I had created scripts that did not reflect reality; or at least did not reflect a reality that I wanted to continue.

My therapist immediately clued into what I was doing because I was very open and willing to accept whatever help was going to be offered. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was what she suggested for a couple of reasons – first, it was obvious that my self-talk was messy. Next, it was evident that I have had a lot of experience with scripts and using them to manipulate or control my emotions. Finally, it is very effective for someone who doesn’t have a severe underlying pathology.

Our sessions were short but my homework was intense. Basically I needed to identify anytime I said something to myself that created a feeling that I wanted to change. For example, “I always screw-up relationships and will never find someone to be with” creates depression and anxiety because it is reflective and projective – it is based on an interpretation of the past and it assumes the same interpretation will become the future. These emotions cause me to do the very things that create depression and anxiety. Challenging the thought and making it closer to the truth will shift the emotional response. E.g. “the relationships I have had did not work out as I had hoped they would, but each one brought me closer to a more suitable partner” eliminates most of the depression and reveals a trend towards something which creates hope and possibility.

Intrusive thoughts are engaged in the same way. I work hard to identify when I am having them, stop them and then move on to thinking about something that I want to think about – work, training, a new cycling song, the beauty in the universe, whatever. The key is to stop them from becoming part of the script that runs automatically through my mind.

Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, but the thoughts do begin to change as the script becomes new. It will always require some effort to keep the new script going given how deeply rooted the old ones are – there are thousands of years of evolutionary history working against feelings of neutrality and peace – but mindless effort will eventually begin to change the flow of life.

Scripting for success is a very simple way to make your life WHATEVER you want it to be. Put the time in now, the only thing you have to lose is an unworkable past.