I was talking with a friend the other day, I haven’t heard from him in quite some time. Turns out he’s been doing some coaching, working with Division 1A college athletes and one of his students was just in a big championship game.
He told me about something they work on before the season starts called “Positive Self-Talk”. They develop one or two statements that the athlete can say before and during training or during their performance. We all kind of do this, kind of like the little engine that could thing; “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”
It’s tricky though, you need to be careful what you say to yourself. Avoid things like bad talk or negative reinforcement. Like “don’t screw this up” or “don’t fall down.” Keep it forward focused and centered around your performance. For example a runner might say; “Head down, knees up, kick hard, move fast” or something of the sort. Special Forces Operators have a saying “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” when they need to move quickly but be very accurate.
In the book 10-Minute Toughness, by Jason Selk, there is a chapter on “mental clutter” that is all about how to eliminate this type of thought. The author calls it “Don’t Thinking”. Which is a series of thoughts that you continue to cycle through that focus on what you do not want to do, instead of what you should do like in the runner example.
How to fix this: Instead of thinking of what you don’t want to do, reframe your thoughts on a “performance statement” that gives you a key to being positive and focuses on improvement. The example the author gives is an NHL Hockey Player. Instead of thinking; “Don’t miss this shot, don’t hit the ice before the puck”, they would think “I am relaxed and smooth; my shot is on target and powerful.”
How to get there: As an exercise, imagine that you are about to step into the biggest situation of your life. Be it a football game, winning golf swing or even a big sales call. Think sixty seconds before you start that the world’s greatest coach or mentor is standing beside you and gives you some advice. They tell you that if you remain focused on one or two things you will be successful. Write down those one or two things. **Be as specific as you can, be totally honest with yourself and avoid using the word “don’t”.
Design your determination and regularly practice being positive.