As more and more athletes try to differentiate themselves from the pack – different physical regimes, nutrition (no meat, mostly meat, juicing, supplements), mobility – many athletes are turning to the Psychology of Sport. We’ve all heard it before, “My head wasn’t in the game”, “he choked”, “she psyched herself out”; Sports are a mental game, there is no denying it.
A big part of that mental game is learning about self-talk (both positive and negative). Negative self-talk, or internal dialogue if left untended to, has a tendency to run and rule the minds of many, many athletes.
There is no advantage in approaching performance or life situations thinking, “I can’t” , “I won’t be able to do this”, “I’m not good/smart/fast/strong enough”. It’s somewhat of a self-fulling prophecy, the more you think of failure, the more likely that failure will ensue.
Not only that, a lot happens in the body physiologically when we start to think negatively; it can cause powerful changes in our brain’s chemistry that can profoundly influence coordination, balance, concentration and muscle response accuracy.
You may not even be aware of the constant fight that goes on in your mind. But, for the most part, there is a lot of mental chatter going on. And if you just silently responded in your head, “What? No, there’s not“…well, I prove my point.
So, how do you get rid of the negative voices? How do you control which voice you hear? How do you improve your performance by changing your thought patterns? How do you even know if there is a conversation going on up there? Phew. Those are a lot of big questions. But there is one simple answer:
Get out of your head and into your body.
Get out of your head and into your breath; get a pattern going with your breath.
Find a focus cue.
Find a “push word”. I personally use the words, “Push it”, “Let’s go”, “Focus” (as a few examples).
Notice your surroundings – feel your feet on the ground.
Have a positive saying ready to respond to that negative voice (Reframing is what this is called).
Whatever you need to do, DO IT to get out of autopilot, away from that inner critic and into the moment. When you are stuck in your head, you are not being present with WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. And…newsflash, sports are born out of the moment; if you don’t happen to be in it, you’re going to miss it (or mess up, or not perform to your potential).
And that goes for life as well; why not learn to be present when other people are speaking to you, or when you are walking down the road, or enjoying the day with your friends? Next time you are chatting with someone, instead of rehearsing how you are going to respond, look into their eyes and REALLY HEAR what they are saying. We all know what it feels like to be speaking with someone who is completely checked out. You know what it looks like on other people, but do you know how it feels when you are doing it?
Start to practice being present in every day situations; show up for yourself and for others. You’ll notice that when you start to find moments of presence, there is less chatter. OR, you really start to HEAR the chatter for the first time and become aware of the negative things that are being said. At that point, you can start to take steps towards changing that chatter.
“A battle that must be waged on two fronts is far more difficult to win” – James Loehr
Until next time…Cheering you on,