If you ever read the book "How Bad Do you Want It?" by Scott Fitzgerald, you will have learned by now that a strong mind and motivation are a better predictor of success among athletes than any physical variable. A good way for you to start building a strong mind is through positive self-talk. This technique can help you get in the right mindset to complete a workout, finish a race, or even deal with a tough day at work.
It sounds trite and even a little a bit "woo-woo", but sports scientists have proven over several studies that positive self-talk can improve performance in athletes.
The concept is simple enough, you just need to talk to yourself. You can do it out loud in front of a mirror or whisper it in a corner, the idea is that you get a clear picture of positive things about you and tell them to yourself. However, a little guidance will make a big difference in helping you do it the right way.
Talk to yourself as if you were an external counselor:
Use the 3rd person to keep the monologue objective and honest. You can see why in this study
Keep the words positive and say things like both "you can do this" instead of "don't screw this up". Both have the same intention, but focusing on success instead of failure has real results.
Practice and make a habit out of talking to yourself. The more you use it, the more effective it becomes. You will soon be able to identify which words and what style is best for you.
Make a plan and prepare the right things to say for the moments when you know you will struggle. It is hard to come up with things once you’re already in trouble. For example, be ready to say “come on, you’ve done this a million times before” to get through a last interval if you know you will have trouble finishing a series.
Use a mantra , word, or phrase which that triggers the right effect. Repeat it over and over when things are getting tough.
Talking to yourself also depends on the context. Depending on the task at hand there are two kinds of talk you can use:
Instructional: This means walking yourself through the steps of a process. These are good for staying the course and keeping calm through a process because it breaks down the tasks into manageable steps that are familiar to you.
For example: "keep your head straight and the hips forward, pick up your feet" or "this is 3km, you have 7km to go. Keep this pace up and get ready to go faster when you reach the 5km mark".
Motivational: This is the one where you use positive phrases to keep you motivated through hard times. These help with self-confidence and reduce anxiety and are great for that last sprint or when you're thinking about quitting.
For example: "you can do this, we've done it a million times in training" or "push a little more and it will be over soon" or "keep this pace up and you will get your personal best"
Using these references will help you have a plan to react during a tough performance or a hard workout. It's simple enough, but it's been proven to work, so give it a try and see how it will help you get closer to your goals.
Let me know what you think and, as always, you can contact me to further discuss the subject.
Be your biggest fan and help yourself get better!