By George Demetriou
WARNING: Use Caution When Having a Conversation With Yourself (or Anyone Else For That Matter!)
We never gave this subject much thought until attending classes presented by our good friend and law enforcement trainer, Brian Willis. Brian, the President of Winning Mind Training instructs that of all the conversations we have the ones we have with ourselves are of the most important. These are the conversations we have when we tend to be overly critical and say (or think) things that do not serve us well and often have no basis in truth. Thinking, "I suck", after a workout may not help in future performances. You can substitute "I suck" with "I'm weak", "I'm old", "I was never a good athlete" or "I always got picked last in gym for dodgeball". The results could be the same. If these words "sink" into your subconscious then your causing your own negative "programming".
What we tell ourselves and what we believe shapes our behavior and decision making. The "files" found in the subconscious mind is the key to our beliefs and behavior. The information doesn't have to be based upon facts. According to Stephen C. Pakhill, a hypnotherapist and author of Answer Cancer, "the subconscious mind is the most powerful goal achieving agent in the world. It cannot judge a suggestion. If a suggestion reaches the subconscious mind, it will accept that suggestion as fact and makes it so–no questions asked!" Parkhill goes on to say, "It's thought that creates our destiny. If things go wrong, it's an act of mind."
We speak to athletes after a workout and ask, "How are you feeling?" The reason for the question is two-fold. The first reason is to make sure the athlete is physically well. The second reason is to establish what's on the athlete's mind. Sometimes we hear things like, "I'm not good at this", "I'll never get the hang of that" and similar statements. We focus on their strengths and then direct their attention to ways of improving what they felt bad about. We don't let those negative comments stand.
Sometimes a potential athlete will inquire about our program and utter, "I'm too heavy", "I have a bad back", "I'm not an athlete" and other such statements. They must want to improve their health on some level or they wouldn't be inquiring about training. Some may be looking for someone to tell them they can't workout. We don't entertain this. We let them know that whatever condition they are in we can work with them and improve their health. All they have to do is want to. For some people we realize the first thing we must get into shape is their attitude.
Sometimes, with established athletes and new athletes, we have to direct training toward the mind just as much, if not more so, than the body.
For those adults who grew up believing, for whatever reason (a coach or teacher embarrassed them, parents were overly critical) that they are "not athletic" and now want to improve their health at a facility that develops athletic performance, there's a slight problem. All their "programming" in the powerful subconscious mind is probably working at achieving the goal of being "non-athletic", but they want to be able to run, jump, lift and be athletic. The first thing they have to believe before they will begin training is that they can in fact do it! The athlete has to have small victories to celebrate and to change their thinking to re-program. They have to have positive conversations with themselves when their training or workout is done. Like physical training, the mental training has to be built upon in stages.
Natural athletes and seasoned athletes are not immuned to negative thoughts either. If they were then sports psychologists would be out of business. The pros and the life long athletes will often find a particular area that they are not confidant in. Confidance or the lack of it will often be determined by what you believe or what you tell yourself.
According to author Dan MIller, in The Inner Athlete: Realizing your Fullest Potential, there are 4 Obstructions:
Fear Of Failure
Lack Of One-Pointed Attention
Richard J. Machowicz, former Navy SEAL, host of the Military Channel show Future Weapons and author of Unleash The Warrior Within, teaches something he calls "Verbal Influence Conditioning: Self-Talk. Words influence our minds and condition our actions."
What's the take home lesson?
Make a conscious effort to monitor what you say to yourself as well as out loud. Make your suggestions, thoughts and observations more "can-do"–positive, not negative. Have your words serve you.
Realize that you are not doing any good by engaging in self-destructive criticism. Telling yourself you are not good at a particular skill impedes progress toward improving.
You control your thoughts. You have a choice as to what suggestions will serve you and how. When you're assessing your performance your thoughts should support you–not provide a "roadblock" toward getting better in the future. Make the quiet conversation you have with yourself one that will help make you a better athlete and a better person!