Nothing good ever comes from being negative. Nothing! When you consistently put yourself down after a failure or continually catch yourself doing things wrong, then the only “good” you’ll do for yourself is to kill your self-confidence and tighten your muscles. I don’t have to tell you there’s nothing positive in being negative in that way!
You have to learn to systematically train your mind, or your “inner coach” in order to become more positive and supportive.
One of the most powerful tools for turning around a negative attitude and building confidence (in between games) is using AFFIRMATIONS. An affirmation is a positive statement that you make about yourself as if it is true NOW.
For example, if you consistently get upset with yourself whenever you mess up, your affirmation might be, “I quickly and easily let go of my mistakes.” If you tend to get much too nervous before big games or tryouts, your affirmation might be, “I’m cool and calm in the clutch. The bigger the stakes, the better I play.” If you tend to be negative under pressure then your affirmation could be, “I stay positive no matter what!”
When used correctly, affirmations form powerful bridges between how you feel NOW and how you would like to feel in the FUTURE. Your affirmations should be written on index cards and posted all around your room or carried in your bag so that you see them continuously throughout the day. Like positive statements, it is not necessary that you believe your affirmations in the beginning. It is only important that you make a point to look at these positive statements over and over again throughout the day.
An effective way to get your affirmations into your unconscious and muscle memory is to use the “pre-sleep technique.” Take one particular affirmation that you’re working on at the moment, i.e. “I stay cool and calm in the clutch” and repeat it to yourself slowly as you lie in bed at night with the lights off. After the first repetition, try to imagine, in as much detail as possible, experiencing yourself doing just that. Perhaps you focus to sink a game-winning free throw in your basketball game, or stick the big landing at your gymnastic meet. Maybe you picture being up at the plate for a late inning at-bat and get a hit in your baseball game, or throw the touchdown to win your football game in the last 10 seconds.
In any example, you’re maintaining your focus and composure, keeping calm when the pressure is on.
Slowly repeat your affirmation a second time, once again imagining yourself staying focused and composed. Continue this sequence of slowly repeating your affirmation with the accompanying imagery for a total of 15-20 times before you fall asleep.
If you find that you only get through 10 repetitions before sleep overtakes you, don’t wory. Continue this technique every night before bed.
Remember, there’s nothing positive about being negative. If you want to be successful, you need to change your negative inner coaching to POSITIVE.
It is critically important that you ONLY use your affirmations when you are AWAY from the performance arena and under NO performance pressure! The last thing you want to do as an athlete as you’re about to perform is to try to counteract last minute negative thoughts with positive ones! Your job mentally, when you’re close to or in the middle of a performance is to keep your focus EXTERNAL on the action and what you’re DOING instead of INTERNAL on what you’re THINKING. If you have a last minute inner argument going on between your positive and negative self-talk, then you will distract yourself from the important task at hand, undermine your confidence and sabotage your performance. When last minute negatives and self-doubts pop up, stay calm (they’re perfectly normal) and immediately redirect your concentration outward on the action and what you’re doing and away from what you are thinking!
Affirmations are extremely helpful for programming your unconscious mind and should always be used when you are relaxed. That way, you can direct 100% of your focus on developing this very effective “re-programming” tool.
For more tips and tools to develop your mental toughness skills, read more about overcoming frustrating performance blocks, and check out my products here.