Talking a Great Game – Part I

Talking a Great Game – Part I
by Art Rondeau
(as published in Teen Performance Magazine) 

This article is the first in a series that will show you that how you speak to yourself affects your mental state and therefore, your results.  I’ll show you how following certain guidelines will help you maximize your performance and how ignoring those guidelines can cause a person to perform far below what they’re capable of. 

A couple of premises that I’ll mention without going into detail (there are many studies that prove them; we just don’t have room here to go into them): first, your unconscious mind has a lot of control over your body.  You don’t consciously tell your heart to beat nor tell yourself to start sweating when your body temperature goes up, but it happens.  Even when you consciously tell yourself to stop and take a deep breath, you’re giving a command to your unconscious mind which then starts the chain of events that lead to that breath being taken. 

Second, your mind and body work together.  You can often tell how a person is feeling by their physical posture.  If you take on a confident posture (head up, back straight, shoulders back), you will find yourself feeling confident.  Conversely, if you see someone slumped with their head down, you can tell that they’re feeling depressed (or some similar emotion) from across the room.

Third, most people’s brains think in pictures and what the brain pictures, it tries to make happen.  But a brain can’t create a “negative” picture.  A negative picture is one where we use the word “not” in describing what we want to have happen.

If someone said to you “don’t think of the Statue of Liberty”, your brain would have to pull up a picture of the Statue of Liberty so that it knows what not to think about.  By using “don’t”, we cause ourselves to get a result that’s the direct opposite of what we wanted.

Knowing that, what do you think will be the outcome of saying to yourself (out loud or in your head) “I don’t want to strike out”?  You’ll pull up a picture of yourself striking out.  And if your brain is good at taking the pictures that you put into it and making them happen, you’ll end up striking out.

As an example, a couple of seasons ago an NBA rookie was going to be playing in front of his hometown fans for the first time as a pro.  He shot 0-for-9 and his team lost by one point.  After the game, he was asked why he shot so badly and said “I don’t know.  All day long I told myself ‘don’t have a bad game, don’t have a bad game’ So I don’t know why I played as badly as I did.”  Knowing what we know now, we’d say that he played exactly the way he told himself to play.  Would saying “have a great game” make him shoot 9-for-9?  Probably not.  But he’d likely have hit a couple more shots and his team would have won.

The guideline here is “say what you want, not what you don’t want”.  “Don’t have a bad game” becomes “Have a great game”.  “I don’t want to get tired and come out of the game” becomes “I want to remain energized and stay in the game”. 

Practice saying things in the positive and not the negative.  Are there expressions that you use that you now know may not be giving you the results that you want?  Take those expressions and reword them so that they fit the guideline.  While you’re learning this new habit, if you catch yourself saying something that you don’t want, congratulate yourself mentally for catching it and then rephrase it so that it states what you really want.

“Say what you want, not what you don’t want” is a guideline that will improve your performance and results in all areas of your life.  Best wishes as you begin to install your new way of speaking to yourself and congratulations on your improved performances.

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