What’s the difference between elite level athletes and all the other athletes who couldn’t make it past the junior varsity? What helps overweight individuals stick to a workout regimen when every fiber of their being tells them to take it easy and fall back into their old bad habits?
Answer: confidence in their ability to train and accomplish their goals.
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Being confident is not an innate characteristic. It can be practiced and learned. And it can be increased and managed through proper training.
How to Build Confidence
1. Understand the interaction between thought and performance
Negative feelings can lead to physiological arousal that you can perceive as threatening and elicit a negative stress on the body.
2. Cultivate honest awareness
We all have the ability to acknowledge our own thoughts, which can lead us into a spiral of negative and positive views of ourselves and what we do. To make sure you focus on the positive thoughts and ignore the negative ones, you must know how to win the battle in your head. You must take a mindset of “I am I thinking in a way that will give me the best chance for success.”
3. Develop an optimistic explanatory style
The key to developing an optimistic explanatory mindset is to focus on your accomplishments and not linger on setbacks. As you perform either physically or mentally, you want your past experiences to breed success, and believe that these experiences will positively affect your future performance. Finally, you want to own all the hard work you do and celebrate work well done, and in the same breath not let mistakes keep you down—brush them off as circumstantial and not permanent.
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4. Embrace a psychology of excellence
This sounds like it would be easy enough, but if it were, everyone would think positively, perform perfectly, and be content with every action they do. To make sure you guide your mind in a way that lets you focus on developing your own excellence:
- Go for your dreams and believe great things are possible.
- Focus on successes, mark them down and reflect on them daily.
- Be your own best friend, biggest fan, and greatest coach.
- Create your own reality wherein negative performance is just working out kinks and positive performance is hitting your stride.
5. Use self talk
Self-talk is when you engage in internal dialogue, such as giving yourself instructions and reinforcing or interpreting how you feel or perceive events. Self-talk is a key to building confidence because it can enhance feelings of self worth and success. Self-talk can become a liability when you focus on negative performance outcomes and fail to take a positive perspective on your thoughts and actions.
Some keys to focus on when you start to analyze your own self-talk:
- Focus on the positives.
- Focus on performance tasks, not performance outcomes.
- Never say words like fail, choke or loser.
- Create positive self-talk strategies.
- Create a self-talk log and keep track of the following:
- How frequently do you talk to myself?
- What do you say before, during and after good performance?
- Do you deprecate myself when you perform poorly?
- When do I talk negative about my performance?
Strategies to stop negative self talk:
Thought Stopping. For thought stopping to work, you must learn when and why you do negative self-talk so you can identify when to use this technique properly. To start:
- Create a cue word you will use to identify and stop negative thoughts such as “stop,” “halt” or “quit.”
- Use a physical cue such as clapping your hands or snapping your fingers.
- After you use your verbal and physical cue, create a mental cue that detracts from negative talk and puts you in a lighter state of mind—for example, by imagining yourself dancing or singing at the gym or during training. The goal is to make a mental cue that is non-threatening and strong enough to reset your thought.
Re-framing. Using this technique, you create an alternative frame of reference or a different way of looking at a certain situation. Because the world is literally what we make of it, if we re-frame a seemingly negative situation in a positive light, we can change negative talk into positive talk. Re-framing does not deny or downplay what you experience or encourage you to ignore it. Instead, you acknowledge what is happening and decide to use it to your advantage. The mindset is that you want to turn perceived struggle or problems into possibilities and opportunities. For example, “I’m feeling anxious about my workout today” can be rethought as “I am feeling excited and ready to work out.”
Countering. Changing a negative to a positive thought will not change your confidence level if you still believe the negative statement. When starting out, staying motivated to change negative talk into positive talk can be challenging. By using countering you build a logical case against the negative self-talk in your mind. It uses facts and reasons to refute the underlying beliefs and assumptions that lead to the negative thinking.
To counter, you must rehearse the evidence against the negative mindset. The more evidence and the longer the line of reasoning against the negative self-talk, the easier it is to counter. For example, what makes me think I am tired? Have I ever trained while tired in the past? Have other people ever trained tired? If yes, are they successful? What might cause my feeling of fatigue, and can I do anything to change it?
When you try to become more confident during training (or anything you do), the way you think directly affects your actions. I know it seems like a no-brainer: “If I just start thinking more positively about myself and what I do, I will become better.’ However, if that were always the case, everyone would be successful at everything they undertake. The key to building self-confidence is first to learn to master your own thoughts—which is not a walk in the park.
- Monitor your self-talk by keeping a log, and identify when, where and why you have negative thoughts about your performance.
- Once you have started to identify your self-talk habits, begin to practice one or two of the techniques mentioned above.
- Once you have practiced the techniques above, try using them in the midst of your training.
- After you have begun using and building the techniques, use your self-talk log to monitor your progress, keeping track of when you use the techniques, how successful they are, and the positive self-talk that emerges from them.
Remember that “whether you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” —Henry Ford