Hone Your Mental Skills, Part 2: Thinking Positively

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What are you telling yourself when no one is listening? A positive outlook is essential to your sports performance, and it's easy to create, maintain and build this kind of attitude. Positivity not only makes you better; it also makes your sport and life more enjoyable.

According to IMG Performance Institute director Trevor Moawad, we think to ourselves at between 300 and 1,000 words per minute. Our internal thoughts can be tools to improve performance, just like the weights we lift, the sleds we pull and the balls we hit. Use the following tips to think positively and drive yourself to success.

Block Out The Bad
You don't have to notice the bad stuff. Focus on more productive thoughts. Moawad says, "I don't know if positive thinking works, but I know that negative thinking always does."

Think back to the last time you competed. Can you remember how well you stayed in position, executed the fundamentals, pumped up your teammates, tried your hardest on every play and remained focused throughout the game? Or do you remember the one or two plays where you messed up or didn't execute perfectly? Even if the ultimate result was a loss, you probably did many more things right than you did wrong. So, why do you remember the bad stuff?

The problem stems from the mistaken belief that re-living our chokes, bobbles and fumbles will add to our drive and intensity. Many athletes think this creates a barrier in their mind that prevents such mistakes from happening again. In reality, spending mental energy and time thinking about mistakes actually makes you more likely to repeat them.

Instead, you should consistently, repeatedly and regularly find positive things to say to yourself. Say positive things to yourself several times a day. Make it a habit. Here are a few examples of positive self-talk:

  • I never give up.
  • I'm clutch when the game is on the line.
  • My teammates believe in me.
  • I've done a bunch of great work this week in practice.

Now write your own positive mantras, and make sure they're true—you can't fool yourself. These will stack the deck in your favor. You've got 800 or so words per minute, so fill up that time with words that reinforce the best parts of your game.

Tips to Get Your Mind Working For You
First, you have to be aware of what your self-talk is currently like. Set your watch or phone alarm to go off at random times throughout the day. When the alarm goes off, write down exactly what you were thinking at that moment. This experiment will help you become more attuned to your internal monologue.

Once you are aware of your thoughts, you can begin implementing the tips below to block out the negative and bring in the positive.

Tip 1: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else.

Tip 2: Laugh or think of something funny. It's really hard to be cracking up and self-critical at the same time.

Tip 3: Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people increase the number of negative messages that you hear.

Tip 4: When you notice something negative entering your mind, ask a question about something—it can be about anything. It's virtually impossible to be curious and negative.

Check out Athlete's Audio for more tips on positive thinking from mental training experts. Also, look around STACK.com for articles from Dr. Rob Bell and Dr. Chris Stankovich. They are both elite mental coaches from whom I've learned a lot, and they  can help you take your mental game to another level.

Read up on Part 1 to hone your mental skills and check back for more in future weeks.

Photo:  orlandosentinel.com

A lifelong competitor in cycling, hockey, lacrosse and golf, Bob Kinnison started a sports psychology resource center called Athlete's Audio. The company's goal is to give psychology experts a forum to share their knowledge about mental skills for sports. Visit athletesaudio.com to learn more.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SPORTS