Call it what you want—constructive affirmations, mantras, self-talk, champion talk, positive psychology—but a key part of creating productive refocusing devices is learning to become your own best motivator through the power of positive language directed at the self.
Such self-talk can become the cue that moves you into the action of the next moment of performance. Whether it’s as simple as saying “Go!” in your head or “I’ve got this!” the use of such talk sparks the body to take the action in the right direction.
It’s important to learn how to talk yourself into a positive direction, because I have seen too many times where athletes or performers listen to their thoughts rather than talking to them. Listening to your thoughts only puts you at the effect of them and in most cases, you become emotionally paralyzed.
Don’t allow the inner-critic to take over your voice.
When I work with my clients, one of my starting points is teaching them to create their own affirmation statements “I am, I can, and I will.” I call this CHAMPION TALK.
Often, I’ll tell them, “Before you start your game or practice, I want you to write five things that say ‘I am _____.’ These might be, “I am confident or I am a champion.” Then I tell them to write five statements that say “I can ____. I can finish or I can compete”. Lastly, write five ‘I will____’ statements. “I will be confident or I will communicate.”
What we want to do with positive self-talk is create a language for ourselves, an inventory that feels good. We want to develop a language that develops purposeful optimism. The self-talk that takes place in the gaps of competition or in the brief moments immediately before acting builds upon a far more developed and meaningful language.
Just as research has demonstrated the physiological benefits of visualization, psychological research has analyzed the benefits we gain from positive self-talk. From such research we can learn ways to find positivity, sustain it, and implement it in our practices.
To be effective with this skill, you have to feel the intention behind what you are saying, doing, and see yourself moving towards your goal to feel forward momentum when you say positive phrases because they are going to lead to confidence and motivation.
For many, developing the language you need and talking to yourself isn’t enough, so consider the reinforcement and ownership that occurs when you begin to take that self-talk and write it down or you put it in a recording, and you share that self-talk, and the intention behind it, with your teammates and your coaches.
Our thoughts and words absolutely influence our behavior. I invite you to create yours.