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Do You Talk Like a Winner!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #171 - Watch or listen HERE!

We are always a little late to the game around here when it comes to watching recommended TV shows. It took us a few years to get up to date with Ted Lasso (THE GREATEST SHOW EVER!). We have finally jumped on the Quarterback bandwagon.

If you haven’t yet tuned in, Quarterback follows three NFL quarterbacks through life on and off the field. Patrick Mahomes, Kurt Cousins and Marcus Mariota share their hard-hitting experiences…and I am glad we tuned in.

Success leaves clues! One clue that sticks out in watching these guys is how they talk…to themselves and others!

Listen to Patrick Mahomes. As he runs around the field, arms raising like he is lifting the crowd he shouts, “This is what I do! This is what I do!” Cocky? Maybe. Pumping himself up? Yes!

Patrick doesn’t just shower this confident (or cocky, you decide) praise on himself. He’s just a positive guy!

The other team scores. He walks briskly around the sidelines saying “Get ready to score.” There are minutes left, mind you. He could be complaining about his defense or exacerbated over the fact that he has to go back out and lead another game-saving drive.

But, NO! He talks about WHAT HE WANTS!

Not a Mahomes fan? Let’s listen to Kirk Cousins. I was sad to hear last night that he may have a season-ending injury because I am now a huge fan of the guy!

Cousins talks to his coach. “Yep” is his quick reply when they are discussing what they will do next. It’s as if he is running the scenario through his head and willing it to be before he runs back out to the field to make it happen.

He grimaces after being pummeled. Then gets back to work, always with a productive approach. He’s not the hype man Mahomes is, that’s just not his personality. But he is constantly talking about WHAT HE WANTS!

They questioned his ability to play in big games. He goes back to the game balls he has in his trophy room that was the result of great play on Monday Night Football! Kirk knows like all champions do that if Kirk isn’t for Kirk, no one will be!

Now to Mariota….who, on the last episode we watched, left the Falcons after being benched. I have read his accounts and will listen to the story the show shares, but in the meantime, let’s review his approach on the field.

Interestingly enough, it seems like Marcus feels the pressure differently than the other two…or should I say, manages it differently (or maybe I am now influenced by how he handled the adversity he faced). His approach, in his own assessment, is to sometimes do too much, having been the big playmaker in the past. This “have to” attitude seems to sneak up on him, and not in the best of situations.

I am not in the heads of these guys, I love what I hear on the outside and we can assume that the words we hear them use on the outside in pressure situations mirror the ones they have in their heads. Sure, we have all heard people be positive and know they aren’t really that full of light, and when push comes to shove, the darkness usually rears its ugly head.

That is not what we hear from Cousins and Mahomes (and Mariota for the first part of the show). We hear consistent language, no matter the situation.

How important is this? IT’S HUGE!

This does not mean we talk in roses and rainbows. This means we talk about WHAT WE WANT!

UNC professor, Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory supports this WHAT WE WANT productive thinking. Her theory states that positive emotions (one of the biggest predictors of peak performance), broaden our thought-action options. In other words, we see more opportunity which leads us to more readily use our resources, whether physical, intellectual or psychological.

We see more. Our bandwidth increases in every way possible. We find ways. We call upon our strengths and believe more in ourselves and those around us. We are more likely to face challenges believing there is a solution!

To Broaden and Build, our words on the inside matter, too!

Treavor Moawad, in It Takes What it Takes, calls for fewer rainbows and roses than Dr. Fredrickson, but his NEUTRAL THINKING theory works, too! Moawad, however, agrees that our thinking affects our ability to grow. "At the end of the day, the things we say, the body language we give off, and the people we’re surrounded by affect our internal and external growth and possibilities."

His approach isn't positive. It is what it is (as he ends sentences in prepositions :). "Where are we at? What situation are we in? How are we going to execute?"

Whether you buy into Broaden and Build to neutral thinking, what we say in our heads and to others matters to our performance. A meta-analysis of more than 30 studies on self-talk showed that productive self-talk, whether it was instructional (“stay long”), motivational (“you got this”), strategic (predetermined statements or scripts), emotional control (“next play”) or positive expression (“well played”), consistently correlated to improved performance (Hatzigeorgiadis et al., 2011).

Research also proves that this WHAT WE WANT talk trumps avoidance thinking, meaning “don’t think of the pink elephant” means you are now thinking of a pink elephant. When we think about what we don’t want OR are told what to avoid, we move right to it, especially under pressure!

I learned this the hard way when running in Cleveland. Drivers look at you…probably thinking “Don’t hit that runner” and all the sudden “that runner” is up on the curb, running away because you are looking at her…and driving right for her!

According to the late Harvard social psychologist , Daniel Wegner, what’s in our mind – the runner – influences our judgment and behaviors…because it’s there…front and center.

So what do we do to keep our inner and outer voices talking about WHAT WE WANT?

We must become aware…and practice!

When are we most likely to go to the dark side? What type of self-talk helps us in different scenarios?

We can track our tendencies. I know…getting people to write things down is like pulling teeth.

But athletes who keep notes on when and where they are talking in ways that don’t help become more aware of what they are saying AND the consequences of their behaviors.

I once heard of a golfer who kept a tally of every negative reaction or thought he had on the course through a full round of golf by putting a mark on his scorecard. The first day he had over 70 marks on the card in 18 holes. That is one negative thought per shot…and about 4 per hole! The next day he was down to under 60…then under 40…all because he became aware.

I realize this is not possible in basketball or other similar games. But there are ways to do work before and after to become more aware of how our inner and outer words affect us.

Some athletes use timely metaphors to remind them of how they need to move or attack. In my “Game Face” exercise I use with my athletes, we find ACTIONABLE WORDS that we can EMBODY (a word we can be) and ENACT (a word we can act out on the environment) that help us remember who we are and what we want to do. It’s our persona that carries us through whatever is to come!

BEFORE we play, we run through how we think, feel and act when we embody and enact these as we compete. And finally, we tie them to a persona…an animal or champion that dominates.

There are so many ways to manage our self-talk. None of them are easy. All of them take awareness and practice.

And if we want to be our best, talking about WHAT WE WANT like Mahomes and Cousins is the way to go!

Here is to managing our talk, inside and out, and moments!!


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