Mindset Made Simple Tip #85 – Watch or listen HERE.
"I’m hungry", I thought as I sat at my son's swimming practice the other day.
Is this true? Was I hungry? (We will answer this in a minute or two!)
I did feel hungry. I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I decided to try the intermittent fasting thing just to see if I could do it. And, not surprisingly, I was hungry!!!
So, as I sat there I thought...am I hungry…or do I feel hungry?
How we express our feelings makes a difference in how we act. Remember – how we think affects how we feel, which affects how we act which affects how we perform which ultimately affects our results!
This equation reminds us that if we want different results, we need to adjust one of the variables.
Changing the way we look at our feelings can help us do just that!
It may be a chicken or egg scenario…were my thoughts reacting to my body’s sensations or was I thinking about the fact that I didn’t eat so I should be hungry and my body reacting to my thoughts?
Whether it is the chicken or egg, I have started to talk about how we should be thinking a little differently, and I think it is a big deal for our performance!
As I work with teams and share my Ps for peak performance – Present, Positive, Posture and Process – I have started to clarify the Positive “P”. There is a lot of talk out there about positive thinking. I talk about it, practice it and know it benefits us in many ways.
But let’s be honest. There are times when we are not positive. We feel anything but positive!
We aren’t positive when we lose, when we make a mistake, when we feel less than confident or many other times during the day.
So, what do we do when we THINK or FEEL this way?
I contend that slightly changing my 4Ps by adding PRODUCTIVE to the POSITIVE "P" can help us move toward our peak and help us, no matter how we think or feel.
The more I thought about my hunger, the hungrier I felt. However, I knew as I continued to focus on the work I wanted to knock out as I sat there, my mind will be occupied, and my hunger would fade to the background (mercifully!).
Yes, there are times when we can give our brain a job and change our thought process away from our feelings. This can be very helpful when we are competing….and this is PRODUCTIVE thinking…which seems positive to me, since it is moving us forward!
Instead of focusing on thinking or feeling inadequate, feeling scared or afraid to make a mistake, simply telling ourselves what to do can be helpful to our performance.
Give your brain a job! Worrying is a job, but it never gets anything done. Even worse, as soon as you have a free second, your worry goes right to work! However, specific directions can take up that space and see the pictures that will help our performance!
Author Johnathan Haidt calls this scripting the critical moves for the 100 ton elephant (our emotions) that we ride and try to keep on the path. If we don't direct the path, our rider (our thinking brain) can't control the huge elephant...at all!
I recently asked a top-level high school soccer player what she would say to herself if she saw the goal wide open and she had a clear shot. It was not surprising to me that her first thought was “don’t miss it!”
We do this ALL THE TIME! Don’t miss it! Don’t ______ (insert what you are trying to avoid).
This is not a positive thought. In fact, it keeps our fear in the forefront and will predict failure!
As soon as she says, “don’t miss it”, that is the picture she sees in her mind…which affects how she feels…how she acts…you know the rest!
Remember, our words are tools that predict and perpetuate our performance!
After my star soccer player shared her thought, I immediately asked her why she didn’t say “drive it into the back of the net”? She uncomfortably smiled and said, “I'm afraid to mess up.”
She is trying to avoid messing up and yet she put the picture of the mess up in her mind!
At least she is now aware of her tendency to "don't" herself and we are now spending a lot of time talking and thinking about what we want…so we have a better chance of getting it!
So often, this feeling of fear of failure drives our thoughts and actions. And because we have to "be positive”, we will do almost anything to hide the truth of our thoughts!
We all feel this way at some point. And we may need to go against popular culture and acknowledge it to help us perform better.
Although feeling hungry seems factual, our thoughts and feelings are not facts. They are not directives.
Our thoughts and feelings do not demand that we do something. We always have the power to choose how we react.
Sometimes we need to forget how we feel and trust what we know – and give our brains directions on what we want!
But sometimes, to reduce the hold our thoughts and feelings have on us, we need to acknowledge them!
If I acknowledge my hunger and remind myself that I chose to try this today…as a challenge and to improve my health instead of trying to pretend it isn’t true, I can swim in the pool with the proverbial ball instead of trying to hold the ball under water and not think or feel a certain way!
I can only hold to the ball under water for so long and when I am holding it down there, I can’t do anything else! And you know what happens to a ball when you let it go…it flies up with fury!
The point…the more we try to avoid the way we feel, the more energy we waste.
This is why just telling someone to think positively may not work.
Pretending that we are feeling a certain way isn’t always helpful.
Sometimes we do need to fake it until we feel it, but action always precedes a productive change in this area! If we have strategies to manage how we think and feel, we can get better results!
So often we use words that make our feelings seem like identities.
I am scared. I am tired. I am stressed.
No, you are not! You are you.
You are feeling a certain way…and at some point, you won’t feel that way anymore.
I’m not hungry, I am Julie! And after I ate, I felt a different way! (I told you we would answer this question).
Picturing our thoughts or feelings as clouds in the sky as opposed to the air we breathe can help us acknowledge the thought or emotion and observe it above us.
It does not envelop us. It floats above us. We move independently from it!
If you have athletes that seem to struggle to manage certain thoughts or feelings and their inability to manage them is affecting their performance, getting them to vocalize them can be very helpful. Even more helpful is asking them to write it all down!
“Coach, I’m scared!” Are you scared or are you a Division I athlete who is feeling scared. Then go one step further. Are you scared or are you concerned about being your best for the team?
Are you stressed or do you feel stressed because….?? And is stressed an accurate assessment or a broad brush stroke that is keeping you from dialing down into what you can control?
Vocalizing or writing down our “I’m ________” thoughts allows us to parse out the overwhelming feelings and look for solutions for managing them. It allows us to keep them (and the situation we are facing) in perspective. It's like letting a little pressure out...an active exhale that brings us ties us to the present.
It also allows us to dispute them…is my thought or feeling true? Is it useful? Is it good?
Whatever our thoughts and feelings are at the moment, we can be more productive if we have a plan to manage them. Giving our brain something to do by scripting the critical moves – drive it into the back of the net - or using the Say it – See it – Do it visualization can help us move from an unproductive thought to a productive one.
Or, taking a few minutes to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and swimming in the pool with them, instead of trying to hold them under the water, can free us to look for opportunities and solutions and move forward – PRODUCTIVELY!
We do not control our thoughts, but we can always control how we react to them.
Having a plan and knowing which plan to use in certain situations can help us remain PRESENT and focused on the PROCESS, instead of those thousands of thoughts and nagging feelings that creep up when we are trying to be our best!
But just like everything else, we need to practice our plans before we need them to perform. Otherwise, we will be overcome by our feelings or so distracted by trying to pretend they don't exist, we will miss what is happening right in front of us...and then we will feel even worse!
Have a great week!
P.S. I would love to share other ideas on how our mindset can affect our performance. Schedule a team session today or check out my online courses at www.ssbperformance.com/courses