“Looking ahead to this weekend, what does success look like to you?”
This is a question posed by one of the coaches I work with prior to her team’s first weekend of competition.
After she read the answers her players sent back by text, she immediately called me, waking me out of deep sleep to tell me “you’re a horrible mindset coach!”
I think she was kidding…..???
Either way, her comment woke me up and got my attention.
She went on to read me a few of the answers to her question. A few were very positive. A few had a positive slant topped off with some “I don’t want….” language.
Others were filled with my example of going to a restaurant and telling the waiter “I don’t want…” and never getting around to telling him what you do want!
Think about it. When you go to the grocery store, do you walk down the aisle and point at each item and say, “I don’t want the natural peanut butter, that’s just gross. I don’t want the Skippy. I don’t want…” You get the picture.
No, you don’t. You take a list and the list says you want the Jif (shout out to my friends Leadership Akron classmates who are bigwigs at Smucker’s!).
The words we use matter.
As Trevor Moawad said in It Takes What it Takes, “words are tools, they both predict and perpetuate our performance.”
A 1990 study by Metzger, et.al, showed that those who think negatively struggled more than those who had more positive thoughts in completing basic tasks.
But those are negative thoughts, you say, not using negative words to describe what success looks like on the weekend.
Our thoughts drive our behavior. We say what is in our minds. We say how we feel. We set ourselves up…just in case things don’t work out. INSTEAD OF SAYING WHAT WE REALLY WANT!
That’s it. Saying what we really want is scary! What if it doesn’t happen??? Then we said it…and we are a fool!
The bottom line is this.
The things we say, with our words, our tone and our body language, all affect our ability to improve and our opportunities to improve!
Does this mean we shoot for the stars without being prepared or truly having the talent?
Of course not.
This means we start by looking at facts. We look behind only to see where we have grown and what we have learned so we can move forward with evidence and information.
Don’t believe you will win deep in your bones? I’ll start by saying we play the game just in case you are wrong. Otherwise, we would look at rankings and stats, make an analysis and call it a day.
But if you really don’t believe you’ll win, what is success? How will you compete? What can you do to fight? What do you know you can control? What is your plan to do so?
I get it. You are playing a highly ranked team and everything and everyone thinks you’ll lose…except you…and you aren’t truly convinced.
Ok, what do you need to do to be your best? You don’t control the outcome anyway, but if you do play your best you have a much better chance of pulling off the upset!
If you want to be a champion, at some point you’ll have to start thinking, talking, feeling, and acting like one.
Why not today?
In his book Executive Toughness, Jason Selk says “to develop mental toughness you will need to stop giving yourself permission to have thoughts or conversations that highlight your weaknesses, negativity, or obstacles to success.”
We need to stop giving yourself an out by not committing to what you know will be a game changer.
We need to tell yourself what you want and make a plan to move toward it.
We need to constantly look for solutions and focus on moving forward, regardless of what just happened.
Using “if I”, “I’ll try” or “I don’t want to” statements gives your brain an out.
“If” indicates someone else chooses what you will do. “Try” indicates you’ll give it some effort, but maybe not all of your effort, just in case it’s uncomfortable. “I don’t want to” give power to the situation.
How about using “I will”, “when I” or “I want” statements?
In a “try” situation and a “do” situation, you are doing something in both. The difference is in the expectation.
Try = giving tempered effort
Do = throwing all I have at it
Neither may get the job done, but I’ll put my money on “do” every time!
In an “I don’t want” situation, you are looking for problems, not solutions.
Negative thoughts happen. It’s how we are wired. But just like every thought that comes into our mind, we get to decide what we do with it.
We can let it take up that precious space or replace it with something that helps us.
How fun would it be to challenge ourselves to avoid saying our negative thoughts out loud for a practice, an afternoon or even a whole day?
Again, it isn’t like negative thoughts will ever go away. Even so, we can cut down on the crap we are feeding our body and mind if we let them pass on by without giving them life!
So that’s our challenge for the week. If someone asks you what you do well, and what success looks like for tomorrow’s practice, contest or staff meeting, think about the words you use to describe it. It’s your job to keep those “if”, “try”, and “I don’t want” statements to yourself and replace them with positive, productive and powerful words that describe facts, ideas for improvement and what you want.
If you are not willing to put it out there, you’ll never know how to get there!
Start using language that makes it very clear to you and everyone around you what you want, what you will accept from yourself and what you expect.
Because what you say is often what you get! And even if you don’t get it, you are taking control and moving in the direction of your dream.
Use your words wisely!
Managing the moments!
P.S. I’d love to help your team adjust their mental game! Contact me today at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s set up a session or a plan for your program!
Mental Performance Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org • 234-206-0946