Do you remember a Nike commercial called “Reincarnate Now” when a runner starts an inner dialog in his head between the part of him that wants to stop running and the part of him that wants to continue?
Commercial realistically presented how athletes sometimes feel and struggle with the inner dialog when they push themselves beyond their old limitations as they want to continue with the practice and the task. That inner dialog or monolog we all have is called self-talk and it is very important when speaking about success in sport and life.
When you think about something and have an inner dialogue in your mind, you are actually doing self-talk. A Self-talk is a powerful tool for mental training. Thinking about your task and responsibilities, your performance enhancement, and your improvement can be crucial for your result.
Sometimes it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, either positive or negative way.
Positive self-talk, encouraging, task and solutions-oriented, will boost your confidence and performance. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, can hurt your confidence, cause more anxiety and lead to poor performance. It is therefore important to control your self-talk in a way of how you think, what you think about, and when you will use it.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
– Mahatma Gandhi –
Self-talk serves as the basis for so many things in our lives: our beliefs, our actions, our presence, our confidence. It can be a booster through the process of improvement and our guide toward desired achievements.
There are many situations during the game that may be a trigger for negative self-talk, such as: missed chance, missed call or doubtful decision, a mistake made, coach’s complaint or comment, teammates behaviour or misunderstanding, fatigue and tiredness, loss of concentration, gamesmanship, hostile crowd, etc.
As we are not in control of any of these situations we cannot erase or change them, but for sure we can control how we think about them and how we respond when they happen. In that way, it is essential to become aware that we are in control of our thoughts and beliefs, not the other way around.
As you might notice, many people believe that emotions and behaviour are products of a situation in which we perform, but on the contrary, it is our interpretation of the situation that determines our mood, emotions, reactions, and behaviour. How we perceive a situation and its possible consequences is crucial.
Self-talk can help you a lot by thinking about and focusing on what you should do rather than what you should not do. Using an affirmative, solution and task-oriented self-talk can help you remain focused on the task and the performance at the present moment – “here and now”.
Staying focused on the situation that happens now, in front of you on the court, it’s very important. This is the time and the place where the decisions are made, therefore you should shift your focus and guide your inner self-talk toward it.
It is beneficial that your self-talk is instructional, task and solutions-oriented. For example, instead of using too general phrases, use specific self-talk that instructs you what to do with the tip for a solution, such as: “Breath and wait”, “Slide more to the left side”, “Bend your knees”, “Search for the position with the better angle”, “Try it one more time, but faster”, “Keep running, step by step”, etc.
Next time, I will write about a few self-talk techniques and exercises that can be helpful for your mental training and performance. Until then, try to become aware of the words and phrases you use and the inner self-talk guidelines you follow. Be as instructional, motivational, task and solution-oriented as you can.