Confront Your Thoughts Head-On To Increase Confidence
When you look at that phrase, which do you see-- opportunity is nowhere? Or opportunity is now here?
I didn’t come up with that catchphrase to test your personality. Rather, it illustrates an important tenet of mental skills training: that our perception of events can affect our response to those events. We may choose to see “opportunity is now here” from a jumble of letters. Likewise, we have the ability to choose how we perceive events. It’s so incredibly important to remember that. Although we may not be able to control many events in our lives, we can control how we think about those events. Those events, contrary to what many think, don’t have to define us.
IT'S ALL IN HOW YOU LOOK AT IT
It seems backwards, but it’s true. Situations don’t make us think, feel, and act a certain way. The way we look at those situations is the source of our response. Your reaction to an event-- that event’s impact on you-- is created in your mind.
I once watched a coach approach two athletes to give them some constructive feedback. After the coach left, one athlete turned to the other and said, “I’m glad coach gave us that correction. I’ve been struggling and just didn’t know what to do.” The other replied, “It’s annoying. Coach is always harping on everything. Why can’t he just give us a break?”
The same event, two very different responses. How do you think the first athlete felt? Probably motivated, pleased, and encouraged. His teammate could have felt discouraged, angry, or under-appreciated.
Because they chose to think and interpret the comments differently, their feelings were affected. In the same way, our feelings are then reflected in our behavior. Thoughts create feelings which influence behaviors. Think about how the athletes would demonstrate their feelings in their playing; we’ve all seen angry or frustrated players take it out poorly on the field. The first athlete would respond better to suggestions; the second would probably play with less confidence and effort, and definitely have less fun.
COUNTER THE THOUGHTS THAT GET IN YOUR WAY
So, how can you control your reaction to situations? It’s important not to try to mask how you really feel; the first step is to recognize your “gut” response. If you feel let down by a coach’s feedback, don’t try to pretend otherwise. Instead break it down into thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Ask yourself, “What is it I’m thinking that’s making me feel this way?” Maybe you had a tough week at school that’s causing you to be stressed and distracted, or maybe you feel ignored by your coach. Whatever the reason-- and there will always be a reason, no matter how irrational it seems-- it will help you to analyze your thoughts systematically.
Dealing with negative, troublesome thoughts is not the same as shutting them off completely. Accept that they are there and limit their stay in your mind. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated and unfocused during practice. You’re preoccupied by thinking “this new offense is really hard. I’ll never be able to get it.” Instead of pretending that you’re not worried about it, counter that thought. “I’ve learned plenty of difficult patterns before, I’ll get this one eventually.”
As you practice becoming more aware of your thoughts, you will be able to identify more quickly those that are getting in your way. Then you can counter them effectively with a more helpful, rational thought. You can’t prevent situations or events from happening; you can only control how you react. It’s okay to feel emotion-- don’t ever invalidate yourself. Instead, think through your response to determine more effective thoughts that would help you most. This will help you stay focused to accomplish what you really want to do: play your best!