Perform Better in Competition By Cross-Examining Your Thoughts
STEER CLEAR OF NEGATIVITY
Our thought process usually takes the form of questions and answers. Even if the questions aren’t obvious, we still use them to guide our thinking. One answer leads to another question, and that to another answer, and your thoughts follow this path in a specific direction. This is why The WIN Method is based on asking questions-- it’s the simplest and most natural format for your mind.
Let’s say you’re not performing up to your expectations, and you start asking yourself questions like “What’s wrong with me?” “Why am I so bad?” “Why can’t I do anything right?” To answer the question, your mind is going to come up with a list of possibilities. Since the nature of these questions is negative, your mind, trying to be helpful, will offer you a running tally of your mistakes. You’re ensuring that your thoughts are preoccupied with only your flaws. Those questions and answers will in no way help you improve your game.
Beating yourself up without offering ways to fix your errors will eventually lower your confidence and negatively affect your performance.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Your mind will answer your questions no matter what. To make the answers more valuable to your performance, ask questions that will help you correct the situation. “What can I learn from this mistake?” “How can I do this better?” And, of course, “What’s Important Now?”
Asking better questions will help you focus on the game and it will also make it easier to correct your mistakes. Rather than just trying to fulfill the vague idea of “doing better,” you can easily follow specific instructions to improve. When you ask, “Why am I so bad at this?”, you’re making your mistake an inherent, personal flaw. When you ask “How can I improve this skill?”, your mistake becomes more manageable, just something to be learned and improved with practice.
The mental skill of asking good questions can be challenging to implement. We think quickly, and we have established thinking habits; thus, many of our thoughts feel automatic. But they are not automatic! There is a split second before or after any thought where you have the opportunity to redirect or challenge it. And it’s almost always true that the thought itself was irrational or exaggerated, and actually does merit further questioning.
USE QUESTIONS TO CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Remember that you are rarely as objective as you think you are. Asking yourself clear, specific questions can help calm you down and realize the flaws in your assumptions. I worked with a soccer player who couldn’t get herself to play all out for an entire game. She was afraid she would collapse and pass out. So I asked, “When was the last time you passed out?”
“Never,” was her response.
“So what’s the evidence for that thought?”
Of course, she had none. She had made two missteps with her thinking: she believed that her recurring thought was automatic and uncontrollable, and she believed it was true and rational. Thus, she never bothered to question a rather silly idea.
FOCUS ON THOUGHTS THAT WILL HELP YOU SUCCEED
There will also be times when your thoughts are rational and true, but holding on to them gets in the way of your performance. If you’ve questioned a thought thoroughly and it holds true, ask yourself whether or not that thought is helpful. A helpful thought has to provide more than just criticism; it gives you a specific way you can improve and keeps you positive. These are the thoughts that will motivate you.
The most essential part of mastering mental skills training is being able to pay attention to your own thoughts. Once you start listening more carefully and questioning those thoughts that get in your way of performing your best, you may be pleasantly surprised at the answers. And now that you know the idea of a better question to ask, you’ll get more productive and positive thoughts-- which will automatically translate onto the field.
Socrates is thought to have said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” May I offer a personal twist: “An unquestioned thought is not worth keeping.”