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  • The Importance of Positive Self Talk
    by Karlene Sugarman, M.A.
    Mental Training Consultant

      "Itís not what you think you are that holds you back, itís what you think you are not."

    I want you to take a minute and think about all the dialogue that goes on in your head while you are running. Does this thinking help you perform efficiently and productively? Does this thinking give you added confidence? Is this thinking in your own best interest? I think youíll be very surprised at the answers. You have so much to time to think and run things over in your mind, that what you are thinking and saying to yourself had better be positive!!

    Many times, you donít need a competitor to beat you. You can do that all on your own by saying negative things to yourself. You can either be your own best friend or your own worst enemy - the choice is yours. It's very black and white - positive self-talk will help your performance, negative self- talk will worsen it. Positive self-talk helps you to develop secure attitudes toward your performance and validates your capabilities. Self-defeating thoughts full of emotion just perpetuate your fears and doubts. Fear, anxiety and doubt are destructive to your mental well-being. Negative self-talk is just setting yourself up for misery. You need to learn to control your emotions or they will control you.

    Positive affirmation statements are short statements designed to enhance self-image, help you achieve a secure mental attitude and increase confidence. Take, for example, Muhammed Aliís affirmation "I am the greatest." Other examples are:

    "I am prepared and ready to go."
    "I am relaxed."
    "I believe in my ability to succeed."

    Effective affirmations are clear, realistic, personal, believable and in the present tense. They will also aid you in achieving your goals. Changing your self-talk is going to play an enormous role in increasing your chance for successful performances on a more consistent basis. William Shakespeare said, "Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so." The all important first step in this process is monitoring your own thoughts; the next step is controlling them. If youíre able to control your thoughts, you can accomplish more than you were aware of - the task is a hard one, but more than worth the effort. Itís important to use repetition with your affirmation statements. This will help embed them in your mind.

    You need to identify situations in which you tend to be negative. For every negative thought come up with two positive ones to replace the existing negative self-talk. Every time you find yourself saying something negative, stop right there and turn it around to something positive and constructive - this is called thought stopping. For example, "I hope I donít choke again today." becomes "Iím going to relax, trust my instincts, and Iíll do great." Using lead-ins like "I am," "I will," and "I can" are very powerful and can effect your feelings and perceptions about a situation. Repeat these specific statements to yourself over and over.

    Believe wholeheartedly in the affirmations that you are telling yourself. You have ultimate control over your thoughts, so exercise this control in any and all situations. You will soon find yourself adopting more positive attitude, which will increase your enjoyment, and ultimately help improve your performance.

    (Adapted from Karlene's new book, Winning the Mental Way: A practical guide to team building and mental training.) Order here

    Copyright 1999 by Karlene Sugarman, M.A.

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