Buy Now

Tools for “hearing” your own self-talk: Knowledge is power

Welcome to the second session on self-talk and how to improve your performance. In the first session I went over five facts about self-talk:

Knowledge is power

This phrase gets used a lot. In the context of this course it might be better to say that “Awareness is power.”

Why do all these things work? It might be better to ask, why don’t other things work. The answer is because learning is so complex we can’t figure it out. How does a ballet dancer learn a new dance move? If we were to break-down the neuroscience it probably would NOT be a 12-step process or a 3-part course. It would be billions of thoughts, millions of emotions, thousands of motions, hundreds of days.

The most effective way humanity has discovered to teach these incredibly complex skills is through observing our own movement and improving it. Awareness.

The first step to improving self-talk. Yes, you guessed it. Awareness!

After awareness comes two techniques, or tips, for turning unproductive self-talk into productive, motivating self-talk. The kind of self-talk that influences your beliefs in a positive way.

However, the most important step is the first. Even if you never get to part three in this series and learn the two tips, it won’t matter. Simply by being aware of your self-talk you will be able to improve it. To coach yourself. To learn. You’ll figure out through trial and error what helps you succeed and what drives you to failure.

That’s why today’s entire session is on awareness building.

So let’s get right into it.

Activity 1: Monitoring

This is a simple activity. It involves carrying around pennies or paperclips in a pocket, or keeping them on your desk. You may recognize this activity from The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit.

Yes, this children’s book teaches the same technique that we spend millions of dollars researching in sport psychology, and that countless self-help books promote.

What a steal for only 4.94 euros.

The concept is simple. Any time you recognize a negative or unhelpful self-talk, you move a marker to the opposite pocket or side of your desk. Likewise any time you recognize productive self-talk, you move a marker the other way.

You might be amazed how quickly the stacks change.

If you don’t have much success with this awareness building activity, don’t beat yourself up. You might find yourself much better at it if you set some goals related to the activity (see my free online goal setting course). It might also be that it just doesn’t work well for you.

Activity 2: Profiling

The second activity is based on recall. Unlike the Monitoring activity this is one you can just sit down and do. It does take a few minutes though, so set aside some time real quick.

If you are an athlete or a performer, it will be best to do this recall activity using a recent game, practice, or performance. If you are not, then any recent, high-stakes event where you had to “show up” will do. (i.e. a presentation in class, a speech, an interview, even a standardized test. Did you know that performance enhancement mental skills work with tests too? Awesome!)

Ok so actually we want to remember two different recent events. A good one and a bad one. Actually we want “the best” and “the worst” ones. If you can remember a time, even in the last year, where you have just a great moment when you felt really on top of your game, that’s what we are looking for. A time when you crushed it.

On the other hand, we also want a bad performance. Unfortunately these are all too common, so it might be a little too easy to come up with one.

You have to fill in the following worksheet for each of these moments.

Imagine. Put yourself on the day of the moment. Actually IN the moment. Activate all your senses. What were the sights? The sounds? What were the smells? What did touch feel like? What about taste?

Do as much as you can to put your mind back to that time and place.

Start at the beginning of the performance, and run through as much of the performance as you can remember. Feel free to use the fast-forward button. Don’t worry about parts you miss out. Think especially about the thoughts you were having while you were performing. The emotions. All the little things your brain ‘said’ to itself as it was going along.

Keep in mind that even though most negative self-talk and destructive, and most positive self-talk is productive, it’s not always the case. When you grade your self-talk below, sometimes you’ll want to grade positive self-talk as destructive.

For example: “This is going to be so easy!” is positive, but actually destructive for your performance because you don’t focus enough on what they need to do to win. Likewise “I screwed up! C’mon stop getting distracted” is negative but could be productive.

How do you know if it’s destructive or productive? A good tip is to check out and see how happy you are with the performance. If you did what you thought you could, then it was an optimal performance even if you lost. However, if you are pissed at yourself for falling short of your potential, it was a “bad” performance even if you won.

Answer the questions in the worksheet.

Worksheet – Profiling

PDF format

Text format:

(1) What were you thinking shortly before the start of your worst performance?

(2) Circle how productive or destructive your thinking was before your worst performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

(3) What were you thinking during the performance?

(4) Rate how positive or negative your thinking was during your worst performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

(5) What were you thinking after the performance?

(6) Rate how positive or negative your thinking was after your worst performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

(7) What were you thinking shortly before the start of your best performance?

(8) Circle how positive or negative your thinking was before your best performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

(9) What were you thinking during the performance?

(10) Rate how positive or negative your thinking was during your best performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

(11) What were you thinking during the performance?

(12) Rate how positive or negative your thinking was during your best performance.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Extremely Destructive -> Extremely Productive

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly

During the worksheet I had you evaluate your self-talk as productive versus destructive.

Starting out most people have the impression that negative self-talk is bad and positive self-talk is good. Actually this is true a lot of the time! But not all the time.

Do you sometimes go into a situation confident, yet come out feeling disappointed in your performance? One way that coaches screw up alot when trying to help with athlete self-talk is that they emphasize positive self-talk instead of productive self-talk; and that can lead to over-confidence!

So instead I want you to label your self-talk that helps you win as different from your self-talk that helps you lose.

The good is positive, productive self-talk

The bad is negative, destructive self-talk

And the ugly is positive, destructive self-talk or negative, productive self-talk.

Here’s a handy chart

Destructive Productive
Positive This’ll be easy he sucks. I’m ready, I prepared hard.
Negative Well now I can’t win. Don’t be distracted, don’t be pulled out of position.

Negative self-talk can be

Positive self-talk can be

Either of these types of self-talk can help you win.

So since either can help you win, how do you recognize destructive self-talk?

Recognizing destructive self-talk

Professional League of Legends players don’t use the same item build every match. If they are losing to a Lissandra they might buy a quicksilver sash instead of another core item.

Starcraft players don’t keep massing marines once a protoss player gets colossi out. (Ok actually they do, marines OP, but theoretically…)

Likewise, why would you keep saying the same thing over and over if it doesn’t help YOU win? Most people do so simply because they don’t have an altherative.

Also destructive self-talk is hard to recognize, especially since all negative self-talk isn’t automatically destructive, and sometimes positive self-talk is destructive.

A second, more insidious problem is that you can win while using destructive self-talk. Especially if you far outskill an opponent.

You can get better while using destructive self-talk. It’s hard to see how much faster you could get better using only productive self-talk.

So people continue without realizing their full potential. Without unlocking the power of their beliefs.

I like to tell athletes that productive self-talk focuses on “controlling the controllable.” Therefore, destructive self-talk focuses on uncontrollables. The past, the future. Weaknesses (during matches). Outcomes like winning or losing. Perfection.

In a competitive match it is easier to control things like effort, abusing your strengths, and what you are focusing on.

TASK

Take a look at your profile worksheet. See if you can classify your self-talk. Visit your portfolio on the Portfolio Forum and answer the following questions:

  1. What is productive self-talk for you?
  2. What is destructive?