How Damaging Can One Thought Be?

Throughout the day we are plagued with self talk that may be positive and/or negative in nature. Those thoughts don’t stop just because we step foot onto the competitive fields, but what impact do these thoughts have on our performance?

Many times I ask my clients to give me examples of what they think about during their competitions, and they are unable to do so. We become so accustomed to hearing these thoughts that we typically don’t pay too much attention, but that doesn’t mean that our body isn’t listening on some level to the words running through our mind. When these thoughts and words become negative, they have a profound impact on many areas of our performance, so listen up! Pay attention to what thoughts you are having. In order to make these thoughts work in your favor, you need to know what needs to be changed.

Above is an image of how thoughts can directly impact our performance, which feeds back into our thoughts.Let’s start with the top of the circle- Thoughts. If we have a negative thought, for example: “I can’t beat this kid, he/she is much better than I”, an emotional response will follow.

The emotions that can stem from a thought can be calming and/or anxiety provoking. In our above example, this athlete doubts his/her ability to outperform his/her competitor, and thus is going to become more anxious- tight and over-thinking their performance. From our emotional reactions, an attitude shift occurs; in the above example the negative and anxious athlete now becomes a bit deflated and unfocused in their performance resulting in a decrease in confidence. So what happens to an anxious, deflated, unfocused, and unconfident athlete’s performance? It drops! How is this athlete expected to perform under the above conditions? The problem exists when this athlete’s performance suffers it only reinforces the initial negative thought, “I am not as good as my competitor.”

So what can an athlete do to prevent this negative cycle from damaging their confidence and performance? Disrupt the cycle!! If you start paying attention to the thoughts you are having, you are able to jump in and challenge the negative thought. Let’s take the above example and alter it slightly. The athlete has his/her initial thought of being inferior to his/her opponent, but this time makes and additional statement after the thought. “That kid is talented, but I am just as good and can beat him out.” From this slight statement, the emotional response goes from being anxiety provoking to one that is more relaxed; the resulting attitude will be more focused and motivating. When an athlete is calm, focused, and motivated, their confidence shifts upwards allowing their talent to shine through and their performance to become more optimal.

If an athlete has higher levels of anxiety or negative self talk, they may experience more difficulty challenging the negative thought and may have to try disrupting the cycle in different ways.

Look at how simple it can be to disrupt the cycle and allow ourselves to play at our optimal level. The key is being aware of what is going on mentally and making a step towards intervening. So, are your thoughts holding you back?

MVP Mentality Sports Psychology serves athletes of all ages and levels across Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Hollywood and the surrounding communities. Call us today at 954-317-0551 or contact us online.

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