Stay Positive… Most of the Time

Stay Positive... Most of the Time

Photo by Roel Driever

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I thought I touch on something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And coincidentally it follows up nicely from my last post. Just to recap – on the last post I discussed that the content of our self-talk plays as important a role in shaping our performance (maybe even more important) as does the quantity of it. One of the main characteristics of self-talk is the purpose of it. Do you use it to motivate you, do you use it to keep you task focused (i.e., instructional), or do you use a combination of the two. Understanding this can help direct you in changing your self-talk so that it’s harnessed to improve your performance.

What I’d like to do today is to look at another characteristic of your self-talk. And that’s whether or not it’s negative or positive in nature. Would your self-talk be considered optimistic or pessimistic? Without documenting your self-talk through the use of a sports journal or diary you may struggle to answer this question accurately.

A little rant here. I can’t stress this enough – keep a sports journal. In general, when you reflect back on what you said to yourself, hours, days, weeks before, the reliability of your reflections probably won’t be great. Since we want to cash in on improving our self-talk and thus improving our performance and enjoyment, we need an accurate picture of what’s actually happening not what you think is happening. So keep a journal. End of little rant.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about with the optimistic and pessimistic self-talk, I’ll give you a few examples using both motivational and instructional types.

Motivational – Negative
-“Everyone watching thinks I won’t be able to do this.”

Motivational – Positive
-“I’m going to go all out, every second.”

Instructional – Negative
-“Don’t get nervous.”

Instructional – Positive
-“Head up, keep my feet moving.”

For the most part, successful performances are associated with positive self-talk. Those athletes who speak to themselves with an optimistic tone, their performances are felt to have been more successful and enjoyable than their pessimistic counterparts. It’s pretty straight forward.

Self-talk has long term, cumulative effects. Regardless of the content of your self-talk, because you have to listen to it all the time (consciously or unconsciously) you begin to believe it, and once you begin to believe it, you start to act it. Self-talk positive, think positive, feel positive, perform positive.

Is all Negative Self-Talk bad?

No it’s not. In fact some of the most negative self-talk can have a positive influence on your performance, as long as it doesn’t become an ongoing habit. Negative self-talk can be a great motivator. Similar to the first example above, you can use a motivational-negative statement to fire yourself up. “No one thinks I can do it.” If you reframe it as a challenge and work to prove them wrong, it can help you get your game face on and spur you to an excellent performance.

Knowing when to use this type of self-talk is a key issue if it’s to be successful. When do you use positive self-talk? When do you use negative self-talk. You learn by taking control of it. Script it if you can. Try it out. Use your journal. What type of self-talk did you have? How was your performance? Is there a pattern emerging?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what self-talk you use to get pumped up in the comments. Don’t be shy.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, it’s been awhile since my last post and there’s a very good reason. I’ve been working away on a new program that will be coming out really really soon. It’s called “The Boost” and I can’t tell you too much more right now, cause it’s top secret ;). But stay tuned there’s going to be more info coming out shortly.

Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)

The comments are closed.


  1. Linda
    6 years ago

    Knowing when to use the negative self-talk is sometimes hard to figure out. Will have to remember to take control. I have never kept a journal of how I feel or what I think before or after making a run in agility. Good advice and something I am considering doing. Thanks for the great advice.


  2. Jenn
    6 years ago

    You are so right. I find taking that negative and turning into a challenge helps me even more, like a dare. I just did my first agility run with my little deaf aussie and that was what gave us the fire. ” They don’t think she can do this – we’re gonna blow their minds! Great advice!


  3. Trudie
    6 years ago

    At a little weekend agility trial, by the first run there were 3 negative incidents. My dog pooped by a farmer’s field and because I didn’t pick it up the club president threatened to expel me from the competition, I felt very guilty! My dog ran past the very second jump to look at another dog watching from the ringside and the judge said “How like a pyrenean shepherd! always has to be the superintendant!” (We’ve been working on “Recallers” for a year now!) And at the end said, “Madame, you are eliminated twice! You forgot to remove your dog’s flea collar !”
    As a Cognitive Edge student I had to keep reminding myself not to let these toxic things ruin my day!
    So I went up to the course secretary who I don’t know personnally, however I’ve always been impressed by her cheerful smile. (Her nickname is “Blonde Attitude”!) I told her so, and said that it would make my day if I could re-boost my smile, from her smile bank account so to speak. In the afternoon run, as I was going to the start line, I heard her call out, “and don’t forget — do it with a smile!” The surprise boost I got was immense, it made me relax, laugh and breathe. We had a terrific run and it made my day!


  4. BJ Walker
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the post, John. I have forgotten to use self-talk before an agility run, but strangely enough, I always use it when I play tennis. Before agility, I usually breathe deeply and clear my mind. I’m trying to just focus on the course and my dog. Any emotions or extraneous thoughts are ‘deleted.’ If the judge says anything to me during the run, and this has happened a lot lately, it breaks my concentration. I’ll try this self-talk and see what happens. Maybe I can then easily refocus if a judge makes ‘odd’ comments. Thanks!


  5. Bonnie
    6 years ago

    Self talk what a great topic. I have lots of positive self talk however I do let the negative in. The negative self talk about how I get watched because I think I have had success and people now watch for my mistakes. I have to make this into a positive and realize that because I have a great dog and I run well I now have success, that is my positive response to my negative self talk.

    Hope this makes sense.
    Bonnie


  6. Marilyn Spitz
    6 years ago

    At a trial there is so much going on as we approach the ring and the line that I have come to rely on a couple of thoughts to get me and Riley started. I say to myself, ‘Breathe, Trust yourself, trust your dog, Breathe, Focus, Trust.” I also use an old image that settles me in a chaotic situation which is finding stillness like the stillness in a spinning top. I have no shortage of negative nagging self talk, but that is all left behind at the start line.


  7. Merka
    6 years ago

    I have not found the right balance of positive vs negative yet. I am keeping a sort of journal of my thoughts going in and coming out of run. However, I find I am still going into the run with the feeling “what will my friends think” if we screw up.
    On the positive side, I have found if I make a mistake mid-stream now, I am able to get back into focus and finish the run well. In the past I was not able to do this. Thanks John

Follow me on Twitter