Self-Talk, Confidence, & New Habits

Self-Talk, Confidence, & New Habits

Hello, everybody.  I’m Coach Marissa.  Today, I’m going to be expanding on Coach Rebecca’s live video where she talked about the first step of mental skills training, awareness – how you can be more aware of the skills that your athlete is currently using and what’s going to be beneficial for them.  Rebecca was talking a lot about self-confidence and about how self-talk can really help with that.  One thing that she mentioned was how you can be a good coach for yourself.  So whether you have a good coach or whether you need to be one for yourself, taking control over your thoughts is how you’re going to get there.

Being the Good Coach

What we’re going to do today is dive a little bit more into how you can do that and how you can make it a habit of being that good coach for yourself.  Before we dive into the mental skills that your athlete can use to get there, let’s take some time and talk about the mental skills that you might be using that aren’t really working.

Negative Self-Talk

When you are constantly being negative or using negative self-talk, you might be saying things like, “Oh, I can’t believe I’m not getting this,” or, “Why can’t I do it while everyone else is?”  This type of negative self talk, the more you use it, the more you are lowering yourself confidence.  Every time you step up to do your skill and you picture yourself crashing and burning, and you say to yourself, “Oh, I’m probably going to fall,” that’s destroying your confidence over and over again.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

When you do this, you are creating that self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I have any golfers watching with me right now, you know what I mean when I say this.  In golf, it is against the unwritten law to say something like, “I hope I don’t hit it into the water,” or, “I hope I don’t hit it into the trees,” because if you say that to yourself, where’s the ball going to go?  Into the water or into the trees.

The same goes for any sport that you’re in with.  If you’re telling yourself what not to do, like “don’t fall”, then your brain is going to hear that and it’s going to listen, but it’s going to get rid of that “don’t” and it’s just going to hear the word “fall”.  So if you’re constantly having that negative self-talk or telling yourself those things, that’s when you’re most likely going to end up balking or falling.  So let’s come up with a plan for you to follow so even if you do have that thought, you can quickly overcome and be more productive with your self-talk.


Another mental skill that you might be using that isn’t working in your favor is putting a ton of pressure on yourself and becoming impatient when you’re not reaching your goals.  If you keep saying to yourself, “I need to hurry up and just get this skill,” your brain is saying, “Whoa, slow down.  We’re not there yet,” and that’s when you’re going to freeze.  If you’ve ever gone to do a skill, and you really want to do it, and you can’t understand why you can’t, it’s because your brain is protecting you.  You’re freezing and balking on your skills because your brain doesn’t feel confident enough to get there, to allow you to follow through.

Be Patient

Also, if you’re trying to be perfect all the time, and you say to yourself, “Well, practice makes perfect.  I just need to practice practice, practice,” that causes too much pressure on your brain.  Your brain just wants to go into protection mode and hide.  You could be the hardest worker out there, but if you’re constantly thriving and striving for perfection, you’re always going to be let down because nobody’s perfect and perfection, isn’t realistic, so learning how to overcome that perfection, how to be more patient with yourself, and stop putting that pressure is really where the money is and where things are going to go right for you.

What WILL Work

Now that we’ve gone through the mental skills that aren’t working, let’s go through some that will work. So the first one, instead of having negative, self-talk, let’s focus on positive or even

Being Positive or Neutral

When you have positive or neutral self-talk, it enhances your motivator – it changes what you believe to be true.  It also calms your nerves, so what you say to yourself can actually turn on or turn off that fight-or-flight response that you’re feeling and help you calm down.  It helps you prepare and helps you put in more effort.  In just a little bit, I’m going to dive more into how to create that positive or neutral self-talk and make it a habit.

Pressure vs. Process

Instead of putting a ton of pressure on yourself, focus on just working hard, focus on the effort that you’re putting in each day.  Say, “I’m going to show up to practice and get 100% every single time I go,” and know that time is your friend.  Instead of saying, “I need to hurry up and get this skill because my coach wants me to,” just focus on the process.  Ask for help if you need it that day, ask for a mat, ask for a spot, whatever it might be, and just change the way that you’re talking to yourself and make time your friend.  You are in more control of time than you think you are.  Instead of saying the famous “practice makes perfect”, I want you to start saying “practice makes progress”, because again, perfection is unrealistic; it’s not attainable.  Instead, every time you practice, know that you’re making progress in the right direction.

So, we know that positive and neutral self-talk and making time your friend are mental skills that are going to help build up that confidence that you’re looking for.  What I really want to dive into today is how to make it into a habit or routine that you can do every single practice, where you are constantly building up that progress that you’re looking for.

List Your Negative Thoughts

The first step, and this is something that we do with our PerformHappy members, is to write down a list of negative thoughts you have in practice or that you’ve had before.  Write these down on a sheet of paper, and once you’ve written all of them down, just keep going (there will probably be a lot of them if you’re someone that has a lot of negative self-talk).  Write them all down on a sheet of paper.  Once you’re done, write something neutral or positive next to it.

Make it True

For every negative thought that you’ve written down, write down something neutral or positive.  What’s important with these neutral and positive thoughts is that you need to make them facts.  You need to make them realistic so that your brain has no option to argue with you about it. Avoid writing things like, “I’m going to be perfect every single time I go out,” or, “I’m going to be amazing,” because your brain might not believe you.  Instead, say something like, “I’m going to give my full effort during this pass,” or, “I’ve done this before.  I know I can do it again!”  Your brain can’t argue with that because it’s a fact – you have done this skill before, you know that you can do it again.

Make it Interactive

Once you come up with this list, try to make it interactive, kind of like a game.  Your brain loves when you make things fun and interesting because it wants to pay attention more and it doesn’t feel like it’s just a task you need to do.  If you want to make it a game, on the way to practice, have your mom or dad, whoever’s driving you, shout out negative thoughts that you might say.  Then you combat it with a positive or neutral thought.  You can go back and forth with this little game and say, “Nope, I’m not going to say that.  I’m going to say this instead.  If you don’t want to do it with someone else and you want to keep it a little bit more private, that’s totally fine.  You can do this while you’re warming up before practice – go through a list, either write them down or say them in your head.  Every time you come up with one negative thought, switch it, and come up with a neutral or positive thought to replace it.

What’s important is you have to come up with something to replace it, because if you just leave your mind blank and say, “You know what, I’m just not going to think that negative thought,” it’s really easy for your brain to keep thinking it over and over again, because clearing our head is really difficult.  Coming up with something to replace it is the key to making your self-talk neutral and positive.

Keeping a Journal

The next step of becoming more aware of what mental skills are and aren’t working for you is to keep some type of mental toughness journal.  Again, you want to create a habit out of this.  This could be something that’s done in the car ride home after practice or right when you get home when it’s fresh in your mind.  When you keep a journal, these are the things that I want you to write down:

  1. What were my thoughts before practice?  What was I saying to myself?  What was going through my head?
  2. What were my thoughts during practice and that critical moment?  What I mean by critical moments is that while you’re taking a break or before you go for a skill, what is your thought process?
  3. What were your thoughts were after practice?

So three things before practice, during practice, and after practice.  Once you’ve done that, I want you to ask yourself:

  1. What went well, broadly or specifically, what went well during the day?
  2. What could have gone better?
  3. What do I want to focus on next time?

Going through this journal is going to give you that self-awareness.  These were my thoughts during practice. This is what went well. This is what could have gone better.  By looking at that, this is what I want to focus on next time.  It gives your brain something to focus on so when you go into practice, you’re not thinking, “I don’t know what to do today.”  You already have a plan set in place for what to do.

I always think it’s a good idea to end with your journal – to end your day by coming up with things that you’re grateful for or that you’re proud of yourself for.  Whether you went for a skill today that you haven’t gone in a while, or maybe it was something as simple as you cheering on your teammate and you haven’t done that in a while, or you asked for help when you needed it, that is something you can be proud of yourself for.  I would say write down at least three things that you’re either grateful for or that you’re proud of yourself for at the end of each practice.

Three Steps To Help with Journaling

There are a few things that need to be put in place when creating any type of habit, but especially when journaling.

  1. Make it noticeable.  If your journal is hidden away in a bookcase, in a room that you never go into, then you’re probably not going to journal.  Put your journal in your gym bag or put it on the seat in your car so when you get in, you immediately see it.  You could even put it on your nightstand next to your bed so before you go to sleep, you can see it and grab it.  When you make it noticeable, your brain has to make that conscious decision to not do it, vs. if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
  2. Make it easy.  This means knowing exactly what you want to write down.  Go through those five questions that I just listed every single time, then you don’t have to think about what you’re supposed to say today.  Go through those five questions, answer them, and it shouldn’t take you more than five to 10 minutes to journal after practice.  Also make it easier for yourself by keeping a pen or pencil with you so you’re not searching around and then you can’t find a pen and then you just don’t journal because you get frustrated.  Keep it easy.
  3. Pair it with something that you already do. Maybe after practice, on the way home, you always eat a snack.  While you’re eating this snack, journal.  Whenever you go and get a snack, then you write in your journal.  Pair it with something you already do because then your brain will automatically put these two together, so every time you go to get that snack, your brain knows you should be doing something else.  When you pair things your are way more likely to do them.

So those are the three steps to helping make journaling more of a habit – make it noticeable, make it easy, and pair it with something that you already do.  Getting into the habit of becoming more aware of your thoughts before practice and knowing what you want to replace them with, and then journaling about it afterward – if you can get into this cycle, you’re going to be so much more self-aware of what is working for you and what is not working for you.

You begin to realize, “Okay, maybe I’m a really bad coach when I go for this skill, but I’m actually a pretty good coach when I go for this skill, how can I make that happen more?”  Or maybe you’re going to realize, “I feel really confident when I tell myself this, but when I try to tell myself this, my brain doesn’t really believe it.”  Then you can start to realize, “Okay, I need to focus on what is making me go for these skills instead of things that aren’t.”

The more you practice, the more you journal and make a habit out of it, the more confident you’re going to become.  I want to leave you with this – habits are about getting 1% better every single day.  It’s going to take time and it’s going to take effort.  It might feel like a little while before you start seeing some progress and before your brain starts believing what you’re saying to yourself, but I promise you, if you trust the process and if you trust yourself, you’re going to get through it.  Your brain is also going to start trusting you more, which is going to build up that confidence so that you can go to your sport and do the skills that you want to do.

So those are how the steps on trying to make your mental skills that are working for you, work for you more, and to get out of the habit of those skills that might not be working for you. If you have any questions, let me know and we’ll talk again soon. Bye.

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