Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Importance of Self-Talk

We have always been interested in how our athletes treat themselves. One of the easiest ways to monitor this is to listen to how they talk to themselves and others. We know that "put ups" vs. "put downs" make a huge difference in how a swimmer feels about what she/he is doing and how it contributes to their success. The real value is what each individual says to him/her self and then to a lessor extent (but still significant) what others to whom we assign value, have to say. We like the exercise offered below. Keep your ears open. You might just grab an insightful moment! Have a great week in and out of the pool!!

Excerpt from Secrets of the World Class, by Steve Siebold

Self-talk is what we say to ourselves all day long and also how we say it. For years, philosophers, psychologists and performance experts worldwide have known about the impact self-talk has on us. That being said, average performers
are oblivious to what they are saying to themselves and how it's affecting the quality of their lives. The pros have always been aware of the power of language in programming and reprogramming the human computer.

Dr. Shad Helmstetter, in his magnificent book, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, writes that up to 77% of the average person's self-talk is negative. According to Dr. Helmstetter, we spend our lives talking ourselves into and out of things.

Champions believe and embrace this idea. As a matter of fact, the easiest way to know you're in the presence of champions is to listen to them. The world-class has spent years overcoming prior programming, and this process usually begins with the use of language, both with themselves and others. The great ones believe almost anything is possible, simply because they have repeated that idea - and others like it - to themselves for years.

To quote Dr. Helmstetter, "Repetition is a convincing argument." Developing world-class self-talk may be the most powerful of all the mental toughness secrets of the world-class. Like most of the habits, traits and philosophies in this book, it's so simple that it's often overlooked. As a result, amateur performers continue to perpetuate amateur language with themselves and others. Meanwhile, the great ones create ideas out of thin air, convince themselves achievement is possible, and then go out and make it happen.

Action Step for Today:

Begin monitoring everything you say to yourself and others. Ask this critical thinking question:

"Is the way I use language programming me for success or failure?"

Next, begin listening to the way people around you use language.

Ask yourself the same question about them. This is an eye-opening experiment.


Anonymous said...

This is so critically important. Up until last year I said things like "my backstroke sucks" or "I'm the slowest kicker in the pool." Now I catch myself and redo the talk to "my backstroke keeps getting better and better" or "my kicking is strong and flexible." I don't consider myself to be negative - but I do catch myself being VERY critical about my swimming.

Mads - SwimmersMind said...

I had a great one at prac yesterday.

One of my swimmers loudly claimed that "I sooo want to go sub 30" (in a set of 50 m kicking with fins)

Basically a positive thing to say - but it was said with such a negative tone that I could feel all through my body how she was dragging herself (and probably some team mates) down.

I stopped the practice and have her change just the tone she used to say that sentence and noticed the huuuge change in her attitude.
- she did 29.04 on the next 50 :)

It matters SO much what and how you talk to yourself. Great post!