Positively Elite Performance Logo

The Power Of Thoughts! And How We Can Train Our Self-Talk

Powell Cucchiella, LMHC

Our thoughts are powerful! Pay attention to them and choose them wisely!

When I work with schools and teams, you will indeed hear that phrase out of my mouth at least once. Our thoughts TRULY DO have a powerful impact on us and our performance. I believe learning to pay attention to them and choosing them well is the single biggest predictor of maintaining the belief and confidence needed to be consistent, handle adversity, and feel motivated to put in the proper technical, physical, and tactical training to grow. 

Our choice in thought is called “self-talk.”


So what is a thought!? 

Although there are ranging definitions of what a thought is, I usually describe it in this way when working with individuals and teams. A thought is your internal voice, or image, or senses. The internal voice is always there, analyzing, judging, planning, making sense of things. You have a choice in how you choose to describe the things that happen to you or what’s coming in the future.  Images and videos also tend to dominate our thoughts. We quickly conjure up images of the past and future, of events real or imagined. Although you dont have choice over the images of your past, you have a choice in the images you give your attention to and the images you choose for your future. We also have senses that can be thoughts. We can hear sounds or music perhaps that is made up or bring in a smell that is not there, or feel a sensation that is imaginary, etc… We have a choice here too! All of these thoughts are going on in our heads all day long, thousands of them, usually outside of our awareness, and typically in a repetitive pattern. For many of us, out of protection and survival, our thoughts can be negative. 


How do thoughts effect performance? 

We know, based on the early work of Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that our thoughts have a tremendous impact on our emotional state and behaviors (performance). Beck created the ABC approach to understanding this interaction.

First there is an activating event: 

A- activating event- the situation you are facing. Ex. “I’m facing the hardest competition today”


Then, we have a belief about that situation:

B- belief- our thought about the event. Ex. “I dont think Im good enough. What if I/we lose.”

              Side note: Many people, through their mental images, see past negative experiences or look into the future of the competition and                   see the main things they hope DOES NOT happen. 

And then, there is an immediate consequence to your belief:

C- consequence- the resulting emotional, physiological, and behavioral response to that belief. Ex. Feel fear and doubt. The body starts to get tense, the heart races, chest and stomach are tight. Behaviorally, you are more likely to avoid risks, be in your head, your technique is off, and you are silent.  


CHECK THAT OUT! Our beliefs and thoughts about events directly determine how we feel, how our body reacts, and how we end up performing.  Like the Greek Philosopher Epictetus mentioned, "It's not what happens to you but how you react that matters." It's so true! The great thing is that we do have a choice in the way we view situations. It may not be the automatic thought that comes through, but we have a choice to view situations differently. Later, psychologists added a “D” to the ABC model- to show the power of our ability to choose a thought.  

D- Dispute- Use your self-talk to create a new perspective, rationalize the situation, reflect on if you are in a thinking trap, or choose a new mindset. Suggestions for disputing are listed in the training section below.

This is self-talk in action!


So how do I train my self-talk?

Like any skill, self-talk is trained by consistently putting time into it. At the core, we are training our thoughts. We can do that by paying attention to them more and then consistently choosing thoughts that are goal/success oriented (just like in my phrase that started this whole blog. It is the way, it is the process). 


*Mindfulness* - A mindfulness practice is a foundational training tool for the mind. We do not do it just to relax or reduce stress. We do it to become more familiar and more masterful over the thoughts we think. By sitting there, observing thoughts, letting them go, refocusing the mind, we are indeed learning to control it all. More to come on this skill in my next two blogs. 

*Learn to dispute* - Ask yourself the following questions if you are feeling fear, doubt or self-conscious: "What is the evidence that things will go negatively? What does my past experience tell me?" "A different way to see this situation is..." , "If things went well, what would happen?"

" *Write down both your outcome and process goals. Rehearse your process goals daily* - Your outcome goals are what you hope to achieve. Your process goals are the small actionable times that make your dream come true. Focus daily on the process and the outcome takes care of itself. If you get nervous, fearful, or have self-doubt. Come back to your process!


*Affirmations* - Affirmations have been criticized for effectiveness. However, one thing is clear about them, the more often you think something on purpose, the more often you think it when you are not trying to. If you want to achieve something you have to keep seeing what success looks like. Affirmations help train the mind to be geared towards goals and success. 


*Visualization* - If affirmations are you training your inner-voice to be more goal and success directed, visualization is training your mental images and senses to be more goal and success directed. The more you see, hear, and feel the success that you desire, the more that it appears for you, and the more confidence and self-esteem is boosted as well. Its just a must-do skill in elite sport performance. More to come on this skill in a blog to come.


*Surround yourself with positive people* - Love this one. You become what you see, think, and hear most often. The ideas, beliefs, emotions, and mindsets of the people that are most consistently around you are contagious. Choose your people wisely. 


*Keep a gratitude journal* - The field of positive psychology is the science of well-being. They found that keeping a daily gratitude journal, writing down 3 things you are grateful for and why, was the most reliable intervention to boost happiness and meaning, among other things. Why does this work? Again, you are training your mind to be grateful. What you put time into grows, whether it is negative or positive. Kind of like a garden, whatever you put sunlight and water to will grow. 


I will end this blog with my favorite short story from the Native Americans: 

Two Wolves

An Old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.


“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. 

“Its a terrible fight and its between two wolves. 

One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt,

resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness,

benevolence, empathy,  generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. 


The same fight is going on inside you - 

and inside every other person too.”

The grandson then asked his grandfather, 

“Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, 

“The one you feed”

Your thought are powerful! Pay attention to them and choose them wisely! Feed the right wolf! 

Copyright @ Positively Elite
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram