Defeating Negative Thinking

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Defeating Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is easy to acquire and once it becomes a habit, requires consistent effort to change. Defeating negative thinking requires you to first become aware of what your negative thoughts and when they occur. Next, you need to make a list of the negative thoughts. Then, you need to come up with a “better” thought to “replace” the negative thought and practicing thinking and saying the replacement thought whenever the negative thought comes to mind. You must practice saying the new healthier thought STRONGLY and PASSIONATELY in order to get a change at the feeling level.

Defeating negative thinking requires systematic practice. Here is a mental exercise you can practice with: (I use this with tennis players, although you can see how easily it can be adapted to use with other sports or even in non-athletic related situations.)

Here is a list of common negative thoughts associated with playing competitive tennis. For each negative statement, write a more desirable positive statement.

1. Oh no. I have to play this opponent in the first round, I have lost to him twice before.

2. I can’t believe I missed that shot. What’s wrong with me?

3. I am down 3-0. I don’t have a chance.

4. That’s the second backhand I missed. My backhand is the worst.

5. I double faulted on game point. I really suck.

6. I should be killing this guy. I’m so much better and I’m down 3-1.

7. It’s unbelievable. That’s the second shot of mine that hit the line and he called it out. What  a cheater!

8. I was ahead the entire set and now it’s 5-5. I’m terrible. I’ll probably end up blowing the set and losing the match.

9. My overhead was great in practice all week and now in the match I have missed 2 of them.

10. I can’t get over that bad call last game. It was such an important point.

Write any additional negative thoughts that are specific to your situation on the back of this page.

On  a separate sheet of paper for each negative thought, come up with a more desirable thought to counter the negative one.

Now you have completed the first step in defeating negative thinking.



Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Resiliency, the ability to come back when behind, is a key mental skill to have both in sports and in life. A recent NBC show highlighted the resiliency of pro golfer, Michael Allen, who for most of his life struggled to make a living as a pro golfer.

Although he believed in himself, after 334 PGA starts without a win he called it quits. In an effort to better support his family, he tried other jobs. After several more years, with the support of his wife and the financial backing of friends he tried again.

His wife convinced him he had to do something different in order to have a better chance at a successful comeback. This time, he worked more on his fitness, hired a new “swing coach” and worked with a “sports psychologist”.

Resiliency combined with doing things differently paid off. After 20 years, Michael won his first PGA Senior tour and for the past 5 years has been a leading money winner, winning several other major tournaments.

The interview was conducted by veteran news reporter, Jayne Pauly. When asked by Matt Lauer of the Today Show, which of the changes she felt were most important in turning things around for Michel Allen, she said, the “sports psychology”.

As a sports psychologist, I live and work in Boca Raton,Florida, a Mecca for golf and tennis and home to numerous professional athletic events. In my experience, mental skills like resiliency and confidence are partly inherited, partly learned through early childhood experiences and partly improved upon through teaching,  as are many life skills.

Through counseling and various types of emotional skills training athletes and non-athletes can learn to make changes and improvements in their performance both on and off the playing field.

The key is to get the help you need, make the necessary changes and put in the time and effort for things to come together.

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