Belief and Self Talk

Sports Psychology: Belief, Self Talk and Performance Enhancement

by Joe Kolezynski. M.B.A., M.A.

One of the more frequently faced challenges experienced by athletes is that of how to improve their performance. They express frustration that they often possess identical, if not superior, physical attributes to their competition, yet they’re consistently being out performed by that competition. In many of these cases the factor that separates their performance from the competitions has been found to be rooted in their belief as to their ability to outperform the competition. In other words they are operating with a limiting belief as to their athletic ability and level of performance they are capable of achieving. Yet it is well documented that a individual’s core beliefs in any given area of their life will ultimately determine the reality they draw into their life-positive, negative or stagnant.

So how does one go about changing a limiting belief to a positive one — one that will result in improving your performance? It has been established by psychologists and neuroscientists that every person in the world carries on an ongoing dialog, or self-talk, of between 150 and 300 words a minute. This works out to between 45,000 and 51,000 thoughts a day. Most of out self-talk is harmless thoughts that serve our daily activities like, “I need to stop at the cleaners.” The danger is when inner dialogue takes on a negative connotation such as, “I’ll never be as good an athlete as he is,” “I don’t have the mental toughness to compete at this level,” or “I’ll never be that fast.” The ongoing negative reinforcement created by habitual negative self-talk results in the creation of a limiting belief(s) that goes on to become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Beliefs — positive or negative — are literally etched into our brain in comfortable grooves or neural pathways. Incoming data from our senses travel on these neural pathways on the way to interpretation in the brain. Therefore, if you desire to change an unresourceful/limiting belief into an empowering belief, you must rewire the negative neural track created in the brain.

This can be accomplished in precisely the same way the tracks were created: by using self-talk or, more specifically affirmations. An affirmation is a statement of fact or belief — positive or negative — that will lead toward the end result you expect. Anything that follows the phrase “I am,” such as “I am a peak performance athlete” or “I am quick and agile,” is an affirmation. The simplicity of affirmations often causes them to be overlooked. Nonetheless, affirmations are regularly used by professional athletes and successful business people.

The process for changing a limiting belief to a resourceful belief using affirmations is a simple one. First, identify the areas of your life which are not working to your satisfaction.

Next, write out the affirmations that represent things the way you desire them to be, they will be the vehicle for creating new resourceful/positive pathways.

Basic to formulating a new self-suggestion is that your affirmation is short and to the point — simple enough that a five year old child will understand it — and is always stated in the positive. Further, your affirmation should be stated in the present tense — as if it has already happened, for example, “I am a strong athlete.”
Now you are ready to begin your daily (minimum) reprogramming process:

* Sit upright in a comfortable chair.
* Close your eyes and take a couple of minutes to progressively relax.
* Release your body’s tight sharp focus on the physical world by taking yourself to an even deeper level of relaxation.
* Speak your affirmation aloud from five to twenty times (depending on the time you have and the number of beliefs you are reprogramming).

By speaking your affirmation aloud you are down-stepping your thoughts to the brains electrical network to speech, and you are involving more of your brain by including two more of your senses: auditory and kinesthetic. It is important that you trust this process and give your affirmation(s) time to achieve their desired outcome. Worry or self-doubt as to whether your affirmations are working only conveys to your subconscious worry and the belief that your desire may not come to pass or the affirmation may not succeed. Be patient, success is on the way.

In conclusion, remember that your beliefs are what produce your life’s experience, not the other way around. Orchestrate your beliefs using affirmations to create a life filled with successful experiences that reinforce the beliefs that created them.