Am I in control of my thoughts? YES
Is it always easy to control my thoughts? NO
Every day I make choices about how I will think. When I get out of bed each morning I can be excited about what my day will offer, or I can fret about all the things I think I need to do. On my way to work I can get pissed about all the construction on the highway, or I can look forward to the day when the highway flows better than ever. Is my cup half empty, or half full?
Thought control is a hot topic. Numerous books have been written, countless amounts of research has been done, and tons of TED Talks have been broadcast on the topic. People are starving for answers, attempting to take control of their thoughts. What I have learned is that the ability to control one's thoughts is different from one person to the next. There are no cookie cutter answers. I do believe though, based on my research, my work with athletes and personal training clients, and through my personal experiences, that a person can become better equipped at controlling their thoughts.
Athletes & Thought Control
The need for thought control is extremely evident in sport. Athletes' thoughts are consistently being challenged, and the ability to choose thoughts that serve them best can be the difference between success and failure. Following are some examples of the importance of thought control in sport. As you read these, imagine the impact that one thought might have versus the other regarding an athletes' potential for continuous development and on-going success.
"I'm tired and I don't feel much like practicing." vs. "I will give my best effort today."
"I can't do this drill." vs. "I will keep working at this drill until I kill it."
"This is a huge shot, I hope I don't miss it." vs. "This is going in."
"This is a big at-bat, I hope I get a hit." vs. "I am going to crush this ball."
"Man I sucked today." vs. "I know some things I need to work on."
"My teammates played terrible today." vs. "I will do my best to help my team be successful."
The 3 R's & Thought Control
I implement the 3 R's with people that are attempting to gain control of their thoughts. The 3 R's can serve as a guide for improved thought control. The 3 R's take effort and practice, there are no short cuts to gaining control of ones thoughts. The 3 R's are- Recognize, Release, and Refocus. Try to use the 3 R's the next time you are losing control or your thoughts. Here's how it works-
Are the thoughts you are having helping you or hurting you? Are they congruent with your goals and who you want to be as a person, business associate, partner, or athlete? If your thoughts are not helping you to move in a direction that is best for you, recognize that your thoughts need to change.
-First you must know where you want to go, your goals, your dreams, how you want to be remembered... your WHY. Your WHY will ground you, help you to stay on the right path. If you don't know where you are going, then how do you know if your thoughts are leading you toward your WHY? Write down your WHY.
-Recognize situations in which you consistently respond with thoughts that do not mesh with your WHY. There are probably situations that occur over and over, maybe even daily, in which your thoughts do not mesh with your WHY. Write these down. Learn to recognize these situations.
One thing I Recognize
When I am coaching I will often get upset with what I perceive to be a lack of effort from an athlete. My thoughts lead to anger and my anger leads to yelling. Yelling at an athlete is not a part of WHY I coach. I recognize that my thoughts are not helping me to be who I want to be as a coach. I have written this down in my journal and revisit it prior to practices and games.
A release is a physical action that helps you "release" your negative thoughts. A baseball infielder, after a ball goes through his legs, might grab some dirt, squeeze it tightly, and throw it down, "releasing" negative thoughts. Others might simply take a deep breath when they are having negative thoughts.
Try different "releases." Write down releases that work for you. Different situations may call for different releases.
When I am on the field, and I recognize that my thoughts toward an athlete's perceived lack of effort are heading me in the wrong direction, I take a deep breath, I grab some grass, and I throw it on the field.
Refocus your thoughts in a manner that is beneficial to your WHY. What thoughts are congruent with who you want to be? Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, thoughts that are congruent with your WHY.
Write down the positive thoughts that work to replace the negative thoughts. Revisit this list often.
How I Refocus
I will speak to a player in a calm manner. I will ask them their level of effort and have a conversation about the importance of giving great effort.
Believing that you ultimately have control of your thoughts can be extremely empowering and huge difference maker both on the field and off. Having control of your thoughts puts you in charge of your WHY. You are in control of your thoughts, your development, and your success!