self talk hypnosis
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.

"I think I can, I think I can..." said the Little Engine who Could as he chugged up the mountain. More than just a children's story, this is a valuable lesson: What we tell ourselves can have a profound impact on our lives.

Just as athletes regularly train their body to execute precise skills or maintain a certain pace, they need to regularly train the mind to think precise thoughts and focus on specific things.

There seem to be common self-talk errors swimmers make that tend to have a negative influence on performance. Read through each of these and assess if any of these errors plague you.

Focusing on the past or future:
“I raced so bad last time I swam here.” “I can’t believe I missed that turn.” Not ‘letting go’ of mistakes or poor performances takes thoughts and focus away from where they should be--on the present. A similar situation occurs when athletes worry about what may happen. All athletes have control over is right now, that is where thoughts need to be.

Focusing on weaknesses during competition:
“I should scratch from the IM because my fly has been horrible lately.” “My start is so slow.” To improve as a swimmer, it is necessary to identify and work on weaknesses . . . but only during practice. During competition, dwelling on weaknesses will erode confidence. Ideally, competition is where athletes should focus on strengths as a swimmer by using positive and informative thoughts.

Focusing only on outcome:
“I must win” or, “I have to make Junior cuts” such thoughts direct athletes to the outcome of the competition, something they have little control over. What athletes do have control over is performance. Therefore, direct self-talk towards what needs to be done to be successful . . . and trust that the outcome will take care of itself.

Focusing on uncontrollable factors:
“I hate swimming in cold weather.” “This delay in the start is going to mess up my preparation.” “I never swim well in lane 8.” Statements such as these are a waste of mental energy. Not only are they out of one’s control but they also distract thoughts from where they should be. Keep thoughts on controllable factors.

Demanding perfection:
“I better swim a PR.” “My turns have to be perfect.” Athletes train their physical skills for years, trying to achieve the perfect performance. It is appropriate to work towards perfection but unrealistic to expect a perfect performance every competition.

Thought Stopping is the most common technique used to introduce positive thoughts and eliminate the negative thoughts.
  1. Become Aware of Self-Talk.
  2. Stop the Negative.
  3. Replace with Positive.
  4. Practice Thought Stopping.
Self-talk is internal dialog---the words we use when we talk to ourselves.

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