You may have heard someone encourage you with the simple advice to just “think positively” or “visualize your success”. However well intended, these words of advice can seem contrived and be taken the wrong way. Like many things, simple advice like staying positive and visualizing is far easier said than done. However, I’m writing in support of the philosophy that positive thinking and visualization can yield positive results!
As an example, a relatable struggle of mine has been with tennis. After 6 weeks of lessons in my youth, I felt that my tennis game was a hazard to my community. This was because my swing would send the ball anywhere except where I was aiming. My first thought regarding the sport was, “I’m not good at tennis.” Such thoughts and images of my ball flying over the fence, would likely carry a future negative effect on my playing of the game. However, I realized that if I changed my mindset, I could then become open to other possibilities.
Changing one’s frame of mind requires facing and altering instinctual fear, worry, or angst. In my example of learning tennis, the first step to reframing the mind involves recognizing that such initial thoughts about my skills can be damaging. The next steps involve deliberately rephrasing my thoughts, incorporating facts in a positive tone. I can therefore instead say: “I have room for improvement”. Just the removal of negative words from my language can create change. Visualizing proper technique allows my brain’s motor control centers to start forming and refining a movement pattern. These practices will be significantly more helpful than telling myself “I stink,” and simply remembering my past wild tennis ball returns.
The above is a description of positive self-talk is a component of sports psychology. I have experienced its effectiveness as an athlete myself and with the clients with whom I’ve worked. During balance training especially, I coach people to think affirming thoughts such as: “I am strong. I am centered” rather than “don’t fall, don’t fall”. It is surprisingly effective in adding to people’s success in remaining stable. As with any exercises to build strength, positive thinking is built through consistency and practice. It is also a choice. As a challenge, see how many times you catch yourself in daily conversation saying positive and negative comments. When you find yourself saying something negative, practice rephrasing to use a positive tone.
You do not have to be perfect but if you strive to change your perspective when you meet adversity you will set yourself up for success. Remember, the direction in which you think and especially speak can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cultivating positive thoughts will likely yield more desirable results.