World Cup Fever has set in around the world. Since I grew up in Brazil, South America, you can imagine this even has my attention. As I considered what kind of personal motivation tips I could share with you this week, I kept thinking of the metaphor/image of mental/emotional kung fu stuck in my head. But I wanted to combine it with the World Cup, and so I thought about you!
Let’s pretend that you have trained long and hard as a soccer player.
|Sir John Hancock on Flickr|
You are equal to all the other players on your team in terms of talent and ability.
But for some reason, you have never scored a goal!
Every time you get out on the field, your performance stays the same or slightly declines.
You start questioning your ability, and you need a coach.
You search online, and you find that Bruce Lee is offering mental kung fu as part of his new job as a sports psychologist!
|mrK on Flickr|
What is kung-fu?
According to Wikipedia:
In Chinese, kung fu can also be used in contexts completely unrelated to martial arts, and refers colloquially to any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work.
Sports psychology is the art of helping athletes reach peak performance excellence:
Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
Sport psychology (or sports psychology) of the psychological and mental factors that affect and are affected by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity. It is also a specialization within the brain psychology and kinesiology that seeks to understand psychological/mental factors that affect performance in sports, physical activity, and exercise and apply these to enhance individual and team performance. It deals with increasing performance by managing emotions and minimizing the psychological effects of injury and poor performance. Some of the most important skills taught are goal setting, relaxation, visualization, self-talk, awareness and control, concentration, confidence, using rituals, attribution training, and periodization.
In order to increase your personal and performance effectiveness in the Game of Life, you must learn how to gain mastery over both your thinking and your emotions. You must do this through constant practice and discipline, so that it becomes a skill, like a martial art, so that you are a well-trained warrior in the midst of trials and adversity that naturally accompanies any worthwhile goals that you have set as a result of formulating your personal mission statement, vision, and values.
So, if you were Bruce Lee, having trained extensively in the martial arts and in soccer, what would separate you from hundreds of other top flight soccer players?
The key success factor in achieving personal excellence and results would be how you talk to yourself.
Winners talk to themselves in more accurate and empowering ways than losers.
In this section, I am borrowing some ideas from one of my favorite resources for myself and my counseling clients: Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life (Workbook), by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning.
We all talk to ourselves constantly!
“What, are you crazy? We don’t talk to ourselves!”
Yes, we do!
Our communication can be broken down into “automatic thoughts”. But the way we communicate to ourselves is often unconscious. Therefore, I am going to share with you a three-step process to uncover and change your self-talk process, so that you can meet your next level of personal and performance excellence.
First, you must realize the connection between situations, automatic thoughts, and feelings.
Here’s an example:
A. Situation: You get into your car, turn the key, and nothing happens.
B. Thought: You interpret the situation by saying to yourself, “Oh, *$!!%, my battery’s dead. This is awful–I’m stuck–I’ll be late!”
C. Feeling: You experience an emotion congruent to your thoughts. In this case, you feel frustrated, angry, depressed, and anxious about being late.
Here are some characteristics of automatic thoughts that you may want to be aware of:
a) They appear in shorthand.
An automatic thought can be a brief mental image, or just sense impressions.
b) They are almost always believed.
We tend not to question automatic thoughts, because they are just part of our unconscious self-dialogue.
c) Automatic thoughts are experienced as spontaneous.
Again, since they are often subconscious, we don’t stop to think about them or analyze our automatic thoughts.
d) Automatic thoughts often contain should, ought, or must.
For example, suppose a woman’s husband has recently died. She thinks, “You ought to go it alone. You shouldn’t burden your friends.” She then feels a wave of hopelessness and loneliness after each thought.
e) Automatic thoughts tend to “awfulize.”
These thoughts are those that make us the most anxious. They tend to see catastrophe, or to expect the worst.
f) Automatic thoughts are unique to who we are.
We often will react very differently to events and situations that come up, because we each have different ways of thinking and communicating to ourselves.
g) Our automatic thoughts are often much more intense and “irrational” than what we say publicly.
For example, an executive calmly states aloud, “Since I got laid off, I’ve been a little depressed.” However, internally these are the automatic thoughts running through his mind:
“I’m a failure.”
“I’ll never work again.”
“My family will starve”
“I can’t make it in this world.”
He has an image of himself spiraling down into a bottomless dark pit.
Second, you must become expert in listening to and recording your automatic thoughts.
Here are some ways to listen to and become aware of the way that you think and communicate to yourself:
a) Reconstruct a problem situation, going over and over it in your imagination, until the painful emotion begins to emerge.
What comes up for you? What impulse, image, or thought is running through your mind. Think of it as slowing down a motion picture to a freeze frame by frame description.
b) Expand the shorthand statement into a longer statement.
For example, “Feeling sick” would be, “I’m feeling sick and I know I’m going to get worse.” “Crazy” means “I feel like I’m losing control, and that must mean I’m going crazy.”
c) Record your thoughts.
Third, once you have recorded your thoughts, you can then find ways to challenge or balance out those thoughts.
Here is a mental kung fu worksheet to help you uncover and re-work your internal dialogue into a way of thinking that will help you instead of hindering you.
I highly urge you to get to work. This is not going to work on its own.
It takes at least 21 days to form a successful habit. So here is an official contract for you. Use it daily to get used to recording and challenging automatic thoughts that are unhelpful to you.
“I have decided to deal with my problem of (self-defeating thinking) by using (the mental kung fu worksheet).
I am making a commitment to (insert your name here) to undertake the following: practice writing out and challenging unhelpful self-defeating thoughts one time per day per week for the next three weeks.
I will evaluate my improvement only at the end of this period.
I will immediately notify (insert the name of friend to whom you would like to be accountable) of any failure to uphold this commitment.
Your signature Date
I commit myself to take this work seriously, and I will periodically check in with (your name) as a reminder that your progress is important to me.
Support person’s signature Date
If you work on this consistently for 21 days, I can guarantee you that you will be very much closer to scoring goals on the soccer field of your life. Here’s to your success in the World Cup!!
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