One of Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes is, “I am the greatest!” He said this loud, proud and often. In the personal-development world, this is known as an affirmation and is also utilized as the principle of “fake-it-until-you-make-it.”
Athletes today are always looking for “the edge,” and working toward gaining the “mental edge” is becoming more commonplace. It’s my goal to help you learn the most effective way to program your mind in any situation in order to activate more of your potential at any given moment. By doing this, you’ll learn how to program your mind and body to experience every ounce of your potential.
This Face the Current Sports & Fitness Feature is published in Issue 22 / Winter 2019. Order PRINT here, or continue reading this article below.
As athletes, we must be vigilant over our internal dialogue and strict, unforgiving rulers over what we allow to cross our mental thresholds.
Our internal dialogue plays a critical role in our performance. Athletes in every sport encounter moments of risk and/or intense stress: divers standing on the edge of the platform, golfers standing over a tournament-winning putt, and gymnasts preparing to attempt a difficult vault, for example. At some point, all of these athletes have said:
“I hope I don’t fail.”
“I don’t think I’m good enough for this.”
“Something always goes wrong when I’m under pressure.”
For the athlete that ruminates on these thoughts, success is not very high. As athletes, we must be vigilant over our internal dialogue and strict, unforgiving rulers over what we allow to cross our mental thresholds.
This one simple and astoundingly powerful technique will forever change your performance, give you confidence under pressure, and increase your potential.
Whenever your internal dialogue registers something that you do not want to happen, whenever it is limiting or negative, simply STOP, acknowledge the dialogue and then, ASK yourself, “So, what do I want?”
To use the above examples:
“I want to nail the entry on this dive.”
“I’ve made putts like this before; I have all the necessary skills to make this one.”
“I perform my best vaults under pressure.”
While this is a simple strategy, the challenge is being aware of the mind even in low-risk situations such as day-to-day training. If you can learn to be incredibly vigilant with your internal dialogue, you will literally be programming your mind for success.
We can take this one step further to amplify the technique. In “Scientific Healing Affirmations” by Paramahansa Yogananda, Yogananda explains why so many people who use affirmations do not achieve their desired results.
The simple answer is that the individual lacks “will.” We say our affirmations or positive declarations but without the will, soul, or feeling behind the words. If you imagine Muhammad Ali right now in your mind saying, “I AM THE GREATEST,” you’ll be picturing an affirmation replete with will; his is an approach to emulate.
Now, to take a monumental leap, imagine a mother whose child is trapped under a burning car, and the will, force, and certainty of power she would need to lift the vehicle; that’s another level of confidence. The mother wouldn’t worry whether or not she was in shape, if she stretched that day, or how much she could squat or deadlift; she would walk over to the vehicle and with every ounce of her potential and all the energy of chi, earth, and spirit, she would use every fiber of her being to move that car. The mind only has one goal and all energy is channeled to achieve it.
Now that we understand the situation-specific power of the mind, you can add formidably positive affirmations to your training. You can do this by selecting statements that you find useful. To get clarity, you can also write them down as you monitor your internal dialogue to discover what it is you want.
Here are a few examples:
“I am a great athlete.”
“I quickly learn any skill.”
“I have incredible strength.”
“I have infinite endurance.”
“I am always focused and aware.”
“I adapt quickly and easily.”
“(SPORT) comes easily and naturally to me.”
“I always perform my best.”
The final step in this process is making your statements unique to your sport and situation. If you need help, imagine some of the best athletes in your discipline and visualize what they would think and believe and write that down. You can begin to code that programming and achieve your desired results through positive affirmations. By making a simple guided meditation for yourself, you can even embed the commands using self-hypnosis.
The mind is programmable only through conscious awareness. When we become aware of what we are thinking and how we are thinking, we gain clarity on our preferences and the optimal way of thinking to achieve results. Once we identify those thoughts and beliefs, we can encode them into our mind and body with consciousness and attention.
If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
Matt Belair is the author of the best selling book Zen Athlete and the host of the top-rated Matt Belair podcast. He is an explorer of the mind and world and has trained with 34th generation Shaolin Masters in China, studied meditation with monks in Nepal and survived a near-death experience trekking Mount Everest just to name a few of his accomplishments. He is dedicated to teaching others how to expand their consciousness, connect with spirit and bring more awareness, love and kindness to the planet.