There are many aspects of self-talk that can be utilized in sport performance. as previously mentioned, we can direct our attention and focus using cue-words (like “quick feet” or “square hips”) that support technique and skill. We can also talk ourselves through a routine in our heads and identify the process and procedure to keep everything in order (similar to imagery and running through a sequence). Another way to use self-talk is to encourage or motivate ourselves (like “You got this” or “You can do this”).
Thoughts Relate to Emotions and Behaviors
It is also important to understand that a lot of our thoughts will direct our emotions and feelings. If we are thinking encouraging and positive things we will feel motivated and inspired. When we are thinking negative and discouraging things we are likely feeling down and frustrated. As our thoughts guide our emotions, the combination of the two will dictate behavior/action. Obviously, the better our self-talk and the greater we feel, the more our performance is optimized. It is also important to remain aware that the opposite is also true for this phenomenon; if I am feeling motivated and inspired, the encouraging positive thoughts are likely coming without effort (unfortunately, as mentioned for negative moods, the same is true for feeling down and frustrated – unbidden negative thoughts will likely be present).
The first step of managing self-talk and optimizing your performance through it is awareness of the content of your self-talk: Are your messages positive or negative? Are your messages prioritizing effectively for focus? Once aware of what messages and directive you are giving yourself, the greater your ability will be to manage it.
Know How You Use Your Self-Talk
Another important area of self-talk and performance optimization is understanding what type of performer you are in terms of mental chatter. Some performers will talk themselves through their performance and direct their actions and focus. Other performers will react and engage without having any verbal thoughts in their head. However, even those performers who are not engaged in self-talk during their performance will likely benefit from awareness of self-talk during training, practice, exercises, and short breaks within their performance. The reason that this is still so important is because of learning from performance and analyzing/evaluating it.
The best way to train self-talk can be broken down into simple steps:
- Become aware of your messages
- Evaluate the purpose of the message
- Directing Focus
- Breaking down routines or skills
- Identify any negative self-talk (see blog: Believing Your Internal Thoughts)
- Appropriately manage these messages
- Taylor your self-talk to meet demands
- Thoughts influence emotions, which dictate behavior
- Continue to monitor and enhance self-talk