When I first discovered this...
This fall I was playing tennis with my brother and I had a revelation. I played tennis in high school, I hadn’t had any previous experience before that, besides playing with my family. Our tennis team was pretty terrible, and didn’t have very good coaching, but we had a blast. The thing that always gave me the most trouble when playing tennis, was serving. I could either hit the ball hard and it would fly WAY OUT of the lines. Or, I could just barely tap it and get it in, but even if I just hit it lightly, I only had about a 50% success rate. If you’ve ever played tennis, you know the easiest way to just give away points is to miss your serves.
Fast forward to this fall and my tennis game with my brother… I was tossing the ball in the air and was about to swing my racket to serve and I noticed I was thinking “I suck at serving.” WHAT? SERIOUSLY?! Great way to shoot yourself in the foot right?! What are the chances I’m going to have a stellar serve if I’m thinking that? Low, I’m guessing. I realized every time I’ve ever served in tennis, I’ve been thinking that. WOAH.
So right then and there, I decided to change my messaging on serving. Every time I went to serve, I thought “I’m awesome at serving.” Here’s what happened, my serving was AT LEAST 50% better that day. Just from changing what I was thinking, and what I was focusing on. Once I started to think, “I’m awesome at serving,” I got an idea, perhaps I need to throw the ball higher and change my swing, which greatly improved my swing. It gave me more of a spin on the ball so I could hit it hard and still get it in. I wonder what would’ve happened if I had been thinking differently while I played tennis in high school.
A Little Look In the Mirror
After this tennis game I started to pay attention to what I was saying to myself, here’s the next thing I noticed. Every time I looked in the mirror I would think, “What’s wrong with me?” Does my hair look too puffy or crazy today? Is there a breakout on my skin? Does my stomach look puffy? Do I have bags under my eyes because I didn’t sleep well last night? I was looking for problems, why??
At this point I decided, every time I look in the mirror, I’m going to think “What looks the best today?” I started to notice different things! My hair color looks cool, or my eyes look good with that sweater, or my muscles look a little stronger, I can tell I’ve been working out. Etc.
When doing my coaching calls, I started asking the women what were they thinking when they look in the mirror, and they were all thinking the same thing “What’s wrong?” I’ve been teaching them to look for the best thing too.
Singing My Heart Out
When I went to the Tony Robbins event Life Mastery, they taught us something interesting about singing. Everyone knows how to sing, but a lot of people forget how or lose their drive to sing because someone told them they couldn’t, or because they had a bad/embarrassing experience while singing. We also learned that most people can remember the exact moment they stopped singing. I thought this was fascinating. I love to sing, and have always had a pretty easy time singing.
However, when I was singing in the car the other day I noticed while singing to the radio, when a certain high part of the song was coming I thought, “I can’t sing that, it’s too high for my voice, I’m an alto.” I caught myself saying that, and I thought, who decided that I’m an alto, and that’s all I can sing? Then I thought “I can sing anything.” The high part of the song came up and I sang it with no problems. First time that’s happened, especially without a warm up. Very interesting.
Looking for a Pattern
I noticed that things I feel confident doing, that are totally in my comfort zone, I usually tell myself positive messages. I really like snowboarding and downhill skiing, and even when it gets challenging I find myself thinking “I can figure this out, no problem.” Or “this is fun, I’m going to learn something new here.”
But, things that feel out of my comfort zone or I’m not proficient at yet, I tend to have negative self-talk. Intriguing, because I believe if I was thinking more encouraging things, I would probably learn faster. Another thing I’ve noticed, is if I am paying attention to others instead of myself, I usually have more positive thoughts.
For example, teaching yoga… Because I have a long-standing fear of public speaking, it was quite challenging for me when I initially started teaching yoga. Now that I’ve been teaching for over three years, I feel much more comfortable, but I still wasn’t feeling great about it. People would say to me all the time “Wow, you’re such a great teacher.” However, I didn’t feel like I was a great teacher, I always thought there could be improvement. My focus was on my performance. I was thinking things like “I shouldn’t have had the music so loud there,” or “I didn’t explain that well,” or “I’m not speaking loud enough.”
I recognized that, and decided to shift my focus. During class, instead of thinking, “How is my teaching right now?” I think, “How can I help my students more”, or “How could I make this class great for them?” Very different feel and a much more rewarding experience.
Action Steps, What Can You Do?
Moral of the story? First, tune in, pay attention to what your thoughts are when you’re going through your everyday life, they may surprise you! If you notice you’re having a negative thought, don’t beat yourself up. Just change the thought from something negative to something positive, see what happens!
When you aren’t used to doing this, it can feel fake when you start out, you might not believe the new positive thought. That’s ok, just fake it until you make it, part of this is practice! You may be wondering if I just have positive self-talk all the time now and am just thinking positive things. Not true! Life is always a work in progress and an opportunity to learn.
After a few months of this, I’ve found, I more often have positive messages. However, the negative ones pop up too. When I notice them, sometimes I’m surprised, and then I just change it to a positive message. Depending on the day, my stress level, what else is going on, sometimes it takes a while to get to a positive message, or to believe it. Every time you do it though, it gets a little easier.
Try it out! Ladies, I think the mirror one is an easy one to start with. Gents, maybe you want to try it out when doing something active.
Comment and tell me a new positive message you have for yourself!