The Sport Psychology Blog
There is a simple, but very powerful cognitive strategy which involves a word that can really hold us back. The word that primes us for an avoidance, rather than approach mindset:
An avoidance mindset is not going to enable great performance and the word "BUT" promotes exactly that... A 'go and get it' approach mindset however, has been shown to be one of the keys to peak performance in sport.
Going towards competition, going towards pressure, going towards the challenge, both physically and mentally, is the key to building resilience and the ultimate performance mindset.
Now, there may be times when you've heard your mind use this word and it has then subsequently held you back from performing as you want to, or performing at all. Let's look at an example, take the comment:
I want to play well today, BUT I am feeling nervous.
Take a minute to think how the word "BUT" is influencing someones mindset here...
What is it saying about the effect of these nerves on your performance?
If we say we would like to do something BUT we are feeling something else, then what we are saying is that because of the feelings of discomfort, we are now UNABLE to go forward and participate (or perform well) in whatever the action is.
We are saying, these feelings of discomfort are going to dictate my decision in this instance. We are letting the avoidance of difficult feelings take priority, rather than the action or performance level that we want to achieve. We are not using an approach mindset.
With this example of nerves if we say we want to do something but we are too nervous, we are surrendering to the nerves and letting them control the direction we want to go. If you really pay attention to your thoughts, you may notice that you give in to the "buts" many times in a day. I know that I myself notice this all the time. In fact, I even had the thought just now "I need to do some work on my blog but I am so tired!"
So what happens when we hear the "BUT" in the future
A lot of it is about learning the skills of understanding your mind and what it is saying to you. You need to get better at recognising these thought patterns. This is the first step. Make sure you continue to practice these skills.
The next step is to replace the but and re-think that sentence. What do we replace it with?
In doing this we say what we are going to do and what we are going to feel, but we never imply that we are not going to do something because of a feeling. Take our first example: I want to play well today AND I am feeling nervous.
This is a brilliant statement! I would be immensely pleased if someone I worked was able to say this. This is briliant because it implies that, yes, those uncomfortable feelings are there and it also implies that they are going to come along for the ride with us.
So for me: I should be writing my blog and I am feeling tired! becomes the replacement thought.
Look below at all the examples I have had of clients coming up with opportunities to replace the "BUT"
I want to speak to my coach AND I am scared of him
I would say something important AND I don't feel like saying it.
I am able to win today AND I get so nervous
I am meant to speak to a big audience tomorrow AND I am sh**ting myself!
Removing the but and replacing it with an "and" helps create courage, it stops that mindset that you might have that continually looks for many reasons to avoid something. That 'feel good always' mindset that is conditioned by society. Embracing the feelings that come with doing important things is so important and getting off the "but" is a great step along the way.