My sport psychology program at “The Mental Game” is a mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy, imagery rehearsal, relaxation, hypnosis and other tools designed for self actualization.
When a client comes to my office, one of the first things they learn is that we start to focus on the positive things that happen in their lives. I borrowed the term “Bragging Rights” from a friend and psychotherapist by the name of Rick Wyckoff. I say borrowed, but of course I mean stole, as I didn’t ask his permission. But Rick is always generous, so I doubt that he will mind. I have of course been using the exercise for a couple of decades or more, but the name is remarkable to me.
We spend so much time telling people they shouldn’t brag. That bragging is somehow rude or socially unacceptable. I wish we spent as much time teaching people that being negative so much was also in this category. It is much easier for most people to talk about what a bad day they are having then to talk about how great their life is. And that is in fact where a lot of the issues start. Not only are we reluctant to say good things about our lifes, but we focus on what is wrong.
If this were just in our interactions with the people we come in contact with, then that would be one thing. The problem is that it is what we say to ourselves that follows this same path and continually knocks us down. We are so willing to criticize ourselves and neglect what is good in our lives. I had a client last year that I noticed was rather negative in her language. I asked her about this. She of course said she is the most positive athlete I would meet. I asked her to do this little exercise. If you catch yourself saying something negative, then write it down. At the very least make tally marks. Five days later she walked somewhat sheepishly into my office. I said what’s up and she pulled out ten pages of notes on all of the negative things she said about herself. It is sometimes a tough enough world as it is without our being our own worst enemies.
Back to bragging rights. When an athlete visits with me the first thing I tell them: “it is time to do an exercise called bragging rights”. They need to tell me only the good things that happened during the time between visits. For many this is difficult. Not only are they negative, but they were taught it’s not polite to brag. Eventually we get there and after a while they become used to it. We examine the good things that are going on in their lives, before we ever put the magnifying glass to any issues they are dealing with at the time. Not only is this a great icebreaker, but it is very helpful for the athlete to measure where they stand. We tend to focus on all of the things wrong in our lives, rather than the good things. I had an athlete this week tell me he played terrible in a golf tournament. However he posted his best score of the summer and won the long drive contest. But he focused on not winning. He went from despondent prior to talking about the good things to be clear on what he needed to do to be even better. All it took was a moment to take a breath and re focus.
Why not take some time today and tell someone; some of the good things that are going on in your life. There is plenty of time to whine later. If you are an athlete or coach, this is one sure way to start on the path towards peak experience. Positive Psychology is effective. At one of the many Universities I taught at and attended they have a new Mantra if you will that I have adopted. “Be Bold, Do Good, Change Lives” And it starts with being positive about what you do and how you look at the world. If you can’t tell me your Sport Psychology Consultant the good things in your life, how are you ever going to put yourself on a path to success.