The problem with positive thinking
When working with Rugby players and Coaches the common misconception is that Sport psychology, and my role as a mental skills trainer, is all about getting people to start thinking positively. There is this pervasive belief that somehow a 100% positive frame of mind will magically enhance long term success.
One problem, life’s not always positive and during those tough times, our brain is not going to believe you when you say it is. Actually, you could look at it a different way and say that if someone isn’t experiencing a few negative emotions and thoughts, then they’re probably not doing something challenging enough. Because there haven’t been many people that have achieved something great without a few self-doubts and a bit of negative thinking along the way.
Further to this, there has been some popular advice out there that suggests you should imagine your goals happening to you. That you should visualize yourself as a winner and having achieved everything you want. In actuality, this has been shown to potentially have a negative effect on the chance you’ll succeed at what you want to. It’ll just be a fun dream.
So here’s the tip for young aspiring rugby players. When setting yourself a goal in rugby, take a different approach. Set yourself a positive, realistic and challenging goal, but then do something different: Write down all the things that are going to be extremely difficult about achieving your goal and then imagine yourself experiencing those moments.
For an example, if you set the target of making a representative team (make sure you have some small performance goals along the way) then think of all those potential obstacles you’re going to encounter. It could be getting up early for the gym in the middle of winter, avoiding alcohol when you’re out with the team, going through the process of learning how to catch a high ball or maybe not getting enough game time.
Imagine yourself experiencing the difficulties and still moving forward. Don’t kid yourself that it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows. Think about the bad times, what it might feel like and how you’re going to get through them. You actually do want to Imagine yourself achieving your goals as well, but we don’t want to trick our minds into thinking that it’ll come easy.
So go ahead and dream big, but if you do, remember to contrast your dreams with some thinking about all the shit that you’ll have to deal with along the way.