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Daniel Stewart Question & Tip of the Month

Posted
Fri, 2012-06-08 09:50
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Question of the Month

Jeremy asks "When I'm riding I have a bad habit of thinking negative things about myself and no matter how much I try I can't seem to stop it. Is there anything I can do"?

First of all I admire your desire to improve your self-talk.  Our emotions have a big influence on our motions so improving your "brain-babble" will ultimately also improve your physical performance.  

When attempting to change negative self-talk to positive, it is important to know that we cannot actually stop thinking.  We think 20,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day and cannot go for longer than 11-seconds without talking to ourselves. So trying to stop thinking (making our minds go blank) is simply impossible.  This means that instead of trying to stop thinking negative thoughts we should instead learn to create positive ones (or replace our negative thoughts with positive ones). Thoughts of worry need to be replaced with thoughts of confidence and thoughts of doubt replaced with thoughts of self-belief.  To do this we can follow three simple steps:  

  • Thought Identification - We begin by identifying our most common negative thoughts and the situations that cause them.  This will help us anticipate their arrival so that we can stop them before they start.
     
  • Thought Stopping- When we realize we are thinking in a negative way (or when we encounter the situations that cause them) we disrupt them by yelling a positive word at ourselves.  This thought stopper (a sort of mental stop signal) can be a word like STOP or WHOA or a word that makes us feel good like SMILE, ENJOY, or BELIEVE.
     
  • Thought Replacement- After our thought stopper has disrupted the flow of our negative thoughts we must be prepared to quickly replace them with something positive.  This is where our thought replacements come in (a series of pre-selected thoughts or mottos like "If it's going to be it's up to me" or "I believe I can achieve").  Without these pre-planned thought replacements our mind will search randomly for its own thoughts and could unfortunately come up with another negative one.  

When it comes to creating positive thoughts it is also important to remember that we cannot think the opposite of what we tell ourselves (for example if we tell ourselves "I can't do it" it will be impossible for us to believe that we can).  In order for us to think positive thoughts we would do well to always remember to:  

Think About What We're Thinking About.

Thanks for the great question Jeremy!  
 

Tip of the Month

Attitude of Gratitude

A healthy self-image allows us to accept compliments from others knowing that (like any gift) it would be rude not to accept them.  We do not have to be perfect to accept compliments; great riders do it every day because they know it is healthy to acknowledge a job well done.  If we congratulate Boyd Martin, George Morris, or Stephan Peters they will not say "It was just a fluke."  Instead they will simply say "Thank You" because they have developed the ability to believe in themselves and accept a compliment.  This is called belief believing, instead of casting doubt on our compliments by saying something like "Thanks but it was not really that good", we believe the beliefs of others.   

Riders who struggle developing an attitude of gratitude often only remember compliments for a short period of time but hold onto criticism for a lifetime -remembering negative comments like "She said my position was horrible and that my horse was fat" years after they first heard it.  The choice is ours so lets learn to believe in our compliments and accomplishments and remember our positive experiences for years after they've happened.  Here are a few ways to make this happen. 

Tips For Developing An Attitude of Gratitude  

  • Accept all compliments with a simple "Thank You".
  • Avoid responding to compliments with the word BUT (for example "Yes but I still scored time faults"). 
  • Learn to give compliments (it is easier to accept compliments when we are good at giving them).
  • Spend time with positive people (positive attitudes are contagious).
  • Accept praise without explaining why you do not deserve it. 

When it comes to our riding we should always remember to:

Turn Compliments Into Confidence

To submit a question or sign up for equestrian sports psychologist Daniel Stewart's newsletter, visit www.stewartclinics.com

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