Plaguing self doubt and fears of failure can have a damaging impact on your running goals. Mental performance and lifestyle coach Midgie Thompson, provides some top tips to help develop a positive mental attitude – and help fuel your performance
Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think that you can or you can't, you're usually right.” Whether you think you can run a particular distance, or you fear you will 'hit the wall' at a particular point, your own personal belief about what you can and cannot achieve, has an impact on your performance.
At times, we limit ourselves without even realising we are doing it by simply thinking that we can only run so far, or so fast. By pinpointing any negative or limiting beliefs and replacing them with positive thoughts, you can develop a positive mental attitude to fuel your performance.
Beliefs DO affect performance
According to Schunk (1995), self-efficacy (the scientific term for self-belief) refers to an individual’s belief in accomplishing a task and its influence on their choice of activities, effort, persistence and achievement. Somebody with low self-belief fears what is not achievable, whereas people with high self-belief focus on positive thoughts and what is possible.
While Albert Bandura, the pioneer of self-efficacy theories, acknowledges that physical skills and abilities are important, he believes that having confidence in one's own abilities is crucial. People who have high levels of self-belief are more likely to “pursue challenging goals, cope with pain, and persevere through setbacks, while those with low self-efficacy avoid challenges and tend to give up when confronted with obstacles”.
If you think negatively, your mind will automatically seek confirmation and reinforce your doubts. Yet with a positive mental attitude, you seek out positive choices and expect results. You are also more likely to move past any fears and be inspired to take action. If you think a particular run will be hard, it will be. If you think it will be easy, it will be!
Looking at limiting beliefs
Our beliefs, doubts and fears create our individual internal voice, and while these can sometimes be positive, they can also be negative and destructive. Research suggests that athletes who underwent a motivational self-talk intervention reported greater feelings of self-efficacy and subsequently achieved a greater performance than the control group. This reinforces that positive talk - whether it comes from you or a coach - can have a positive impact on your performance.
To overcome any limiting beliefs, doubts and fears, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Write out your beliefs, doubts and fears. Putting your goals on paper can help to give you a more objective perspective. Write out things such as 'I can't do this', 'I'm running as fast as I can and I can't go any faster' or 'I'm afraid it will hurt'.
- Examine each statement. Ask yourself ‘What evidence do I have to base this on?’, ‘Is there any real validity to those doubts and fears, or can I simply let them go?’ You might even consider reviewing the list with someone else who can provide a more objective outlook.
- Develop a strategy to deal with them. For example, the fear of 'hitting the wall' can be addressed through a balanced nutritional diet and ensuring you are kept hydrated throughout your run.
Once you have let go of any limiting thoughts, the next step is to take action to further develop your positive mental attitude.
How to develop a PMA
|There may be times when that positive mental attitude waivers. Take time to review any negative thoughts and question them
Developing a positive mental attitude is about being aware of what you think and ensuring that all of your thoughts (including performances) are positive. Angie LeVan, of Psychology Today, suggests a few simple exercises:
Take one step at a time
Developing stronger self-efficacy is achieved one step at a time. Therefore, pick one small change you’d like to make and aim for it. Reflect on each success before moving on to your next goal.
Draw from your past
Review your past successes to reaffirm that you can set and achieve goals. What did you accomplish and how can these accomplishments be channeled to help you achieve future goals?
See to believe
Visualisation is a powerful tool. Not only is seeing believing, when it comes to self-efficacy, believing is seeing results. Visualisation helps you to see the smaller steps needed to reach your end goal.
Find a role model
When you see someone else succeed, you are more likely to believe that you can also achieve your goals.
Accept self-doubt…but put it in its place
When self-defeating thoughts bubble up, accept them as part of the process and move on. The key is to not let them stop you from moving forward.
Write down all the things that uplift you (i.e. special songs, favorite quotes, etc), and use them to your advantage as you navigate towards your goals.
Solicit social support
Seek support and encouragement from friends and family, and stay away from those who discourage you.
Positive Mental Attitude in action
|If you think negatively, your mind will automatically seek confirmation and reinforce your doubts. Yet with a positive mental attitude, you seek out positive choices and expect results
It's fine to think about all the things that help bolster a positive mental attitude, yet Maggie of ‘The Marathon blog’, took things even further. She was training for her first ever marathon, the Virgin London Marathon in 2011, and was looking for advice, ideas and support to help her achieve her goal.
After reading other people's blogs on the Janathon website (an event set up where people are encouraged to run every day in January), she realised that it was their attitude that made the difference. Of course Maggie still had to train, but it was her mental approach that made the difference. She decided that she would shift her attitude from 'I can't' to 'I CAN’, and from 'this is hard' to 'this is EASY!'
During her next hill session, Maggie repeated to herself: 'I am going to do this and I can do this WELL'. She sailed up the eight hill reps and still had energy left. This convinced her that attitude is everything!
Maggie continued using this ‘positive running belief’ throughout her training and during her marathon. Additionally, she used the same attitude and approach of 'I can' to apply for a promotion, and achieved that too!
Maggie’s advice to other runners is: “If you think you can, then anything is possible.” The key is to take time to visualise the end result, whether it’s crossing that finish line, getting that promotion, or any other goal you want to achieve.
On a final note
|By pinpointing any negative or limiting beliefs and replacing them with positive thoughts, you can develop a positive mental attitude to fuel your performance
Developing a positive mental attitude is all about your outlook. Focus your attention on positives and the ways in which you CAN achieve your goals by overcoming the obstacles and challenges that come your way.
There may be times when that positive mental attitude waivers. Take time to review any negative thoughts and question them. It’s not that different to a child being afraid of the dark. When you eventually put the lights on, you realise that there was nothing to be afraid of!
So remember, set your sights high and don’t be afraid of your goals. With a positive attitude, you really can do anything you put your mind to.
For more information on how you can take your performances to greater heights, contact Midgie Thompson on 01273 906 216 or www.brightfuturescoaching.com