What To Do When Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

Congratulations on taking your first step toward excellence. You’ve heard you have to think positive and feel confident to play your best. You’ve also likely found that there are many occasions where you just can’t do it and still have to perform! (For example, can you imagine competing in the Olympics and not being nervous?!?)
Watch the videos below to learn exactly how to be your best when it matters most, no matter what you think or feel!

What To Do When Positive Thinking Doesn't Work - Pt. 1

This series of videos will teach you one of the most powerful truths to master your mental and emotional game to be your best when it matters most. To overcome the psychological obstacles of anxiety, doubt, and lack of motivation to consistently be your best. You see, high performers come to me because they believe they have to “think positive” and “feel confident” SO THAT they can play well. This simply isn’t true. In these videos I will show you how your actions are independent of your thoughts and feelings.
I know you have experienced times when you tried to give yourself a pep talk and it falls flat. You just can’t believe it or find that confidence when you are getting your butt whipped! But you still have to perform well under pressure no matter how bad you feel. Honestly, if you are going to the Olympics, are you really NOT supposed to be nervous? Sounds silly, right?!?
Now be positive and confident when you can. It does help. The truth is, however, that we can’t be positive all the time. Nor should we. Our nervousness actually makes sense. The problem isn’t that we feel scared or unmotivated. The problem is that we get distracted trying to control the feelings rather than focusing on the game or our performance. So the key to unlocking your best performance is giving up the struggle for control and be fully focused on the task at hand.
In fact, negative thinking can often be helpful. Imagine being undertrained before a competition. Being positive about your chances to win would leave you overconfident and likely to lose. Negatively thinking about losing might be uncomfortable, but ideally will also spark action and inspire you to prepare.
So it isn’t the presence of positive or negative thoughts that matters. Your reactions to them does.
We can’t control many automatic thoughts that show up as they are there to protect us. Nor can we control our emotions, despite demands to do so. If I told you to fall madly in love with the next stranger you see, could you? Of course not. Thoughts and feelings pop up on their own and our struggle to get rid of them takes our attention away from performance.
It is simply impossible to think positive and feel happy all the time. In fact, researches have found we have only four basic human emotions: happy, sad, mad, and scared. How many of those are positive? Just one! So being human means that 75% of what we are likely to feel is unpleasant … but each negative feeling (and thought) has a positive purpose.
The key here is to accept the negative thoughts and feelings as they are, knowing that you are safe, and focus you attention on What’s Important Now (WIN).
How do you know you are safe? By understanding that it is simply your mind’s job as a survival instinct to tell you EVERYTHING that could possible go wrong as a way to protect you. Your mind is not your friend. It’s primary purpose it to warn you of what COULD go wrong, not what WILL go wrong.
And that is the challenge. The mind isn’t here to problem-solve, just problem list! You can’t get it to stop. That would actually be unhealthy and dangerous. This is why positive thinking doesn’t always work.
Now watch Part 2 to discover how to play your best WITH these negative thoughts!
And for more support consider individual coaching with Dr. Eddie, or joining his Success Stories Membership, both at www.DrEddieOConnor.com

What To Do When Positive Thinking Doesn't Work - Pt. 2

Your mind is not your friend. It’s job is to tell you what COULD go wrong, not what WILL go wrong. It cares more about protecting you than how well you will do in your performance.
You might be thinking, “This doesn’t make sense, though. All this anxiety is hurting me, not helping me! What kind of protection from harm is that?!?”
But it does make sense when you realize this is a basic, primary drive to avoid pain and approach pleasure. Your protective mind is not as concerned about your quality of life as you are. As you know, achieving excellence involves pain and sacrifice. So if we are built to avoid that, how do we get through it to play well?
Step one is to be aware of the urge to worry or freeze and NOT act on it. We actually are pretty good at NOT acting on every thought and feeling that arises. I don’t know about you, but I start every morning out this way when my alarm clock goes off! I want to stay in bed, but I act independent of that feeling and get up anyway. We do this when we don’t yell at people who make us mad, or push hard at practice when we are tired and want to slow down. We can practice this awareness and non-responding.
Step two is to take positive action independent of the unpleasant thoughts and feelings. By positive I mean productive. What does the performance content demand for success. Do that no matter what your confidence level is or if doubt is present. Remember, your actions do not depend on the right or positive thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness training is very helpful here. Mindfulness is a specific way of paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement or evaluating. (For more on mindfulness in performance, consider “The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life” by The Great Courses at www.thegreatcourses.com/dreddieoconnor).
It becomes easier to get distance from the unpleasant feelings when you understand their value. Sadness slows us down and reminds us of what we have lost, how much we valued it, and seeks to find it again. Anger can be incredibly energizing. Fear is a signal of potential danger so we can avoid it.
So these negative and unpleasant thoughts and feelings can’t be trusted at face value, because our life isn’t simply about avoiding pain. If you get this you are at a real advantage because your sport or performance area doesn’t care about what you think or feel! Only your actions count!
No baseball player has ever imagined a run that ends up on the scoreboard. No amount of positive feelings ensure a win. You can hit a home run with confidence, fear, doubt, happiness, joy, anger or any other emotion as long as you hit the ball correctly. Whoever scores the most points always wins, not who feels the best.
Your actions are independent of what you think and feel, and this is good news! Focus your attention and effort on your actions. This is what matters most. And now you have learned to have a healthy skepticism of the automatic thoughts and feelings that show up. So hold them lightly, and control your actions and reactions.
Now tune into Part 3 for a summary of what you’ve learned and a case to illustrate these skills in action.
And for more support in overcoming the obstacles to excellence, go to www.DrEddieOConnor.com for information about individual mental performance coaching, his Success Stories Membership for a community of high achievers, and links to his course, “The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life.”

What To Do When Positive Thinking Doesn't Work - Pt. 3

Summarizing what we’ve learned:
Positive thinking is great when you can do it, but it isn’t essential. Focusing on What’s Important Now (WIN) is.
Negative thinking isn’t always bad, and can actually be helpful!
Actions are independent of what we think and feel. This is great news because we can’t control what we think and feel, but we do control our actions. And it is only our actions that ultimate determine our success or failure at anything.
Enjoy the video where I discuss Kenzie, a talented Varsity swimmer in practice whose teammates and coaches believe in, but struggles in competition with fear and doubt, draining her energy and slowing her swim times so she doesn’t perform to her potential.
What should she do?
1) Validate her feelings. They are realistic and show her how much she cares.
2) Get distance. The negative thoughts and feelings are not predicting doom, just letting her know she cares a lot. Separate from them, knowing it is just her mind doing its job warning her of the risks in the race. It is up to her how she responds to these warnings.
3) Focus on what she can control. Action thoughts (self-talk that sounds like a coach) that direct her attention to what she is doing each moment of her race. All effort goes into execution.
Practicing actions independent of what you think and feel is a skill that can be practiced and developed to help you be your best. For additional coaching consider tele-heath services with Dr. Eddie and join the Success Stories Membership for year round support in overcoming obstacles and achieving consistent excellence and growth.

Looking for more ways to Overcome Obstacles to Excellence? Look into our Success Stories Membership, Telehealth Services, and Great Courses program, “The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life.”