We don’t realize how much words impacts who we become. Think about it. Your language determines how you see yourself, which determines your confidence, which determines what you go after, which determines how successful you are. Yes, it’s that simple. I didn’t say it was easy to flip the switch, but it’s that simple. Change how you talk to yourself, and change how confident you are and how nervous you get before events.
Avoid “I have to” or “I need to” or “I should”. These words are so powerful and so negative. The brain hears these phrases like demands. It sees what follows afterwards as a chore. For example: I have to get there early LEADS to stress about traffic, timing, what you can’t control, and ultimately worrying and getting worked up over something that most of the time takes care of itself. Change it to: I want to get there early to prove to coach I care OR I want to get there early so I can be prepared and stretch. A common one: I should weigh (insert amount). You are constantly comparing yourself to others, you build up insecurity, you won’t be social because of this. Try: I want to want this much because I’ll have more energy OR I want to weight this much because my clothes will fit better. Here’s another one: I should be in finals tonight. This leads to fulfilling expectations of others, and this often leads to disappointment. Go with this: I want to make finals tonight because I’ve been working really hard and like to see it pay off.
So here is what you do: Replace all should, need to, or have to phrases with “I want to”, “I get to”, or “I’m lucky to”. The needs, shoulds, and have to phrases all place extra pressure on ourselves, which leads to tension in the muscles, tightness, & stuff performances – whether you’re an athlete or a performer. It’s simple concept but it has a lot of merit. Why would we want to make it harder on ourselves. I mean of course you’re going to be nervous about a championship game, a big recital, or closing a deal, but wouldn’t everyone be nervous about that? We make ourselves more nervous by using this language. We create our own reality, so we better not add pressure when it’s already tough. We perform in the future exactly like we talk about performing today, so when we place expectations that we feel we “have to” meet, our bodies resist that.
This simple switch of using “I want to…” makes the task easier to do, less threatening, and just plain more appealing. Remember you don’t “have to” go to practice. It’s a choice. Most people aren’t getting paid to go. You choose to go, so acknowledge that, “I want to go to practice so that I drop time” OR “I want to go to practice because I want to be on the podium.”
Here is the only catch. Sometimes you aren’t going to want to do the thing you are trying to convince your brain of. So you get to be creative with these statements. For example: No one wants to take out the trash, so it’s difficult to say I want to take out the trash or I get to take out the trash. I get it. So instead, we would say, I want to take out the trash so my mom doesn’t yell at me, or I want to take out the trash so I get to go out with my friends later or I get an allowance. If the item isn’t something you would ever want to do, you focus on the end results or the outcome that you really want. No one likes homework, so it’s tough to say I want to do my homework when I get home, but you could rephrase it to: I want to do my homework so the test is easier for me, or I want to do my homework so I make a good grade to get into this college.
The brain is funny about how it perceives threats, chores, and must do’s, so break that habit and make your brain work for you with, “I want to’s.”