“Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.”
– Blaise Pascal, French philosopher, mathematician and physicist (mid-1600s)
Dr. Paul Dennis, renowned Canadian sports psychologist says, “The use of visualization and imagery does not guarantee success, but it guarantees the chance to be successful. If an athlete is struggling mentally, if they’ve lost confidence and are not feeling good about themselves, then they have no chance.” When athletes visualize their performance, they do not imagine themselves missing shots or trailing the leader. They are picturing themselves running faster or aiming truer. Focusing on our strengths and successes does not guarantee success, as Dr. Dennis reminds us, but it creates a future of success into which we can live.
Focusing on the positive or on one’s successes is not about being hopeful or wishful. There is an awful lot of practice that goes along with it; you must invest in and hone your craft. If you are honing your craft, working on your skills and knowledge, and practicing those shots, instead of standing in a place of “I can’t; I’ll miss; I won’t show up well,” we can stand in a place of “I can. I will.” With more secure footing, you will have a greater chance of being successful.
When we focus on the positives, and what we do well, it more often than not leads us to do other things well. We build on our successes. Dr. Ian Robertson, author of The Winner Effect, points that the brain’s chemistry changes after “wins” or successes. We become more focused, more confident, and are more likely to succeed again.
When we are doing our own work, even though we may be working as a member of a team, we need to deliver. What often happens is we tell ourselves stories of being unsuccessful. “This isn’t going well,” or “I cannot do this.” Negative language filters into what we are doing. Instead of building your confidence, you are tearing it down. Not only that, you are likely impacting your team, eroding their confidence and hope when you focus on the negative. You are not appreciating for yourself or for others what is going well.
We have likely all fallen into this trap: we start down the road with negative thoughts, and our thinking drives how we feel. If we can change our thinking, we can change how we feel about situations, about people, about our own lives. If you continue to tell the story of being a victim, you will be a victim. If you start to tell the story of when you’ve done something well and when you’ve been a hero, even if in some very small way, you will be a hero more often.
We live our lives in story. It tends to be the story of the past or the story we are in now. We spend very little time telling ourselves the story of our future and what we wish it to be. As great athletes know, though, imagining this future and telling yourself a story of success creates the opportunity for that success to be our reality.