Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Perform Great You Need Confidence, Here's How to Do It: Blog Entry 4 of 5

Blog Entry 4: Disciplined Thinking

As mentioned before confidence is not a magical, mystical thing. Confidence comes from your personality and being aware of that personality and how you react to situations, and then putting the hard work every day to become fit, skilled, and mentally tough. So, once the foundation of the confidence pyramid is set, you know yourself, are working hard, and making good decisions, then you should be confident in all situations, correct? Well, not so fast. Remember your personality? Even if you are doing the work to get better and be in shape, your mind may not trust that you will perform well, or may focus on negative things. And, some situations are difficult for all players, such as going to a new competitive level of hockey or coping with an injury. Hockey players that have great confidence are disciplined thinkers. They flush their mind of doubts and focus on the 2 Ps – the positive and productive. 2 P thoughts keep a player focused on solutions even when times are tough.

If you want to become an optimist, be more positive even in pressure situations, and just believe in yourself then positive thinking has to become a part of who you are everyday.

“It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” - Muhammad Ali

Now it is not as simple as saying “Ok, I will be positive from now on.” You need to work on some mental skills to keep you positive when your mind would like to revert back to old, stinking thinking.

The first thing is to be aware of your negative thoughts, and then accept them. Seems odd that I would ask you to accept them, but that is what you need to do. Accept that even professional hockey players have doubts. These thoughts are part of being human. However, they do not need to dominate your thoughts nor take away from your belief. Negative thoughts are part of the randomness of thoughts happening in your brain. Many times they are not true depictions of what kind of person or athlete you are.

After accepting that it would be normal to have negative thoughts, it is helpful to identify situations that elicit negative thinking and behaviors from you and then pick out the exact negative thoughts that you have that chip away at your confidence. For instance, a common situation that causes negativity is making mistakes early in a game. A player will then think "oh no, I don't have it today" and basically accept that they will not perform based on a couple of plays! Identifying the situations or triggers that cause negativity and doubts, and then capturing the exact thoughts that accompany it allow you to challenge and counter those specific thoughts.

After identifying the negative thinking in trigger situations you will want to release the thought and focus on the 2 P’s. Sometimes we call it reframing when you take a situation and frame it a different way. A great example occurred during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. The Philadelphia Flyers were losing to Chicago 3 games to 2 and headed back to Philly to keep their Cup hopes alive. This kind of situation requires players to be disciplined in how they think or their season will end.

Flyers Ian Laperriere, desperate to win the first Cup of his 15-year career, says his teammates still believe.

"Why not?" he asked reporters when asked if the team believed it could engineer another escape. "Nobody (in here) is down. We didn't play the way we wanted in Chicago. We're in our barn now and we know how we play here. We're confident."

"They had one bad game here, we had one bad game there, and now they are back in our barn and let's win this one and worry about Game 7." (Flyers are sure final is going 7 games, Roarke,

Basically, what you want to do like Laperriere is to challenge the potential for doubts and negative thinking and focus it on what will help you deal with the situation. For example, if you think “We’ll never beat this team, they are way too big and too fast” then I guarantee that your confidence will suffer. And, if enough players on your team are thinking the same way you probably will lose. Instead challenge that kind of thinking and replace it with something like, “Our team is skilled and ready to play. I am ready.”

So, to summarize...
1. Identify "triggers" or situations that cause you to be negative, doubt yourself, and play worse.
2. Pick out the specific negative or doubting thoughts that harm your confidence. Many players have negative thoughts that they think over and over again. Find it and deal with it.
3. Challenge the negative thinking. Take a thought such as "I suck" and counter it. "I missed that pass. It happens. I will get the next one." This kind of countering will allow you to stay focused on the present and play your best hockey.

Ultimately, if you learn how to think the 2 P’s in all hockey situations and you will be a very confident and consistent player.

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