I've been asked by some struggling speed event riders to help with the perfect mind-set to strive for when they pull into the alley for a race. The first thing I remind them is that they aren't Lone Rangers in regards to the clutter that sometimes enters our minds at inopportune times. In fact, all of us have alley-lane moments that challenge our mental focus.
Just as a racer has to mentally prepare in the alley before a race, you and I will benefit greatly by consciously preparing for the desired end-result we are looking for when we are in our daily alleys. For instance, let's pretend that our daily ride home from work is the alley to family time. Do you ever find yourself thinking about what you don't want to happen? Thoughts like, "Gosh, I don't want to lose my patience with the kids," or "I dread having to sit down and pay the bills," or "What if we lose that customer – what will happen to my job, my career, my company? Will I fail my family?"
Other “alleys” of life could include sitting in a client's reception area waiting for a sales call or walking into a customer's house. Perhaps one of the most exciting and challenging alleys of life is in the maternity ward waiting eagerly for a newborn baby.
Just as some racers have mentioned to me that they have concerns about negative self-talk creeping in while they're waiting in the alley, one of the worst things we can do at the event or in our personal and professional lives is to relive the defeats, blunders, and bad runs of life.
May I suggest to each of us to learn from the past defeats, blunders, and bad runs and then let them go entirely and focus on the desirous end-results we wish to obtain this time around.
I'm not talking about Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky positive thinking and positive affirmations here. ("Oh Doc, that's exactly what you are all about.") No, not really, and the reason I say that is because most people won't buy into the shiny, happy stuff. This is why I constantly emphasize the word want. What kind of temperament do you want to have by the time you get home with your family and children? What kind of financial success do you want to have for yourself and your family? What kind of a sales call/presentation do you want? What kind of a reaction time do you want to have? How do you want to bounce back from having been beaten by that other racer?
Now you might say, "You make it sound so easy, Doc, but is it really?" Well, my reply is “The harder we work the luckier we become." And hard work can also include working smarter. I believe that learning how to manage and control our self-talk – the little voices inside of our heads – truly helps us work smarter in all aspects of our lives.
Our self-talk is the one thing we do have control over. By learning how to control your self-talk, a fascinating phenomenon called visualization begins to take place. And just as one rider told me on numerous occasions, no matter the location – an airplane, the alley way, a hotel room, at home with the family – she is constantly visualizing perfect runs, perfect turns, and incredibly strong resilient bounce backs from the inevitable defeats.
We can do the same thing by consciously and consistently setting goals throughout our days. The professional men and women I work with are constantly goal setting – every moment of every day – they can't afford to wait until New Year's Eve. Perhaps that would be a good topic for a future article – how happy, successful, prosperous, and healthy people set goals. But for now, I want you to stay focused on your self-talk in regards to all the alley-lane moments in your life. Keep your desired result in your mind at all times, stay focused, and watch how it will improve your races and your personal life.
Jim Will, Ph.D.