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    • Does positive self-talk actually work, or is it actually distracting from focusing on the task at hand? I find it’s more helpful to keep my attention on what I need to be doing since there always seems to be something tangible, and actionable, that way. If I get anxious, telling myself to calm down often has the opposite effect whereas coming back to a concrete task concentrates my energy. The athletes I work with have similar feedback. What’s been your experience?

    • This is an interesting question. I imagine it could be different for some, but I tend to agree with you. For me personally, doing things and keeping busy is much more effective for my anxiety. I feel the most anxiety free when I’ve gotten things done or accomplished something like a project or personal goal.

    • As an avid triathlete and a person who pays to suffer (aka race) I've tried the self-talk many times. What I found is that it really depends on your state of mind and drives.

      Clear Mind. If you have other things on your mind pre-race, they tend to come out at the worst possible time during the race. For example, during my last race I was already stressed out about financials and these thoughts started to creep out toward the end of the race. I tried refocusing with self-talk, but my mind was somewhere else already.

      Clear Drive. I found that a cause greater than my own really unlocks extra power and motivation at the hardest moments. It is truly remarkable how your mind can turn that switch on when needed. So having a reason that is clear and inspiring beats any self-talk.

      Here a picture from that race:

    • you highlight another aspect I look for with both myself and the athletes I work with: why are you doing this? I do an exercise about values that looks at that so that when it’s tough it’s something to go back to. One for me is I want to be a full participant in my life, not a spectator. I want to see what I am capable of and push my personal envelope to keep growing.

      In the moment I do find pulling my attention to a small, concrete task does help get me re-focused. Self-talk has never really worked unless it’s aligned with a value (what would a participant do here? for example has motivated me)

    • Generally when I've been in races or trying to set personal bests I don't talk to myself unless I'm struggling to maintain the pace or want to give up. I then sometimes tell myself I'm ahead of my competitors and they are suffering more than I am. If I'm competing with the clock against others I'll imagine that they are right behind me and now is the time that I can really make time on them and that I need to just hold on a little longer and supress the pain. When I was a high level rock climber it was important to keep my mind clear and to never allow myself to think I was going to fall or that I was going to fail. I had to allow myself to believe I would succeed and to move and act as if I would accomplish the task at hand.

      Going over the performance via visualization and convincing yourself that you can win is only effective if you've put in the training. If you haven't then you just can't believe yourself. At least that's been my experience. Hard work and smart training is what builds the positive self talk and belief in one's self.

    • I agree with your comments about practice building confidence that you can draw on. Knowing what you can do already creates that internal knowing. Self-talk is meaningless, and even counterproductive, if you’re arguing internally about even being able to do something. Like you, knowing at the start that I expect to finish, is huge. Then it’s just what do I need in moments to remember that.

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