You know that you yourself, by your own positive thinking and mindset, can instantly change the tone in your home, for your team at work, for your classroom, for your group of friends — right? You have this superpower.
We all recognize this instinctively. But the challenge is that life wears us down — Juggling work, family, home, paying the bills, being a parent, friend, putting out healthy meals, ensuring you get rest, limiting screen time, having patience, working out, the list goes on and on. Having a great attitude all the time is just not realistic. We all have our moments!
But if we could unlock a way to transform ourselves from worn down and crabby during those moments, to fabulous and positive, it can have amazing and awesome effects on our lives.
But how?! 4 Steps (and 20 seconds) to change your attitude.
So, my daughter is a competitive tennis player. She has been competing and training since she was 6. Along the way she’s had many coaches, including mental toughness coaches. As you can imagine, tennis is a brutal mental sport. I find it especially so for the junior kids playing in the USTA – there is no coaching during tournament matches – they are totally out there figuring it out all on their own. This is tremendous pressure for anyone, let alone a young kid. The points come quickly, one after another, and if you aren’t able to instantly reset after a bad point, the match can turn on a dime and get away from you. There are only 20 seconds allowed between points. So when you just shanked a forehand long, you have to instantly leave it behind and get yourself pumped and positive for the next point.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I learned something too from my daughter’s mental toughness coaches. They gave her several steps and tactics to instantly leave the bad behind – in fact a way to do this in TWENTY. SECONDS. If that’s not a brilliant turnaround, I don’t know what is.
Turning on a dime.
There are 4 main steps to make that instant change to a positive thinking and attitude – 5 seconds for each.
- Recognize the need.
- Stop the bad thoughts.
- Substitute with good thoughts.
- Act out / embody your way forward.
#1. Recognize the need.
First of all, you need to recognize your need to initiate an attitude adjustment towards more positive thinking. Recognize it as you storm in the door after your horrible commute. Or as you enter the meeting after just having gotten off a confrontational call with your manager. This recognition will begin to come more naturally as you do it more and more. For tennis, this is a given, players know this needs to come after every single point. For the rest of us in the tournament of real life, we need to recognize the moments when an attitude adjustment is needed.
#2. Stop the bad thoughts.
Mental coach advice for step #2 amounts to stopping those bad thoughts in their tracks. It’s literally about stopping the bad thoughts, getting them out of your head entirely. Two main approaches were suggested – one that is visual, and another that is tactile.
Visual Tactic: Intensely focus on something immediately around you. Her mental coaches suggestion was to look at a tree, or something in her field of vision and just focus 1000% on that thing – watch the branches sway, listen to the wind rustling the leaves. Or head to the back of the court and stare at and think about the criss-cross pattern of your racquet strings for a few seconds. (Have you seen Maria Sharapova play? She is the queen of back-court reset). In any case, devote ALL of your mental energy to looking at and thinking about a physical object around you.
Tactile tactic: Intensely focus through sense of touch. Again coaches suggestion was to feel the heat of the court through her shoes as she walked to the back of the court. Feel the soles of your sneakers. Touch your ice towel to your face and feel that numbness, the drops of water rolling down your cheeks. For us non-tennis players, this could be heating up your coffee mug and feeling its warmth on your hands, or placing a cold glass of water on your pulse point. The key is to fully engage with this — all of your focus is on that warmth of the mug, how it makes your hands feel, the tingling in your fingers, etc.
#3. Substitute with good thoughts.
Now that you’ve stopped those bad thoughts in their tracks, its time to quickly substitute them with something more positive. In the tennis world, this amounts to visualizing your successful next point. And visualization is also a potentially great tactic for the rest of us. However, I’ve also found that a reframing of my thoughts is another great way to provide positive thinking substitutions.
The best tactic I’ve come across for realistically reframing/substituting positive thoughts, is to adjust your thoughts to ‘I get to’ instead of ‘I have to’. For example, “I get to cook dinner for my family” instead of “I have to cook dinner for my family”. “I get to go for a run” instead of “I have to go for a run”. “I get to move my team forward” instead of “I have to move my team forward”. Reframing whatever comes next as an opportunity rather than a difficult chore really helps.
#4. Act / embody your way forward.
Back to tennis coach advice here – what this means is to act like you want to feel (confident, calm, positive, pumped up, …) and this will snowball into you actually starting to feel that way. Coaches are always telling their players to have positive body language, to jump around full of energy, slap themselves on the thigh a few times as the opponent serves as an encouragement to oneself — especially after a bad previous point – pump yourself up, encourage yourself, have energetic body language, and your opponent (and your bad attitude) won’t have a chance. In tennis, there is nothing worse for your opponent than to see that you are totally energized and have no intention of letting up or becoming discouraged. And so it also is in your attitude adjustment and positive thinking – act like you want to feel, and your crabby attitude won’t have a chance.
Game, set, and match.
Cheers, and use your positive thinking superpower!