Our minds are constantly working. As cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf says, “We can go three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without oxygen but we cannot even go three seconds without thinking”.
Psychologists believe that 95% of our decisions come from our unconscious mind, leaving only 5% of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours as a result of conscious activity. Our unconscious minds are constantly whirring away, reacting to stimuli faster than our conscious minds can manage, so sometimes we will overreact to situations before our logic has a chance to kick into action.
Sports Psychologist, Dr Stan Beecham, encourages us to think of the brain as the computer and the mind as the software. You can have the best computer (talent) but if the software (mind) is faulty, then you aren’t going to reach your goals.
So how can you develop the right mindset to succeed?
1. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings
Metacognition is the deliberate awareness of your thoughts and feelings and an understanding of the patterns behind them.
When you pay attention to your negative thoughts, you have more power over them and can start to re-direct them towards a more positive outcome.
For example, in sport, Athlete A may be facing a match against Athlete B, who has recently seen a strong run of form, winning all their matches with ease.
The thought patterns that may develop for Athlete A are those of low self-confidence and the belief that they aren’t good enough to win.
These negative beliefs will then start to manifest themselves in the way Athlete A plays. Their muscles will tighten and it will be difficult to play with ease and flow, resulting in mistakes. Becoming aware of our thoughts and how they feel in the body is an important element of Sophrology. Athletes and the business community have used Sophrology to pause, notice how the body feels and tap in to the unconscious mind to use positive thoughts and memories to influence a proactive response in the body, leading to more effective action.
2. See failure as necessary for success
Imagine you have your sights set on a promotion. You work hard, give it your all but the role is given to your colleague.
Naturally you may feel disappointed, but do you decide that you’ve reached your limit and will never get any further in your career? Or, do you allow yourself to feel that disappointment and then pick yourself up, keep trying your best and come back stronger the next time the opportunity arises?
A performance mindset sees success not as the avoidance of failure but as the response to it.
How you respond to defeats in sport or disappointments at work will determine whether you progress or recede. The key is to get your unconscious mind back on track when failure occurs by reminding yourself that everyone has a bad day. Mistakes happen, it’s what you learn from them that is key.
You need failure in order to succeed.
3. Focus on the ‘here and now’
We live in a society that is constantly pushing for us to be better and better. The desire for rapid personal improvement in order to succeed is felt everywhere, whether that’s in sport or business.
We focus on a distant goal and keep pushing ourselves with an eye to achieving this target in the distant future.
Whilst long-term goals can be good, the constant focus on future outcomes can come at the cost of missing the present opportunities and an increased chance of anxiety and stress.
Instead, if you can concentrate on doing your best in each moment and on a consistent basis, then naturally you will improve over time.
A quiet and calm mind can help you to function optimally. Whether it’s in a sporting match or at work. If you can learn to reduce the outside noise and focus on the present moment, then you can empower yourself to progress naturally.
Sophrology is a wonderful tool for learning how to become more present and appreciate the power of the moment.