We all have goals – to be the best parent or sales person, to find the perfect mate, or have the best grade point average, etc. For us to manage our anxiety and get out of our own way, a positive, accurate mantra is a mighty force to have on our side.
I’m not talking about your “meditation mantra” here, but the mantra that is your inner monologue. We all have one, right? We all need a good, positive, and accurate inner monologue to keep us calm and to help us reinforce positive feelings within ourselves. Who else will help us foster our capability to be our best selves in the pressure cooker moments of life? Some of us have supportive people in our lives who try, but at the end of the day what we tell ourselves in the critical moments always seems to trump everything else we hear. Why? Because what we tell ourselves over and over tends to become our BELIEF. And in case you haven’t heard folks, what we believe pretty much drives everything.
Take for example, a major league baseball player whose gone twenty at-bats without a hit (five games). All of the fans watching could see the frustration mounting with each unsuccessful cut of his bat. He’d flip the barrel of the bat into his hand and walk back to the dugout with his head low. He was a mass of frustration and resentment. When the team mental skills coach asked him what he was saying to himself as he went into the batter’s box, he thought for a second and replied, “Here we go again…. Please don’t do it.”
The coach then asked him, “so when you’re hitting well what are you saying?” The player replied, “Nothing really…. I mean, I’m saying something like, I’m the man!”
The coach then says, “Right! I know you’re half joking, but that’s right! Why are you the man? Seriously?”
“Well, they say the ball comes off my bat insanely fast…. I hit with a ton of power. I’ve gone 3 for 4 a bunch of times up here [in the big leagues], so I know I can do it.”
“Exactly. You and I both know you can do it. You just need to remind yourself of that before you go up to hit. If you let your recent results tell you what you should think and not all of the stuff that happened before it, you won’t show your best stuff.”
The player thought for a moment and said, “You’re right. I know I’m here for a reason.”
The result of this exchange was that the player changed his self-talk from “Oh boy, here we go again” to the mantra of “I know I’m here for a reason.” This mantra channeled all of the evidence that was already in supply from his history into how and why he would eventually have success. Every time after that, while walking up to the on-deck box, the hitter repeated his mantra “Here for a reason”. Every time he missed a pitch, he would step out of the box and repeat the mantra again, “Here for a reason.” This change resulted in a string of base hits after his long drought.
So think about what your mantra sounds like when you step up to the big moments in your life or career. When you’re out with your dream date for the first time, when you’re about to give that big presentation at work, go for that job interview, or take that big exam – what are you telling yourself? Make your mantra an accurate, positive statement of what you got you there. It is amazing how something that seems so simple and straightforward has such a strong power to help better your life.