Category: Self-Belief

Posing Power

wonder women power poseThe link between the mind and the body is very powerful. We only have to observe someone’s body language to know what sort of mood they’re in. But does it work in reverse? Can the body change the mind?

There’s a theory called ‘Embodied Cognition’ that says it can. Quite simply, if you want to feel more powerful then adopt a powerful posture or to feel more relaxed adopt a relaxed pose.

Carney et al. (2010) found that when people stood or sat in powerful poses for one minute — those involving open limbs and expansive gestures — they not only felt more powerful but had increased levels of testosterone flooding their systems. Powerful poses take up more space, so spread your body and open up the arms or legs. When you dominate the space, your mind gets the message. With practice it can be a shortcut to gaining a positive confident mindset.

If you’d like to know more about this topic please get in touch!


Staying Motivated

Have you ever wondered how people remain motivated to achieve a task when faced with extreme difficulties and obstacles?

Consciously we can plan, prepare and use a whole host of goal setting techniques but according to some new research it seems that our unconscious minds play an important part in this too. The research (Huang et al 2012) explored whether people’s mental representation of their progress in the task helps to motivate them into continued effort in the pursuit of completing the task. What they discovered was that when individuals have just started pursuing a goal and have made only limited progress, they exaggerate the achieved progress level in their mental representation to signal a higher chance of eventual goal attainment and thus elicit greater effort. In contrast, when people have made substantial progress and are approaching the goal attainment, they downplay the achieved progress in their mental representation to create greater perceived discrepancy, hence eliciting greater effort in finishing the task.

The researchers tested their findings in other situations and found similar results.

In both situations the mind is warping what they were seeing to give them extra motivation. Although strictly speaking the minds estimation is less accurate than reality, it’s all in the service of achieving something more important: reaching that vital goal.

This is one great example of the way our cognitive biases can be extremely handy for us. This finding is fascinating because it’s demonstrating how sometimes getting precise information about our progress can actually reduce motivation. For example if you’re on the running machine at the gym and you’ve just started your workout, then the fact that the display tells you exactly how far you’ve got to go leaves no room for these helpful unconscious biases to operate.

Sometimes it really is better not to know. Instead let your unconscious give you a helping hand on towards your goal.

What Do You Believe You Can Achieve?

Nearly sixty years on, this event remains one of the most iconic events in sport. This is the famous race in May 1954 at Oxford University’s Iffley Road track that saw Roger Bannister become the first person to run the mile in under four minutes.

Roger Bannister set his sights on breaking the four-minute mile barrier two years earlier after just missing out on the medal places at the 1952 Olympics. This failure spurred Bannister on and he became determined to be the first to break the record. But it wasn’t for another year that he actually believed it was possible to do. That realisation, and consequent belief, occurred when Bannister broke the British record in May 1953 achieving a time of 4:03.6. Bannister said after the event:

“This race made me realize that the four-minute mile was not out of  reach”

And so it transpired that 12 months later in May 1954 Roger Bannister, with help from his pace-makers Chris Brasher and Chris Chattaway, broke the four-minute barrier in a time of 3:59.4.

There are a lot of myths and stories told about the magical four-minute-mile barrier and many of those myths were debunked by Bannister himself in his memoirs “The Four Minute Mile” (1955) but what Bannister does say about his success is the importance of beliefs, determination and the will to succeed. What was incredible about Bannister’s feat was that in 1952 when he set his sights on breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister’s training regimen was just three half-hour sessions per week! He did increase that after his 1952 Olympic failure but it was still very light compared to his peers.  Bannister was a natural athlete with great physical and mental abilities and provides a great example of what individuals can achieve when they truly believe in themselves.

Watch the video below and listen to Bannister’s comments on what was going through his mind during the race. It’s an incredible insight into the mind of an elite athlete. Once you’ve watched the video ask yourself this: “What do you believe you can achieve?”

Roger Bannister – The First Four Minute Mile – VIDEO

Enjoy the game!

Setting The Right Goals

How did you get on with your new years resolutions? Did you achieve what you set out to do? Maybe they’re still “work in progress” or maybe you just didn’t bother at all. Wherever you find yourself right now take heart because you can achieve your goals, you may just have to realise what they really are first.

We make new commitments to ourselves that we hope will lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle or maybe to become a fitter, more skillful player achieving better results. These new resolutions, however, tend not to last. But why do they fail? They are, after all, great intentions that would lead to the sort of positive outcomes that we’d really, really like. So what goes wrong?

It most cases they fail for two simple reasons:

1) You’ve bitten of more than you can chew. You’ve overpromised on what you can really deliver and you don’t have the commitment skills to get you there.

2) It isn’t what you “really” want.

Let’s explore those reasons.

The first one is quite self-explanatory. Let’s say you want to become a fitter player, to be able to run around through an entire game putting in bursts of speed that leave your competitors eating your dust. So you set off to the gym for those extra training sessions. Three times a week for about an hour should do it. And for a while you manage it but then reality bites and work, studying or family matters demand your attention and your positive new routine is broken, never to be reinstated. Your progress is halted and you slide back to where you started.

The second reason new resolutions fail is far more subtle but far more powerful. You see the reason what you think you want is not actually what you really want is because you’re using the conscious thinking part of your brain to try to override your powerful subconscious brain. It’s a bit like the pilot of an aircraft trying to turn a plane that is set on auto-pilot. Imagine you get on a plane at Heathrow and you set off on a flight to New York. Once up in the air the pilot sets the auto-pilot to fly to New York. Now if you decided you wanted to fly to Miami instead, you would have to turn the plane. If the pilot does this he will have some short-term success but once the auto-pilot detects the plane is off-course it kicks in to adjust the flight path back to New York. Your subconscious mind works in a similar way.

The way you are right now is where you have programmed your auto-pilot to take you. Your fitness level, skill and attitude all reflect that programming and your programming is set mostly by your beliefs (limiting or otherwise). The belief about how good you can be, the belief about how fit you can be, the belief about how much time you available, the belief that other things are more important, the belief that it’s the taking part that really matters etc. etc. etc.

So if you really want to change the way you are, you must first understand what your beliefs are. You then you have to challenge those beliefs before setting new beliefs that move you to a new destination.

To help you with this answer the following questions:

  • What do you know to be true about the way you play your sport?
  • How do you know this is true?
  • How would you know if it wasn’t true?
  • How would you “really” like to play?
  • What would have to happen for you to believe that you can play that way?

When you think about the answer to the last two questions begin to visualise yourself performing that way and talk to yourself as if you are already doing it right now. Repeat the exercise as often as possible and the process of imprinting a new set of beliefs will have begun.

You may never get to be the player of your dreams but you will certainly progress from where you are now.

Enjoy the game!


The Four Steps To Excellence

Whether you achieve excellence in what you do depends largely on four key elements. Those people who do well have had some success with these elements but those who excel have applied themselves far better.

  • Knowing where you want to go (having a vision),
  • Wanting to get there (making a commitment),
  • Believing in your ability to arrive at your desired destination (believing in your capacity), and
  • Connecting with the step in front of you (having a fully focused connection).

Your life is a result of your visions and expectations for yourself, which you can bring to life through your focus, your commitment and your self-belief. Dream big so you keep the pathway open to achieving big things and stay fully focused and committed to attaining your best performance today, this week, this month, this season. And above all believe in yourself because as Henry Ford said:

“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right”.

Good luck!


Confidence Building

Confidence is like a balloon, when it’s full you can float through a game with skill and poise but what happens if the balloon pops?

When our level of confidence drops the cause is usually self-inflicted. There are a number of reasons why we allow ourselves to lose confidence; setting ourselves unrealistic expectations, failing to achieve goals, handling mistakes badly, focusing on our weaknesses and allowing other people to get to us. We also allow ourselves to drift into an unconfident state because of the way we prepare for a game and the way we talk.

So what can we do about it? NLP psychology can teach us a number of techniques and strategies that we can use to boost our confidence level and keep it there.

Everyone is unique and a NLP psychologist will work with you to develop a specific set of tools that work for you.

Here are a number of tips that you can start using today…

Set Appropriate Expectation Levels

When you expect to perform perfectly or have a zero-mistake performance, you actually set yourself up for failure. Why? Because the moment you make a mistake, you think you’re under-performing.

Your first step towards boosting and maintaining confidence is to mentally prepare to play knowing that you’ll make mistakes. Once you’ve accepted this fact you will stay confident when those mistakes happen.

Let Go Of Mistakes

Not letting go of mistakes can quickly spiral out of control. When this spiral begins, you might become frustrated, get angry but ultimately it leads to loss of confidence, potentially the most performance damaging state to be in.

So how do you let go of mistakes? When you do something bad, quickly analyse it for what can be learned so you can do it better next time and then forget it, FOREVER!

Focus On Your Strengths

Forget the philosophy that says you have to identify your weaknesses to improve your performance. By doing that you are mentally reinforcing those parts of your performance which cause you to lose confidence. Start focusing on what you do well and build your confidence instead.

Talk Confident. Think Confident

From now on become your biggest fan, stop beating yourself up for errors and use confident positive language instead. Maintaining positive self talk that encourages and reinforces the confident, effective play that you are capable of, sets a confident imprint on your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind controls and runs your body and your emotions. It works automatically and through consistent practise and reinforcement your confidence can also become automatic.

Would you like to have a specific confidence plan that allows you to play with unshakable confidence? If so, then get in touch and we’ll take you through a step-by-step process that could transform your performance.

Good luck!

Talk Positive. Be Positive

If you were playing in a competitive game of doubles tennis and your partner hit a bad shot, would you say to them “that shot was terrible, we’re going to lose now because of you. You’re rubbish at this game!”?

No, you wouldn’t because you know it would only damage their confidence and their game and you need them to play well.

So why in the world do we do talk that way to ourselves when we make a mistake? The same damaging results happen and yet we repeatedly beat ourselves up for every mistake we make.

From now on become your biggest fan, stop beating yourself for errors and use confident positive language instead. Maintaining positive self-talk that highlights and reinforces your confident, effective play will set a confident imprint on your unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the part of the mind that controls and runs your body and your emotions. Your unconscious mind works automatically and through consistent practise and reinforcement your positivity will also become automatic.

Enjoy the game!


The Power of Superstition

Professional athletes are particularly prone to superstitions, perhaps because so much rides on success or maybe out of the desire to avoid failure. Most superstitions come into existence because a particularly good performance, or a reversal in bad performances, is attributed to something the player did prior to the game.

There are numerous examples of top level sportsmen with superstitious behaviour. Here are a few:

  • Golfer Tiger Woods always wears a red shirt on Tournament Sundays.
  • Basketball player Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina college shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform.
  • Top tennis player Rafael Nadal of Spain is obsessive about his drinks. His water bottles must be lined up, with the labels facing the baseline he is playing from.
  • In the 1998 football World Cup, French defender Laurent Blanc would kiss the shaven head of goalkeeper Fabien Barthez before the kick off of each game. France lifted the trophy.
  • Football player Kolo Toure likes to be last onto the pitch. In February 2009 this made him miss the start of the second half of Arsenal’s European Champions League tie against Italian team AS Roma – and earned him a booking for entering the field of play without the referee’s permission.
  • Former England forward, Gary Lineker changed his shirt for the second half of a match if he hadn’t scored, but continued in the same shirt if he had.

We tend to think of this behaviour as irrational, despite feeling the pull of superstition ourselves. New research published in Psychological Science, however, asks whether these superstitions are irrational if they work.

Damisch et al. (2010) wanted to see if simple superstitions like crossing your fingers or using a lucky charm improved performance on both motor and mental tasks. The answer was a rather surprising yes.

The first experiment was a 1 metre golf putting test and 28 participants made, on average, 33% more putts when handed a ball branded ‘lucky’ by experimenters (6.4 compared with 4.6 without).

In two further experiments the effect of participant’s lucky charms on both memory and puzzle-solving was tested. Once again participants performed better in the presence of  ‘lucky charms’.

Confidence boost

To see why these superstitions improved performance, the researchers measured their self-efficacy (roughly equivalent to self-confidence) and goal-setting. This suggested that,

“The increased levels of self-efficacy that result from activating a superstition lead to higher self-set goals and greater persistence in the performance task.”

In other words, the lucky charms appeared to be giving people the confidence to aim higher, to keep trying and a higher level of self-belief. The belief alone that a particular superstition works, could help release nervous tension freeing players to perform better.

This may be because superstitions give us the illusion of control in what is an unpredictable world. Perhaps that’s why superstitious behaviour intended to bring good luck is so common: it sometimes works.

Enjoy the game,


When Plans Fail

Every year, early in the summer, I meet up with three friends to play the famous Brabazon course at the Belfry in Warwickshire. As many of you will know, The Brabazon was the scene of some great Ryder Cup battles between Europe and the USA’s top golfers and although our game is an entirely social occasion it is always a fiercely contested battle (not least to avoid the forfeit for finishing last of having to pick up the post-match drinks tab) .

For the previous two years, last place and the drinks tab have gone to Mark, much to his obvious annoyance. You see Mark is a good player. He hits straight of the tee, plays good fairway shots and generally gets down in two putts. His weakness is distance. In like-for-like shots he would always be out-hit by the rest of us.

After losing again last year Mark decided he would do something about. In the following months Mark consulted professional swing coaches, bought better clubs, practised hard at the range and constantly measured his progress. As this years game approached Mark was very confident because he had definitely increased his hitting distance and believed he would now out-hit the rest of us.

So cometh the hour we all stepped out on to the first tee of the Babazon and prepared to hit. The first is an inviting opening tee shot as long as you watch out for the bunkers on the right. A good drive will leave a straightforward approach shot to the large green. Mark was up first. He took a beautiful swing with his expensive new clubs and sent a long straight drive down the middle. He had certainly improved. Mark stepped back delighted with his opening salvo and then watched helplessly as, one by one, we all hit our balls even further.

Mark was crushed. His plan had failed, his confidence was shattered and his fate was sealed. By the end of the round we were all sipping drinks at Mark’s expense.

What Mark failed to do was have a back-up plan. He failed to realise that although you can improve your own performance, other people can too and you may have to change your game plan to counter that.

When you expect to perform to a certain level, you can actually set yourself up for failure. Why? Because the moment it doesn’t happen or you make a mistake, you think you’re under-performing or you’ve failed.

Your first step towards achieving success is to mentally prepare knowing that you’ll make mistakes and that things may not go exactly as you intend. Create back up plans that focus on your strengths and capabilities, avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others and keep your focus on what you can do.

Once you’ve accepted these facts and acknowledged that it’s OK, you will stay confident and on track even when things don’t go to plan.

Reversing “Buts”

Did you know that the word “but” is a magic word?  No? Well it is for most of us so let me explain why.

Take this sentence for example:

“I thought you played well, but you missed an easy opportunity to score.”

Which part of each sentence do you remember most ? The part before the “but” or the part after it?

If you are like most people the part after the “but” will be far more prominent in your mind than the part before the “but”. That’s because the way most of our brains are wired has led to us disregarding or deleting whatever comes before the “but” and take the second half of the sentence as the speakers “actual” message.

How many times have you head someone make comments like the example above about a persons performance? Here are some other examples:

“I thought you played well, but missed an easy opportunity to score”

“I thought you ran a great race but weren’t strong enough at the end.”

“It’s great that you serve so well, but you’re slow getting in to the net.”

The great thing is you can use this phenomenon to your advantage. By reversing the sentence and switching the two messages either side of the “but” then the effect is reversed.

Read those sentences again and then with the messages reversed:

“I thought you played well, but you missed an easy opportunity to score.”
“You missed an easy opportunity to score but I thought you played well”.

“I thought you ran a great race but weren’t strong enough at the end.”
“You weren’t strong enough at the end but you ran a great race”.

“It’s great that you serve so well, but you’re slow getting in to the net.”
“You’re slow getting into the net but it’s great that you serve so well”.


Notice how different the sentences seem when reversed.

So if you are on the receiving end of a comment that contains a “but” and ends with a negative, then reverse the message so it leaves you feeling more positive.

Let’s look at another example.

You’ve just finished a hard game of rugby and on getting back into the dressing room a teammate says to you:

“You tackled like a demon today but your passing was poor”

Repeat what he said back to him but reverse the message. Say it out loud and emphasize the positive part and end it with a positive intention to correct the negative. Something like this:

“Yeah my passing was poor but I did tackle like a demon. I’m really going to work on my passing in training next week”.

You can even extend this process by writing down sentences that you have heard people say recently that have left a negative impression and reverse them by using the magic “but” word. Give it a go and notice how different you feel.

Good luck and enjoy the game!