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Overcoming Performance Interfering Thoughts

athletes mental fitness performance pits self-talk Jan 18, 2023

“I don’t know what to do.”

It’s a phrase that often shows when working with athletes on their pits. Not armpits, but performance interfering thoughts create performance that stinks like teenagers without Old Spice.  

Years ago, I started using a document I call the lists of five. It’s a three-page document that draws out common PITS. It’s a deep dive into the thinking that occurs when things aren’t going their way.  

“I don’t…” is a prompt. “I don’t know what to do” consistently shows up. It is rare for my athletes to say they have gotten even a half hour of coaching around mental fitness.

Why is it a common PIT? 

1. We are wired to take action to move toward safety.  
2. We don’t want to struggle again. 
3. Emotions warn us to take action. Sometimes emotions want us to call 911 when the smoke detector goes off when we’re burning a pizza.

Usually in the first hour, athletes say “How do you read my mind and look into my soul?” 

The answer? You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. And because I have done the exercise I talked about countless times.

So here’s what we do together. We create at least two things. Self talk that reminds them of the skills and the power they have to respond to instead of react. An example: I respond to strong emotions by rebooting my brain and focus on my breath. Or, I visualize putting my extra emotions in my locker so I learn from them later. And they already know how to do that.

Here’s the key: Using the tool over and over again until it becomes automatic.

Take action on the pits. It’ll put a cherry on top of your performance. Start by changing the conversation to mental fitness. It’s the first step to challenging the myths of mental toughness. Share our emails, and share us on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

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