Picture a big, fat juicy lemon. Imagine cutting the lemon in two, picking up one half, bringing it right up to your nose and inhaling the sharp tangy the scent of the fruit. Then imagine sinking your teeth into that half of the lemon, feeling the juices run down the outsides of your mouth as the pips and pith and more juices swirl round your mouth. Got a bitter taste in your mouth yet? Perhaps you are even pulling funny faces as your mouth prepares to receive a lemon and your salivary glands are activated.
The reason that you might feel physical sensations at the mere thought of smelling and biting into the lemon is because every thought you have has the capacity to have an impact on your body. Don’t believe me? Then think about nails scraping down a blackboard. Or eating cotton wool. Or the sound of a baby laughing heartily. Or the feeling of the sun on your back as you lay on a beach on your holidays. Each thought brings a different feeling to your body, doesn’t it? The connection between mind and body is such that the mere thought of something can have us feeling squeamish or happy or relaxed – there doesn’t have to be any lemons or scraping blackboards or laughing babies present to evoke the physical or emotional feelings.
Consider the practical application of this; if you are thinking about a presentation coming up at work, and every time it comes into your head you see yourself freeze or forget your words, or you say to yourself, “I just hope I don’t make a fool of myself in front of the whole room”, you are essentially sending messages to your body that a potential threat is on the way and that it should prepare. You may have butterflies in your stomach, you might feel sick, you might have trouble sleeping as the presentation gets nearer, you might try to find ways of getting out of it. You are unwittingly setting off the fire alarm, the house alarm and the sprinkler system with the way you are thinking - you are going into fight, flight or freeze mode in response to your thoughts of threat.
So, in this way, your thoughts affect your body, your emotions, your behaviour and ultimately, your performance in any area of life. Thus, in order to give yourself the best chance of success, you need to be thinking in ways that are useful. Never mind about choosing your friends wisely, you need to choose your thoughts wisely.
There are a few strategies you can adopt to ensure that you are thinking usefully about things and, thus, maximise your chances of a successful outcome.
1.Put in the best preparation possible
If you have a presentation to make, then know your topic inside out as well as knowing your audience and being clear on the reason for having the presentation.
2. Physically and mentally rehearse
Whether it is a presentation, a difficult conversation or a competitive performance, physically and mentally rehearse what you want to do so that it becomes familiar to you. Use all your senses.
3. Challenge un-useful thoughts
If you find yourself thinking things like “I can’t do it”, challenge that thinking by asking yourself things like:
  • How do I know that I can’t do it? Have I ever done it before?
  • What needs to happen for me to feel like I can do this?
  • How would I be thinking, feeling and acting if I could do it?
  • What resources have I available to me that I am not considering?
  • What evidence is there that I am actually ready for this?
  • Could it be that I, in fact, can do this, I just feel nervous?
4. Focus on what you do want to happen, not what you don’t
You get more of what you focus on, so direct your energies onto how you want things to go. Whether it is resolving a disagreement or playing a match, focus on both the process and the outcome that you want to see as a reality. Keep this as your guide at all times and make sure that everything you do moves you nearer towards that goal.
Final thought
When it comes to the way you think, try something new, because “we cannot solve our problems by the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. (Albert Einstein).
Performance and Life Coach