“I can’t do this!”
“I stink at this task!”
“Why do I always mess things up when it all seems to be going so well?”
“I will never get this right.”
How many times have these thoughts entered your mind during the pressure of life/work playing itself out?
Negative [ Unproductive ] self-labels or beliefs are just one reason for falling short of your goals and your potential in life and leadership. Why do so many leaders/people get trapped in negative self-labels? What is the root cause of your unproductive/negative thoughts?
Unproductive thinking is based on fear... fear of failing, fear of mistakes, fear of criticism, fearing of losing/wasting time, fear of success and even the fear of greatness. Check out 'Why We Believe What We Believe' by author Andrew Newberg.
Unproductive beliefs bring about - drive - negative outcomes. You make your reality by the thoughts and emotions that you choose to entertain most often… please remember that.
Sure - a few random 'unproductive thoughts' won’t guarantee a poor performance… poor performance occurs when you feed those unproductive thoughts by constantly focusing on them... especially when not performing your best. Focus = fuel for your attention. What is the quality of fuel that your filling your mental tank with?
The neuroscience is clear - the more you focus on unproductive thoughts - the more they run rampant in your mind which leads to a higher incidence of mistakes, errors, anger, frustration, conflict dropped balls, falls and losses. This is when your 'unproductive voice' loves to chime in even more -
“I told you so!!” “You know I was right now - you need to listen to me more often and stop wasting our time trying this new stuff."
You may think there is nothing you can do about your unproductive and limiting beliefs - “It’s just the way I am.”
Well - there is nothing further from the truth!
ORDINARY LEADERS - PLEASE EXIT STAGE LEFT!
You can change/adapt your beliefs to focus on healthy-more productive ways of being. This doesn't imply that you pretend you don't have negative thoughts or that you haven't got very real challenges. It does mean that you need to be prepared to do the work to change them - though this is exactly where most ordinary leaders will exit stage stage left. Only elite performers and leaders tend to want to differentiate their skills by doing the extra work. The more you focus on feeling and being confident - the more you will push out the demons and limitations in your head and ignite the neural pathways for adaptation as well. Your past and experience and thinking has influenced the cells through-out your entire body to operate a certain way. If you want more productive habits - you need to ensure that you are retraining the entire nervous system.
For a little bit of perspective - the elite performers from all disciplines struggle with unproductive thoughts - for example in the one world of tennis, one of the legends of the game Rafael Nadal - reveals that he is constantly working to reframe unproductive thoughts in order to stay at the top of his game. Even today - after years at the top - it is a habit that he deliberately deploys frequently to re-invent his performance so that he remain at the top level.
Scottish professional soccer player Ryan Fraser has battled with 'thinking negative' whilst under pressure .
During a game tied 0-0 with 5 minutes remaining - Fraser had a one-on-one against a defender and rather than take on the defender... he passed the ball back.
Fraser was later asked by the team’s sport psychologist why he’d been so timid, he said :
"I didn’t want to lose the ball and they run in and score."
The sport psychologist responded with:
“But what if you took him on and crossed the ball and we scored from it?"
"I hadn’t really thought of that. I had gone to the negative output, the safer output. That was the type of stuff holding me back."
You can see from this example that Fraser had two choices in how to think about the situation: (1) Attack the goal and possibly score [ success-oriented ] or (2) “What if I mess up?” [ avoid failure ]
Avoiding failure causes you to play it safe. You'll play to not make mistakes or mess up your team's chances of winning. And since the avoiding failure holds you back from taking chances - you will never become all you can be. Many executives are like this - they fear greatness and success because they know that they will be asked to repeat the performance again and again - often to new levels. To meet this expectation will require more energy and effort to be spent - and many leaders don't believe they have enough capacity - resilience and agility to back up their performances over time... so they don't 'go for it' in the first place. They hold themselves back.
Focusing on success/who you want to be/what you can do and what you have allows you to play and lead assertively - it gives you the opportunity for a more productive outcome and allows you to strive for your potential and build your capacity for repeat performances.
When you 'opt in' to see the positive/more productive thoughts - there by exercising your 'confident character muscle' ... you will greatly increase your chances to succeed at the results you desire. [ If you love to read - check out The Psychology of Persuasion. ]
For this reason, it is essential that you commit to reprogram your thinking and nervous system! Over the past twenty years - we have studied the research, the science, the books and articles, interviewed entrepreneurs and executives alike, worked with elite athletes - then assembled it all for you into a simple structure with which you can systematically attack whatever belief or thought/emotion is holding you back. This simply works.
Reframing Unproductive Beliefs/Thinking/Emotions:
01. 'To Be Goal' // Focus your attention on what you want to do instead of what you fear might happen. This ambition/success-oriented approach immerses you in the present moment - and - allows you to intuitively 'play your best game' or perform the way you want to. Connect to this state often in order to reprogram your brain and neural pathways to that which you deeply desire.
02. Get Some A.I.R // Reframe technique : Acknowledge - Interrupt - Reframe
_ Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing. Question their accuracy... How do you know this is the truth? Where is the hard evidence - not just the imagined evidence? Remember that beliefs are not the real world - they are versions of reality that we make up. Question the completeness of the evidence you have because often we are just dominated by the more 'absolute negative mind' - which just loves all or nothing style thinking - This is a limited thinking style and holds us back. Acknowledge that there may be some evidence missing and/or another way to see this… so explore more completely, deeper and further.
_ Interrupt your current thinking/feeling by breathing deeply - slowly - for at least a few seconds. This interrupts 'the grip' that the reptilian brain can have on our thinking brain. Specifically - during the interruption phase - Ask yourself more productive questions, such as:
“What is the best that can happen?”
“What options do I have here to enable my best self?”
"What could I learn - even if i make a mistake?"
By focusing on what you want to have happen during the pressure... your performance will follow your thinking. This is where you can recall and use some of the more productive self talk ‘affirmations’ that you have designed already. simple examples //
"Leaders face up.”
"Champions do more”
"Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
"Mistakes just means I'm trying."
“Eat my bubbles” [ one of our elite swimmers 'go to' reframe self talk when her lactic acid is heavily accumulating ]
"Inch by inch - confidence is a cinch."
"Nervous energy is great for high performance."
_Reframe towards who you really want to be. From the self talk and alternative habit options that you have generated in the Interrupt step - choose your specific strategy - the process - the affirmation - the one habit that will enable your best self and more like deliver the outcome your desire.
The more energy and productive emotion that you put into repeating the processes above - the more you influence and program your nervous system to respond automatically - high performance Flow without having to think... now who doesn't love that!
As always - we would love to hear your thoughts.
Founder & CEO