By Michael Strelcheck
In watching the 2012 summer Olympics, I was fascinated by a story reported by network TV which explored new techniques athletes were using to give them a positive edge in their events. The report referred to this new training as “Psyching Up” the athletes for success by the harnessing of their mind’s energy. This psyching up is a highly effective method of getting the athlete’s mind in the most confident and positive state possible prior to competition. Once this positive attitude is acquired, the athlete’s confidence level increases, which then assists the competitor in performing at peak physical efficiency.
Years of research carried on at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs have proven that an athlete’s performance improves dramatically by the use of positive thinking. The research report noted that today’s world class athletes are trained not only through their physical muscles, but in their mental muscles as well! The Director of Sports Science for the U.S. Olympic Team states, “At the level of the Olympics nowadays, there’s not a whole lot of difference among the athletes in terms of physical talent and training. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what’s between their ears”. Thousands of hours and thousands of dollars were invested in developing a comprehensive understanding of an athlete’s mind and how it can improve athletic performance. As we can see by the results of our athletes (first in the medal count with many record-shattering results) that positive mind energy really works.
I bet your first thought is, “Well, that’s great for million dollar athletes with trainers, but can this research help me?” Usually most cutting edge performance techniques are too complicated to apply to everyday needs.
It’s true in today’s high tech society that we seem to fall in love with the most complex gadgets. The more options and features they possess the better! This growing tendency seems also to extend into today’s field of mind technology. The more intellectual and complex a system of mind training is, the more powerful it is believed to be. This is a general opinion I would like to help change.
Because we are dealing with the mind, it doesn’t automatically mean that for mind development we need a complex and overly intellectual system. Too much mental computing exhausts the mind’s energy and takes it out of a positive state. Positive thinking is actually a state of mind where in an individual is able to accept all circumstances in their most positive light. For that reason, it is not important to place emphasis on lengthy mental exercise which build and retain factual knowledge. An easier method is to develop a different way of viewing your experiences. This quicker approach requires only that you make an effort to change some of your attitudes about how you perceive life.
The use of positive thinking or positive imaging to build confidence and motivation is not a new concept. Other fields of business have been using this technique for many years to assist individuals in improving their success for efficiency at their profession. The field of sales has incorporated this approach for years to help persons improve their ability to promote and communicate their products. Sales systems and seminars developed by such famous individuals as Zig Zigler and Dale Carnegie have been available for years and have been proven to be highly effective.
In the self-improvement field, we can find the classic thought systems such as The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale or Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. More recently this approach to success has been re-energized by Anthony Robbins with his system in the book Unlimited Power.
Let’s take a look at how positive thinking works.
The real potential of the human mind is tapped when developing a positive state of mind. This approach unlocks a very real energy which is generated by the brain cells. This energy can be used to stimulate our creative thought process as well as to energize our physical body. I’m sure you have had the chance to know someone whom you would consider a positive person. They always seem so energized! Do you ever wonder where they get their energy and how they always seem to stay positive even when things aren’t going the best? This is where they get that extra spark of enthusiasm – from the brain’s reservoir of stared electrical energy.
Positive thinking is actually a state of mind where an individual is able to accept all circumstances in their most positive light.
Positive thoughts release electrical changes from the brain in bursts of so-called alpha waves. The highly charged waves alter the performance of the mind and its direction of the body. It would be similar to drawing an electrical charge from a battery to increase voltage when extra power is needed. This increased positive voltage accelerates the mind into a more efficient state, relaxed but also highly alert. Much like the “runners high” that is experienced by a long distance runner, the alpha waves meld the mind and body into a working partnership that is trance-like. There is a oneness of mind and body, creating a unified being which flows together in perfect coordination as it performs its activity. Sounds complicated? Not really! This state of being is natural and comes about automatically when both brain hemispheres are integrated and exchanging commands harmoniously.
If you take a second to think about it, you will discover that you first must think of something before you can do that something. That fact makes the mind the creator of your experience! In other words, how you’re thinking about something dictates how you will experience that something when it happens.
Take a moment to imagine a clear glass sitting on a table. The glass is halfway filled with water. When you first notice the water level, what do you think? Do you see the glass as half empty, or do you see the glass as half full? Do this before you read further.
This classic exercise demonstrates the difference between a positive state of mind and a negative state of mind. If you see the glass as half empty, then you tend to view situations from the perspective of something lacking or a negative state. If you see the glass as half full, then you tend to view situations from the perspective of something gained or a positive state. This is the only understanding you need in order to begin to create a positive perspective for all situations you encounter in your life.
Let’s apply this idea to an everyday situation. If you were to begin your week like this, “I don’t like going to work on Monday! I never seem to accomplish what I would like, and it winds up feeling like a wasted day. I just can’t seem to get going until Tuesday.” What happens to you on Mondays at the job? You usually perform at a lower level, leaving you with a feeling of dissatisfaction or, worse, a feeling of failure. Here you mind decided in advance that you weren’t likely to have a good day; so that’s what you experienced – a dud day. Now, using the power of positive thinking, you can change your whole perception about Mondays. And you make that change before the day begins! At breakfast you decide that this Monday is different. You’re going to get the hardest tasks done first; so that will give you the rest of the day to work at being productive. This thought gets you excited because it will make the day go faster. You mentally see yourself as having a productive day with some fun surprises along the way. Your body suddenly becomes more energetic with those thoughts, and you find yourself more alert and focused as you drive to work. You now have created an attitude about the day that will help you experience the positive side of Monday.
The key is to set up your mind to create the most positive effects for all action before you get started. By continually thinking about discovering the positive aspect of the day, you will recognize the “golden” opportunities much more easily, thus leading to a more successful day.
As you begin to get a feel for the positive state of mind, you’ll notice a sense of freedom. Those pesky daily concerns that dog your thoughts begin to occupy less of your mind’s thinking, which gives you more time to mentally relax. The human mind works the best when it’s in a relaxed state, uncluttered with problems and concerns. True systems of positive thought help you clear the mind of worries so that the mind can react spontaneously to situations. A good “mind power” program should assist you brain in letting go of problems that limit the mind’s ability to concentrate or compute. As the mind becomes more positive, there develops a fluidity of thought or an ability to move from thought to thought without a sense of “grinding” on an idea. This fluid movement helps prevent the mind from becoming stressed out or fatigued and keeps a person in an “up” state of mind. Because of your developed ability to stay positive, the “downs” of life don’t take you into a state of anxiety, and you pass through them much more easily.
Turning back to the US Olympic Team’s mind training – the team used several techniques of positive mind work to enhance their performance. Let’s break down their research into some simple steps that you can apply to any challenge.
#1 – Get Motivated. Get clear in your mind about what your immediate goal is and focus on it. Think of performing at your highest skill level rather than winning, and don’t worry about the others’ performance. Aim at the perfection of your technique.
#2 – Get Psyched Up. This stage involves getting emotionally excited about the challenge you’re facing. Use that mental energy that you call “the thrill of victory” to stimulate the physical body, which causes adrenaline levels to rise.
#3 – Apply the Power of Mental Imagery. Use your imagination to see yourself perfectly performing at your task. This is a mental dress rehearsal right before you take action. It builds confidence so you will perform successfully and programs the physical body to respond to conditions automatically.
#4 – Enhance Your Concentration. Find a point of attention or state of total focus on the task at hand. This is termed “getting into the zone.” Psychologists refer to this as being “in the flow,” an almost trance-like concentration on what’s happening at that exact moment without any other internal thoughts.
#5 – Deal with Your Thoughts after Your Effort. Mentally come down after your effort, and see your results in the most positive light. This helps an individual deal with the stress of intense effort without becoming overly critical of their performance.
These steps are the basic stages of mental preparation and concentration to create a successful outcome for any effort. Remember, get clear on why you want to do something. Get excited about making it happen. See yourself at your best and accomplishing your goal, and lastly, step into action with confidence and a clear-headed focus on your action. Give it a try and I think you’ll surprise yourself.