The Inner Coach – Improving your mindset for success!
August 15, 2021
LeBron James has been famously quoted for speaking to himself in the 3rd person when having to make the difficult decision to leave the Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. He said, “And I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James and what LeBron James is going to make him happy.” The use of this kind of language is called distanced self-talk and is a way to emotionally distance oneself from difficult and even negative emotions to promote rational thinking and handle stressful situations with greater ease and control.
I have been calling this 3rd person self-talk or distanced self-talk, the Inner Coach. When using this with my athletes, they have been very receptive and have been able to relate to this tool in helping them get a handle on their self-critic. You know that voice inside your head that likes to tell you that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t have what it takes, this is too difficult a hole to get out of, etc. This negative self-talk will defeat you before you even begin and certainly will sabotage your performance when you need all the grit you can get to rebound from setbacks.
Do you find it easier to provide rational and wise advice to others when they are in times of distress? Or, do you have difficulty seeing things clearly and talking yourself off the ledge when you are emotional? The simple linguistic shift of saying your own name followed by an encouraging statement as if your favorite coach or friend were talking to you can be a very powerful way to regulate emotions and create a mindset shift in the moment. For example, “Cheri, you are fully capable to handle this.” Or, “Cheri, stay in your lane, keep doing what you’re doing.” Yes, These are true statements I have made to myself.
Research by Ethan Kross, Psychologist at the University of Michigan, has shown that distanced self-talk persuades the body and the mind to see a situation as a challenge rather than a threat. Studies have shown that we think, feel and perform better, from taking math exams, kicking a field goal for the win, or any pressure-filled situations, when we perceive them as a challenge rather than a threat.
In Kross’ most recent book, Chatter, he states, “distanced self-talk can be the pivotal shove that sends you down the path of the challenge mindset.”
When working with a Women’s Varsity Tennis team a few weeks ago, many of the girls had fantastic examples of what the coach has said to them to pump them up or get their focus back. They loved the idea of the Inner Coach statements at the ready when they need it the most. One of them even said that she wished she could take the coach on the court with her at times. Well, this technique allows her to do just that! Figuratively speaking.
Our minds are the filter by which we allow ourselves to perform and live our best lives. What we say to ourselves matters. Each of us has the power within us to learn, grow and tap into our potential. IF we can get out of our own way!
Try this tool out for yourself. Take some time to think about what you would like to hear or have heard from your most encouraging friend, family member, or coach. Write down these statements using your name so you can have them at the ready. Have fun with it!