Clarity in thinking is the defining behavior in solving a problem, whether achieving a goal, navigating safely, or being successful in life. The process of thinking clearly is influenced by many factors, internally and externally. The key to thinking as clearly as possible, then, is being able to control and direct those factors.
According to some, the task of thinking clearly, or positively, is easy. Maintain an orderly rhythm of rules and use the mantras that promote optimism and cancel out negativity. Even strong-willed, focused and tough-minded individuals can use these techniques successfully.
They work! Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and other similar books like Excuses be gone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Dr. Wayne Dyer emphasize these principles.
Other folks have less success using the positive thinking approach. Repeating glorious positives or exhibiting blushing optimism seems to engage the negatives within them. Saying that there are no negatives accentuates their very nature—destruction and defeat! It’s a duel that only keeps the negative intact and functioning, so these people do something different. However, according to M.Farouk Radwan, MSc., when using negative motivation it is important to have proper escapement channels available. Radwan gives this example, “a boss should never shout at his employees when they make mistakes without first showing how to do things correctly or how to improve their performance. If the person knows how to escape the punishment then negative motivation is certainly going to be effective.”
In sports, negative thoughts are natural inclination or instinct used to protect us from ill-perceived threats of competition. Straightening that out and drawing a distinction for productive behavior is difficult. Creating a war between the positive and negative many times is a losing battle. “Mind chatter,” according to Barbara Ehrenreich, “is inevitable, but instead of fighting to avoid bad thoughts or force good ones, let the negative be acknowledged normally and move on with the task/challenge at hand.” The abuse of time and the loss of energy and focus will be minimized.
The better way to motivate is to keep the picture of the desired end result. To say the least, developing positive thoughts is good and encouraged. Avoid giving into negative temptation while acknowledging its existence is a key factor for positive motivation. An excellent way to counteract negativity that thwarts success is to concentrate on a specific aspect of the endeavor or competition—e.g., strategy, protocol, observing specific movements, and equipment preparation. As an athlete and coach as well as a teacher and counselor, I can vouch for how this works. Negativity seems to want to raise its ugly head before the positive manifests. Look at the news and society in general—how much more negative can the front page of a newspaper be?! Are those just protective mechanisms out of control?
Getting an athlete on a personalized success route with specific tasks and not simply generalized positive encouragement with the added negative motivation is the key to success and real positivity. Focusing on a specific purpose and goal with well-defined parameters allows an individual to see the next step and his/her own growth as positive. Establish a dream, a goal. Then, keep positive with incremental focusing—one step at a time.