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Think About Such Things

Think About Such Things

If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. —Henry Ford

We laid on the rough carpeted floor in the locker room. It was pitch black. The breath of dozens of hyped up football players echoed throughout the room.

"You will make your block."

"You will accelerate on your run."

"You will tackle the opponent to the ground."

"You will dominate on the field."

One of our assistant coaches, a former Navy SEAL, spoke to the audience of players as we visualized success on the field. I repeated the words in my head.

"I will make the block."

I visualized myself lining up for the play.

"I will make the block."

I saw myself pull and impact the defender with great force.

"I will make the block."

An hour later I did make the block. It would be a game that helped get me toward playing in college. And it started with the affirmation of a few words.

Primed for Success

Priming, according to Psychology Today, refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task.(1) In sports or business you might have heard it described as "self-talk". For example, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix uses the quote by legendary runner Steve Prefontaine as her pre-race mantra, "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift". (2)

Notre Dame football players are primed exiting the locker room as they hit the sign "Play like a Champion Today". In the military, phrases like "failure is not an option" remind soldiers of their commitment to see the battle through. Maybe you have said to yourself "I got this" or "step it up" before a big meeting or while out on a run as I have.

Priming is also effective in the grind of long term challenges. Following 9/11, a need for more SEAL recruits pushed the Navy to begin using positive self-talk in their mental-toughness training program. The results were highly supportive as BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) candidates passing rates began increasing by 10%.(3) Even through the most difficult military training circumstances, self-talk made a profound impact.

The Florida Effect

In The History Channel documentary, "The Brain", it is cited that the average person says between 300 and 1,000 words to themselves every single minute. Perhaps more important yet is the impact of those words.

In one psychological study a group of subjects were asked to arrange words into sentences. One group was given random words. The other group was given words associated with the elderly such as, "Florida", "wrinkle", "gray", etc.

When the subjects were timed to see how long it took them to walk down the hall following the study, those with the "old words" walked more slowly than the other subjects. This happened even though they didn't say they felt older or slower. In this case they were negatively primed to slow down.

Words Matter

Make sure you are focusing on the right words and thoughts throughout the day. God, through the apostle Paul, reminds us of this by stating: "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭8 NIV)

To put this into action, choose a word or verse to dedicate yourself to. Using a positive mantra can fuel you and increase positive thoughts if you practice it enough. My word for 2017 was "steadfast" and it reminded me to stay disciplined. Another year I chose "gratitude" and it helped me focus on what I cherish most in life.

Also consider what sources you are getting primed by. The "breaking news" on the latest fear issue is probably not going to prime you positively. As they say, "garbage in, garbage out". Same goes for many social media posts. Be mindful of what you are allowing in. Consider filling up on great books, podcasts and music instead.

Pay attention to what thoughts and words go through your head. Bring focus to those that lift you up rather than those that slow you down. Prime yourself for what is ahead of you. Then watch as you make the big block in life today.


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