Knowing that you should be positive is great.

You might think someone chirping “look on the bright side” or reminding you to “believe in yourself” is being positive. The truth is that positivity is much more complex than repeating quotes you find on a quick google search. While often dismissed as a soft skill, positive thinking is the systematic process of putting yourself in an advantageous mindset. 

How do thoughts impact performance?

Before utilizing positivity to enhance your performance, you must first understand how thinking impacts performance. Our immediate thoughts produce emotional reactions. Think to yourself, “This course is going to be impossible,” and you may feel discouraged, frustrated or stressed. Think “I have the most incredible dog,” and you’ll find a feeling of pride and joy welling up inside you. The emotions we associate with thoughts have a direct effect on our physical state. Important factors of performance, like blood flow, hormone production, muscle tension and attention, can be positively or negatively impacted by our thoughts. 

We aren’t just worried about how our thoughts impact us physiologically, a negative thought can limit how effectively we think about a problem or situation. Consistently using positive thoughts allows us to find more opportunities for improvement and think more creatively than our negatively minded counterparts. 

Consider these three types of negative thoughts that hinder our performance. 

1. Predicting – you foresee a negative outcome. 

Example: “I know he’s going to take that off course tunnel.” 

This type of thought limits the amount of creativity and effort you put into your handling plan and execution. You’ve already given up before you enter the ring. 

2. “All or Nothing” – you sum up your performance based on the worst moment. 

Example: “I can’t believe he took that tunnel. That run was awful.” 

This type of thinking skews our view of our performance and limits our ability to learn from our mistakes. There were likely many great moments on course that deserve your attention before you examine the mistake. 

3. Mistaking – you turn your emotions into your reality. 

Example: “That tournament would be too difficult for us.” 

This type of thinking prevents us from challenging ourselves, which is essential for progress! This might feel true in the moment, but your emotions do not dictate your teams abilities or potential for improvement.

Noticing these types of negative thoughts is the first step to intentionally using positive thoughts to improve your agility performance. Awareness allows you to understand how often your thoughts are getting in your way.

Kathleen Oswald

Written by

Kathleen Oswald

Mental Performance Coach and long time agility competitor with a M.S. Exercise and Sport Science