Maybe the first question should be, “Are you even aware of your unproductive thoughts?” Because, only when you are aware of them can you begin to deal with them.
Here are examples of unproductive thoughts.
- I just need to hold serve in order to win this set.
- I am playing terrible.
- I am ahead and I will just play safe so that I will win.
The “official” definition of an unproductive thought is any thought that not only doesn’t help you play better but also thoughts that are destructive and will sabotage your play.
Here is how you can deal with these thoughts and you must deal with them immediately. Please don’t wait until the match is over.
The moment you are aware that you had an unproductive thought you say to yourself “Cancel Cancel”, and take a sighing exhale or you can yell “Stop” as loud as you can to yourself silently. Then make a statement that is productive.
The kinds of productive statements that I am talking about are as follows: “OK, body, I can’t win this. You will have to do it. I will stay out of your way and I will just see the ball, breathe, and keep a very relaxed grip.” Or, “I am going to just let my body play and let the outcome be what it will be.” In other words, you will get back to doing just the Core Principles.
By the way, you don’t need to wait until you have an unproductive thought to use these statements. They are powerful just by themselves and can be used anytime. Especially if you are in a tiebreaker or the score is close at the end of the set or match.
Please don’t use a negative like “I am not going to try to hit the ball into the court” because as they say in NLP circles your sub-Conscious Mind does not hear the “not.” It just hears “I am going to try …” and hopefully you know trying doesn’t work very well.
The other thing you can do if you find yourself “thinking too much” is to occupy your mind by watching a ball and listen to your breathing in between points. You should be doing this anyway and this should sound familiar as it is one of the Core Principles. When you do this it will keep you in the “here and now” and it will be harder for “other thoughts” to intrude.
Here is your assignment should you choose to accept it. For the next week, pay attention to your thoughts when you play your matches, especially as the match gets close to the end and change any unproductive thoughts you might have. Your goal is to have enough awareness to change at least one. Once you do that, it will be easier to do it anytime one of these pesky thoughts intrude.