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MESSAGE #1652 HANGING WITH A GOLD MEDALIST…

Earlier today I spent some time with Heather O’Reilly, US Women’s Soccer player and gold medalist. We chatted about the mental game in soccer and I was impressed at how strong O’Reilly’s mental game was.

I asked O’Reilly if she ever had negative thoughts pop up in her head when competing. Her response?

“Of course!”

Everyone has negative thoughts sometimes, but the greatest athletes in the world have a different relationship to their thinking.

When Heather has a negative thought, she doesn’t make a big deal out of it. In fact, it just passes on by and she focuses on the next play.

This is powerful because when we ignore a negative thought, it disappears pretty quickly and our mind naturally clears so we have access to our intuition, wisdom, confidence, energy and peak performance. In other words, we don’t have to believe a negative thought.

If you can remember a time when you were in the “zone,” you probably had very little thinking and the thinking you did have just came and went. On the other hand, when you were in a slump, your head was probably flooded with thoughts like…

“I stink today!”

“What’s wrong with me?!?”

“Why do I keep missing that shot?”

“What will people think if I lose?”

Those thoughts have no power unless we believe them. If we believe them, we allow them to grow and they get bigger and stronger and before we know it, they take over our bodies and minds and we get stuck.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Now, you don’t have to have the experience or soccer skills of a Heather O’Reilly, but you can almost instantly have the mindset of Heather by understanding that negative thoughts are part of the game and it is always our choice whether we feed them, or let them come and go.

I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to leave your comments below. Thanks for reading.

For a free 10-minute mental game consultation, email: ed@edtseng.com.

MESSAGE #1651 THE THINKER

Today would have been artist, Auguste Rodin’s 172nd birthday. In 1902, Rodin created one of his most famous statues, “The Thinker” (above). In fact, if you look on Google’s homepage today, you can see a sketch of Rodin’s sculpture.

I know what you’re thinking, “What does that have to do with peak performance?”

My answer? Everything.

One of my influences, the late Sydney Banks once said, “The most important thing to remember is it’s not what you think – it’s the fact THAT you think.”

It took me a while to understand exactly what this quote meant, but I think I finally got it.

To me, Banks was saying, it doesn’t matter what our thoughts are because thoughts are neutral. It’s our thoughts about our thoughts that make them positive or negative. (Didn’t Shakespeare say something similar?). When we don’t concern ourselves with the content of our thoughts, they don’t last long. Therefore, we needn’t worry about negative thoughts because all thoughts are fleeting. (Can you remember the last five thoughts you had? I know I can’t).

“It’s the fact THAT you think” is a very powerful statement. I believe the power of thought is the most important thing in the whole world. Thought can create extreme confidence and thought can create complete doubt. Thought creates feelings and thought creates behavior. Don’t believe me? Can you recall the last time you had doubtful thoughts? What was your energy level? Most likely low. What did your body language look like? Most likely poor. You were simply feeling your thinking in that moment.

When you know that you are the “thinker,” you are the artist of your own life, and not affected by circumstances, situations, other people, or who got elected President. You can paint any picture you want and that picture will be your reality (in that moment).

In short…

Thought creates our world…not the other way around.

We are the thinker, and we feel our thinking.

Happy Birthday, Auguste Rodin.

MESSAGE #1650 SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL

Today’s message is especially dedicated to the great Mark J. Larose in Clinton, New Jersey.

As athletes, coaches, students, parents and humans, we often get “stuck” in a situation we don’t like, e.g., a difficult competition, test, a difficult child, or natural disaster. As a result, many of us suffer. And our performance/state of mind suffers.

Or so we think.

The truth is, no competition, test, child, or natural disaster can make us suffer. There is only one thing that can make us suffer, and that is our own thoughts. Sad thoughts create sad feelings. Grateful thoughts create grateful feelings. If you have a garden and you plant strawberry seeds, you will get strawberries. If you plant raspberry seeds, you will get raspberries. You can’t get strawberries from raspberry seeds. Your well-being is the same way: you can’t get grateful feelings from sad thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have sad thoughts. What I am saying is that it is your choice whether you stay with sad thoughts or just let them pass.

In life, most of us think that something, someone, or some situation makes us feel a certain way. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If something outside of us truly could affect our feelings, then everyone would have the same reaction to the same situation.

Recently, here on the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy caused some major damage and many people were suffering, sad, frustrated and angry. But not everyone. Some people were extremely grateful for what they have in life. Others were inspired to help friends, family, neighbors, and strangers who didn’t have power, heat or homes. We all have separate realities, meaning we all see things differently. Therefore, it is not the “outside” that creates our happiness or sorrow, it is the “inside” that creates it. And that “inside” is our thoughts.

Recently, my good friend, Mark J. Larose posted on Facebook, “OK..I know there is much suffering going on…at different levels for many people. So, post here…Tell me something you are Thankful for Today. Anything. For me, I thankful that my friends are safe. Some are cold, and without power, but they weren’t hurt.”

I responded with:

I am thankful for knowing no matter what happens in life, we can all CHOOSE how we look at the situation or our circumstances. Many people are angry at “Sandy” for doing so much damage. Part of me is grateful for “Sandy” because she/he was a reminder that like a hurricane, we could have disaster happening all around us, but we (the eye of the hurricane) can still be calm and at peace. The eye of the hurricane has no clouds and blue skies can be seen from it. To me, life is not about what happens to us, but what we THINK about what happens to us.

I admit, at times during this past week I have felt sad, angry, and frustrated, but I know they were coming from my own thinking. And I know that it is normal. When I recognize that I am just thinking sad, angry, and frustrating thoughts, and I don’t need to keep thinking about them, my mood naturally rises. It’s that simple.

Having said that, I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and sound. I know some of you have lost personal items, had damage, and have been evacuated from your homes, but please remember, situations are inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Please feel free to contact me if you should need any assistance, a charging station, or a hot shower.

With love and gratitude,
Ed

MESSAGE #1648 ARE YOU RUNNING AWAY?

I have a client and friend I’ll call George. When I met George, he was depressed for many years. During our first conversation, he had an insight and understood how the human experience and mind worked. He realized that he was creating his own suffering for all those years via his own thoughts. His depression has disappeared and hasn’t shown up since. Recently, George and I were talking about how our thoughts create our experience in the moment. I said that you could be on a beautiful island sitting on the beach, but if your thoughts are stressed and filled with concerns back home, your experience will be unpleasant. I also told George that there are people in prison who feel more free than when they were not incarcerated.

George was silent for a moment and said, “That reminds me of when I was depressed…I was in Hawaii, looking out at the ocean, and all of a sudden, anxious thoughts came over me and I was miserable.” He went on to say, “Also, during that time, I moved to Florida, thinking that perhaps moving to paradise would make me feel better. It didn’t. I now know that it was my thoughts that were creating my suffering, not my situation. It was like the Bob Marley song, ‘You’re running away…but you can’t run away from yourself.’ ” I said, “Exactly! It’s like running away from your own shadow.” Thoughts and feelings are directly related.

Our experience of life comes 100% from our own thoughts. Our experience does not come from anything outside of us. It is impossible for you to have a stressful thought and feel happy. It is also impossible for you to have a happy thought and feel stressed. It’s a principle, like gravity: What goes up, must come down. What we think, we feel.

I had never heard the Bob Marley song George was referring to, but “Googled” it. It is now my new favorite song. Below are the lyrics and video on Youtube. Enjoy!

You’re running and you’re running
And you’re running away.
You’re running and you’re running
And you’re running away.
You’re running and you’re running
And you’re running away.
You’re running and you’re running,
But you can’t run away from yourself.
-“Running Away” by Bob Marley

MESSAGE #1646 THE ZONE

Everyone wants to perform in the zone, or in flow, but to nearly everyone, it is an “X-factor” because it is elusive, a mystery and people don’t know HOW to be in the zone consistently.

To me, the zone is our natural state. It is a state of no thought (at least we don’t realize we are thinking) and a clear mind. Or as my friend, Garret Kramer calls it, “Stillpower,” which is also the name of his great book. It’s the opposite of “will power” i.e., trying, grinding or pushing through. The zone is a state of ease and freedom and a place where we have access to all of our instincts, wisdom and well-being.

Now let’s talk about what the zone is not, or in other words, a losing streak or slump.

I was once talking to a top baseball prospect in the clubhouse before a game and he confided in me that earlier that season he was in a big slump. During that slump, he tried fixing his grip. He tried fixing his stance. And he tried fixing his swing.

Nothing worked.

Then one day, he just said to himself, “You know what? Screw it.” He stopped “trying” to fix his game.

Well, that same night he broke out of his slump.

He went back to just playing, instead of fighting the slump or trying to fix things.

When we take a step back and let our minds naturally clear, we have access to everything we need. And we have access to our natural state…the zone.

Thanks for reading.

For a free 10-minute consultation, email: ed@edtseng.com.

MESSAGE #1645 ANDY’S DREAMING

I just read an interesting article on Yahoo! Sports by Martin Rogers about how Andy Murray is having “bizarre dreams” and is thinking about seeking a sport psychologist to work with. You can read the article HERE.

While reading the article, I had many insights about how Andy is heading down the wrong road, and actually wrote to Mr. Rogers. Here’s what I said…

Hi Martin, I am a mental performance coach and I just read your interesting article regarding Andy Murray and his “bizarre dreams.” I thought you might find my two cents (five cents) interesting.

#1 Murray is taking his dreams too seriously. Dreams are not reality, they are merely random thoughts when you are sleeping and if you don’t take them seriously, they have no power over you. Do people take guns and wear bullet-proof vests to watch action movies?!? Of course not, because they know it’s not real. Neither are dreams. The problem is, feelings actually “feel” like reality, but when people don’t see that it’s just coming from their own made up thinking, they start heading down the wrong road and try to change the situation.


#2 In your article, Murray said, “I’m staying in a quieter hotel than usual this time and trying to make sure I don’t spend too much time around the courts.” This is a red flag to me because a quieter hotel and being around the courts has nothing to do with an athlete’s state of mind. Focusing on external factors is an outside-in approach and that hurts performance and mental resilience. The mental game is internal, or an inside-out understanding so trying to change external factors is like trying to make the tail wag the dog…it doesn’t work.


#3 It worries me that Andy’s mother and Ivan Lendl are taking Andy’s dreams seriously as well. And talking to a sport psychologist will not help because sport psychologists use an outside-in approach, which include techniques, rituals and routines that lead athletes in the wrong direction. These techniques will only create more thinking in Murray’s head and as all athletes and coaches know, increased thinking during competition equates to decreased performance. The zone, or flow is a state of no thought, so it makes no sense to me why someone would want to consciously increase the amount of thought. Yogi Berra said, “You can’t think and hit at the same time; a full mind is an empty bat.” A full mind is also an empty racquet.


#4 Murray is on “an emotional rollercoaster at the time when he should be resting.” Athletes (and all humans) will be on emotional roller coasters during the course of their day, but as long as they understand that this is normal and it’s going to happen, they don’t have to take them so seriously. As a by-product, the roller coaster ride doesn’t last as long. Pete Sampras has admitted to constantly being on an emotional roller coaster during a match, but the difference is in Sampras’ relationship to his emotions. When asked, how he still was able to perform despite the fluctuations in feelings, Sampras responded, “I know that it’s just part of being a tennis player and those feelings don’t concern me.” Same situation, different thoughts about the situation.


#5 You wrote, “If the dreams threaten to turn from an amusing talking point and into a problem, the coach will be certain to take swift action.” It seems to me they are already turning into a problem if they are considering getting help. I would bet that whoever Murray decides to work with will use techniques, routines and/or rituals to try to “fix” Murray’s mental game. Well, guess what? He’s not broken! Nobody is. But sometimes we get in our own way but don’t realize it’s coming from us. It would be as if I made a scary face in the mirror and actually got scared. If people can truly understand how their minds work, they will be able to consistently perform at a high level. Unfortunately, this understanding is the only thing that will help Andy take his game to the next level and help him get over his “bizarre dreams.”


“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” -FDR


I’d love to hear your thoughts.

MESSAGE #1644 THINK LIKE THE PROS

My friend used to coach the great Pete Sampras. One day he was training with Pistol Pete, getting him ready for his clay court season…his least favorite surface. Well, my friend proceeded to beat Sampras in three groundstroke games in a row, and as they were getting some water, he thought, “I just beat Pete Sampras three games in a row. He must feel terrible losing to his coach. What could I say to him to make him feel better?”

Before he could think of something to say, Sampras walked up to him and said, “That was GREAT! I really feel like I’m ready for the clay court season!”

Shocked, my friend thought, “What?!? How could he feel great after losing to a coach? That’s not normal.”

In a way, great athletes are not normal.

To me, what set Pete Sampras apart from everyone else was what was going on between his ears…his thoughts. He didn’t lose confidence when he lost. He gained confidence because he focused on the process and looked at his training as preparation, not a blow to his ego. Did he ever have negative thoughts? Of course he did.

We all have negative thoughts.

But Pete Sampras didn’t concern himself with his thoughts. He saw the game differently. Was the game actually different? No, only in his mind.

We all have the free will to look at any situation in any way that we choose. It’s not our situation or circumstances that affect our feelings, it’s our thoughts. 100 percent of the time.

The next time you find yourself in a “negative” situation, see if you can see it differently. See if you can see it like Pete Sampras.

Thanks for reading.

MESSAGE #1642 YOU CAN STILL DO YOUR BEST WHEN YOU FEEL YOUR WORST

Recently I was chatting with a professional baseball player before his game. This player was as physically fit as an athlete could be, but he knew the most important aspect of the game was on the 6-inch field between his ears. I asked him if he ever got nervous during a game and he responded, “I sure do.” I then asked him where he thought those feelings of nervousness came from. He looked at me blankly.

Most people think that feelings of nervousness come from the opposing team, the crowd noise, letting your teammates down, the umpires, etc. Or from an unknown place.

The truth is that nervousness comes from one place and one place only…

Your thoughts.

Every athlete gets nervous.

Every human gets nervous.

The key is not to get rid of the nervousness. The key is to understand where that nervousness comes from, and when you see it as thought, it doesn’t seem so intimidating. When you see it as coming from outside of you, it could be overwhelming.

So how can you do your best when you feel your worst?

Just understand that a feeling is just a feeling and you don’t have to take them so seriously. You can feel nervous and not concern yourself with that feeling and still kick some major butt.

A baseball game (and life) is like a roller coaster–you will have highs and lows. When you realize that the roller coaster is inside your own head, and it is normal, you can enjoy the ride.

Physical skills take a while to develop, but you can be just like the greatest athletes in the world overnight by having the same mindset and attitude as them.

Thanks for reading.

Ed Tseng
Peak Performance Coach
Author of “Game. Set. Life. – Peak Performance for Sports and Life”
Keynote Speaker
609.558.1077
ed@edtseng.com