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Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Power of Negative Thinking

Walk into any bookshop (showing my age here, I mean browse on your e-reader) and you will see the shelves are full of self help books touting the power of Positive Thinking.  Books like The Secret tout that if you focus only on positive things and positive thoughts then only positive things will come your way.

As a side note it is interesting that 90% of people who buy a self help book will buy ANOTHER self help book within 12 months.  If they worked so well why do people have to buy another one..

Let's not confuse positive thinking with being positive.  Positive thinking is roughly classified as ONLY focusing on the positive outcomes and not being distracted by the negatives.

Bad Idea.

Consider this.  A rumour goes round your work place that they are about to lay off people.  Your co-worker insists on being positive, on believing it wont happen to them and going about their day.  You look at the negative - what would happen if YOU got laid off.  You think about your skills and how you could get another job, you think about your finances and how you could live, you think about a career change (did you really like that job anyway).  Both of you get retrenched.

The positive person is in a tail spin - their belief is shattered and they have no idea what to do next.  You simply shrug your shoulders and go about executing all those things you had thought of.

So what has this got to do with racing.

I hear a lot of people say "I'm just going to be positive and not think about cramping, I'm just going to think positive and not think about getting a puncture".  An athlete came to me the other day who had a history of cramping and told me he was going to be positive and that he was not going to cramp.  I told him "You are going to cramp".  He looked at me shocked and I asked if he does cramp what does he do.  He thought and then mentioned ideas like shortening his stride, stopping for 15 seconds to stretch, carrying some magnesium.

Now when he races and (as I suspect from his training and race plan) DOESNT cramp he has a great day but if he DOES cramp, no big deal.  He was expecting it and just deals with it.

Chrissie Wellington after setting the Ironman record at Roth said it was her perfect race.  When asked what that meant she said it wasnt that she didnt feel pain or discomfort but that she managed the pain and discomfort perfectly.

Many of the extremely successful people in business, sport, the arts etc are not Optimists or Positive Thinkers but are what are termed Eventualists.  Rather than saying if I do X really well I can make a million dollars they say "What if I fail - what will I lose - is that acceptable - yes - go for it"

One of the best examples of an Eventualist was the scientist who tried to create a new kind of glue but found it didnt bond very well.  His name was Arthur Fry - the inventor of Post It Notes.

Rather than being a positive thinker and then be shocked and (worse) under prepared for a bad outcome maybe practise the power of Negative Thinking - make a list of what could go wrong in an event, come up with a plan for those situations and you may be amazed just how relaxed you feel in your next event.

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