Positive thinking Back up to relaxation page
On this page:
What's positive thinking?
Why positive thinking matters
Turning negatives to positives
Positive behaviour
  What's positive thinking? Top of page

A long time ago, I was shooting in a (wet) competition between two quite well-known English universities, when one of their mob shot a 48 end at the longest distance. We were scoring English style (9,7,5,3,1), so 48 is pretty good, even in decent weather. Very good, by the University standards of the time (the ratfink beat any end I'd shot that day, for sure!). But that end had a 3 in it. Nice, solid Black at twelve o'clock, if I recall.
My word, we talked about that 3. Who wouldn't? What a mess-up! If he hadn't shot that, he could have had a perfect 54 end.... hang on a minute. Are we saying he shot FIVE GOLDS at the longest distance and everybody talked about the 3??

This is negative thinking. We do that, don't we? Nearly all the emotion you see on the shooting line is about the naff shots. Emotion enhances recall, so people recall trying as well as they could, and getting bad results. Bad enough in retrospect; but it's worse in the future. How much time do we spend on what can go wrong? And how often does it stop us trying?

Positive thinking, on the other hand, is just the converse of negative thinking. If we'd looked at the five golds and talked about them, that woud be positive. If, instead of looking at obstacles as barriers, we looked at them as problems to solve, we'd be thinking positively. If we thought, "I shot 127 good arrows today" as well as "I shot 17 bad arrows", we might have a better balanced view of our shooting. This page, then, is about changing the way you look at things, and in turn, the way you act on your perception.

 Why it matters Top of page

Your view of yourself changes your performance, according to at least one sports psych (S J Bull) who sees it like this:

I'm not sure exactly how you measure these things, or whether they are necessarily linked so simply. But the relevance to this topic is easy; a positive self-image is beneficial.

Now I don't actually think you can generate a fake positive image, or at least I don't believe it would be useful in the long term to do so. So I don't think "positive thinking" is about fooling yourself. But I do believe that sports people often spend too much time running down their own performance, which generates a misleadingly poor self-image. And the result is not good - especially in direct competition. "Positive thinking" is, in part, a way of restoring the balanced view you should have, and in part, to do with choosing behaviour that gets you improving, instead of giving up.


 Realistic goals set a track record of success Top of page

Realistic goals mean achievable goals. Achievable goals mean frequent achievement.

What you get out of this is a track record of achieved goals. You may not be confident of winning against the current world champion, but you will be confident of your own ability. That means that you can go to a competition and say, quite honestly, "I usually achieve the goals I set". Of course, when you've trained to the point where you're in a position to set a realistic goal that goes "I will beat the world champion", you can go along there and believe in it.

 Turning negatives to positives Top of page

There are nearly always at least two ways to look at a situation; positive and negative. Too often, we focus on the negative. To get an accurate view, it is important to be able to switch views - to turn negative assessments into positive assessments.
The easiest way to explain this is to give some examples of positive/negative pairs, so here they are.

 It's going to be hard to get that score...    Let's see how close I can get...
 That's a real challenge
 Damn' judge cost me a whole point on that cutter    So I'll do it despite the judge.
 It'll take MONTHS to get to that level!    So I'd better get started
 If I shoot well, I can do it.    When I shoot well, I can do it.
 I shot 17 really bad shots today  

 I shot 127 sound shots today

 I don't know how well I'll score    I know I'll be trying my best
 I shoot much worse in a wind    It's blowing everyone the same
 I'll get some solid windy weather practice in next time.
 Last time I didn't concentrate well..    Next time I'll focus positively
 If I try, I may lose and look an idiot.  

 So? [No, really. Nobody died of that. And a good try is worth respect.]

 If I lose focus, I'll mess up.    When I keep focus, it goes well
 With their planning and practice, they have a real advantage    When I plan and practice better, I have the real advantage.
 They just added ten to the Record!!!    So the record is breakable!

... and so on. Some consistent things:

Replace an "If..." with a "When..."
Replace "Last time..." with "Next time..."
Replace negative "what if" with positive "what if", or (better) positive action
Replace possible outcomes with definite actions
Replace worries about weakness with positive effort to overcome it

After a while trying this, it becomes second nature to look at both sides of the coin, to seek solutions to problems and not just barriers. If you act on those solutions, more positives turn up.
 Positive behaviour Top of page
Positive thinking is only useful if it generates positive behaviour. Look at how many of those 'negative to positive' things above concern a 'next time', or an action to resolve a problem. This second bit is the key to long term improvement. Some simple rules:
Don't complain - ACT!

If you have a problem, complaining about it won't make it go away. Doing something constructive will.

Action is better than inaction

If you act on a problem, you can break even or improve. If you don't, you can only break even or lose. The balance is with action.

Behave like a champion

It isn't the person inside that counts; it's what they do.
OK, philosophically we could debate that a while. But in practice, it doesn't matter if you feel like a wimp; it doesn't matter how afraid you are of looking silly; and it doesn't matter if you feel ordinary and not particularly deserving. What DOES matter to your shooting is what you actually DO. Maybe not everybody can BE a champion, or feel like a champion, but everybody can behave like one.
Champions - the ones who stay - have a few behaviour patterns in common. They don't stop because of setbacks; they try to find ways round them. They stick - like glue - to their training schedules. They always look to improve (very often by setting higher goals and planning to hit them). They seek information, and make it part of their training. They act like people obsessed with their sport.
Now, in the time you have available for your archery, what's to stop you doing the same?
That can come out in simple things. The difference between "it might rain - I won't practice today" and "it might dry up - I'll go anyway and shoot what I can". "Can I be bothered with the weights this evening" or "Every two days or else!". Or it can be more subtle: "They're ahead - I might as well give up" or "Now's the time to try hardest". Or even more usefully, "He's shooting perfect form - how can I beat that?" against "OK, I'll shoot perfect form just like him" (rumour has it that this is one of McKinney's ways of beating Pace in the '80s.

None of it means you have to change your personality. All you change is what you do. It's easier, and it gets results.

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