Tag Archive for 'Sports Psychology'

Two secret words to win the British Open Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy looked out at a room packed with reporters and knew he was going to disappoint them.

All week, he had talked about two secret words he used as his trigger for the shots he played. Even as he stretched his lead to six shots going into Sunday, he said he would only reveal them if he were to win the British Open.
Rory McIlroy

In the hours before he teed off, the media put one pound ($1.70) in a pot and tried to guess the two words. “Very simple,” McIlroy said, the claret jug at his side. “It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone. It was ‘process’ and ‘spot.’ That was it.”

And the meaning? “With my long shots, I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings,” he said. “The process of making a good swing, if I had any sort of little swing thoughts, just keeping that so I wasn’t thinking about the end result, basically.”

The “spot” was about his putting. “I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about holing it. I wasn’t thinking about what it would mean or how many further clear it would get me. I just wanted to roll that ball over that spot. If that went in, then great. If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole.”

I highlight this because non-champions (1) don’t do this, (2) try to make it more complicated than it is, (3) are not quite sure how ‘this’ works, and (4) don’t educate or inform themselves on how to develop their mental game.

That’s why they aren’t the ones holding the trophies, standing on the podium, accepting the awards, winning the championships.


Success is a lousy teacher…

…It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. This is true in sport as it is in business and life in general.


Turning negative self talk into positive affirmations

Negative self talk is hard to stop, but at least now you have a fun way to stop it!

Sports psychologists have known for decades that the mind can:

  1. Only have one thought at a time and
  2. It cannot focus on the REVERSE of an idea or thought.

What that means if you are a squash player, is that if you say “don’t tin the ball, or don’t choke or don’t boast“, the brain only hears “tin the ball, or choke or boast.”

You need to replace your negative statements with positive affirmation statements, as suggested below.



Negative self talk Positive Affirmation
Damn it! OK, next point.
F$@##$#%#!!! FOCUS!
Idiot /Stupid C’mon, you can do better!
Bad shot Think of the RIGHT shot
Shot is too good Next time I will be ready
Can’t get there I almost got to it
Lucky shot I’m next to get lucky
Bad call (by the ref) The next call will go my way
No let?!?!? Next time I will strike the ball
Stroke?!?!? OK now I know how he’s calling it (the ref)
It was up! I know it was up, the next time he will too!
(Serve called down/out) Focus – this is an EASY error to fix!

Take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward

Goal Setting, Achieving Goals, Set Goals

Take 1 Step Back To Take 2 Steps Forward

I often tell people it’s wise to “take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward”, but it’s rare those who actually follow through. The reason is that the brain operates with what academics call “positive intent“. The brain’s desire to please itself here and now rather than later on. It’s a complex psychological force that is much more powerful and persuasive than you might think.

In squash (or tennis) for example, during a long rally, the brain will feel the fatigue and will attempt to end the point prematurely to get some rest (instant gratification) rather than play out the rally and win the point (delayed reward). It is such a powerful force that it prevents otherwise skillful players from reaching the top of the rankings.

Overcoming this force is much easier said than done.

In business it’s not all that different. Going for the quick sale rather than the long-term market share building initiatives plagues most small businesses.

So what can you do about it?

First, recognise that a change or improvement is necessary.

Second, identify what needs to change and then commit to changing it when it’s most convenient (after a tournament is preferable to doing it just before…)

Third, accept that at first, the 1 step back means you’ll lose more points before you start to win. If you’re not willing to go through that, don’t bother.

“Lose now to win later.”

Again, easier said than done, but well worth the investment and eventual rewards.

BUT and there usually is a but…

But, when you do take the 1 step back, you have to follow through to take the 2 steps forward otherwise you only end up where you were (1 back, 1 forward = zero improvement) with a lot of wasted time and effort.

Therein lies the rub. You either commit or don’t even start.

My recommendation is  you make the investment during your “off season”, in-between tournaments. Give yourself as much time as possible because often, the change will take longer than anticipated.

Just remember that most athletes are not willing to do this, so when you do commit, the rewards will be there for you. Once you’ve had this much needed breakthrough, you’ll be at a whole new level, beyond your current peers.

That’s why you want to do this – to excel and become the best you can become.