Mental Skills Training- The Inner Voice

Inspiration and ideas can truly come from anywhere as long as you are always open-minded.  This weeks blog post is inspired from a book that I never ever thought would apply to coaching.  The book is called “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer. Chapters one and two give an unique perspective on the role of the inner voice and what to do about.  In sport, the inner voice often sabotogaes performances.

We have all heard about thought stopping, reframing, affirmations, and ignoring the inner voice, but those mental skill techniques do not work for everyone.  To get your thoughts to stop you need to be in a meditative state, which most us are not in from moment to moment.

Here are my favourite quotes from the book.

“Notice that the voice takes both sides of the conversation.  It doesn’t care which side it takes, just as long as it gets to keep talking.” p.8

This is important for an athlete to recognize.  In the same inner battle an athlete may have, they can be both good at something AND bad at something.  You cannot be two things at the same time can you?  You cannot be sad and happy.  So, what if the voice is just talking for talking sake?  Think about that for a while.

“You are not the voice of the mind-you are the one who hears it.” p.10

Think about the athlete who struggles with negative self-talk.  If they can objectively hear the voice in their head as just a conversation they are privy to hearing instead of a true statement about  themselves they may have a whole new perspective about their abilities. Hearing the inner voice is like hearing two people on the street talking about something. Just because the people on the street have said it does not make it true. And just because you hear something in your head definitely doesn’t make it any truer.

As you get into chapter two Singer wants you to think about the inner voice as “your inner roommate”.  The author talks about giving your inner voice a body of it’s own and “imagine it as a person talking to you on the outside.” p.19  Try spending a day with that person.

During that day you will be amazed to find “neurotic bursts of conflicting dialogue just keep going on and on.”p.19  In fact if you tried to get the talking to stop it’s pretty hard.  (That’s why people meditate)

Singer talks about the inner voice giving you bad advice that often you follow and keep following time and time again, but if you had spent money to hire a professional to give you advice and they messed up that badly you would fire them on the spot.

“Well, are you going to fire your inner roommate?”After all, its advice and analysis of the situation were totally wrong. No, you never hold it responsible for the trouble it causes.  In fact, the next time it gives advice you’re all ears.  Is that rational? How many times has that voice been wrong about what was going on or what will be going on? Maybe it’s worth noticing whom you’re going to for advice.” p. 21

Next time the inner voice is giving bad advice just fire it.  Hear it, but you definitely do not need to follow it’s advice.  Find someone objective.

This book demands serious contemplation beyond this post.   Please read his words for a proper interpretation.  You only need to read through the first two chapters.  And those chapters will give you a new perspective on coaching your athletes on how to overcome one of the biggest battles they will ever have.  The battle that goes inside their head.

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