She’s one of just three women in Olympic history to land the triple axel. Here’s what she told herself before the competition — and how you can talk yourself into performing better
Think you can, and you will.
That’s what figure skater Mirai Nagasu did before making history as the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics. Indeed, the 24-year-old U.S. figure skater gave herself a motivational pep-talk before hand, reassuring herself that she would nail it.
“No, girl, you are not going to fall,” Nagasu told reporters of the motivational words she told herself before perfecting the forward-facing jump, making her only the third woman in Olympic history to do it.
Nagasu is poised to return to the ice Tuesday, the first step toward earning individual honors during the ladies’ short program. She’s the second American competitor to take the ice at approximately 10:52 p.m. ET on NBC or via the live stream.
Similarly, before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, figure skater Gracie Gold, who won two national championship titles that same year, told herself confidently: “I’ve come too far not to land this stupid double axel…I’m going to land it with a smile.” She went on to receive a bronze medal in the team event. And outside of the sports world, celebrities have done the same. Supermodel Bella Hadid reassured herself before walking in the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, telling herself simply: “Bella, you got this. You worked hard for this.”
Psychologists say speaking to yourself in a positive, encouraging way before tackling a task at school, work, in the gym or anywhere in between could lead to better performances — and you don’t have to be an Olympian to see successful results.
“Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all directly linked to each other. For example if we’re happy, the way we behave is different than if we’re sad,” says Dr. Jessy Warner-Cohen, a psychologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “If we tell ourselves ‘I’m going to do great,’ we act like someone who is going to do great.”
Research suggests that positive self talk is linked to cognitive, motivational and behavioral effects that are likely to decrease anxiety and improve concentration. One study focusing on competitive adult tennis players during tournament matches found that players performed better after saying positive things to themselves. Separate research, published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, studied students practicing dart throwing and found that those who told themselves “I can do it” performed better than those who didn’t say anything.
What we tell ourselves is important. Using words like “can” and phrases likes “I am prepared” or “I got this” are optimal mantras, experts say. Indeed, words like this can “push us into that positive mindset,” says Polly Campbell, author of “How to Live an Awesome Life,” says.
Even if you feel doubtful, reinforcing positive thoughts like saying “This is something I know I can do,” or the more assertive: “I own this, this is mine,” can also help boost self esteem, Campbell assures.
And if you’re in a more professional setting, where you could use the reassurance before a presentation, meeting or asking for a raise, it’s important to be remind yourself of your worth and what you bring to the table, says Campbell.
“Say things like ‘I’ve done the work’ or ‘I’ve been a great employee’ and repeat it back to yourself,” Campbell adds.
You can take things a step further by keeping your eye on the prize literally — by visualizing yourself achieving the goal or task at hand.
“A runner may vizulize crossing a finish line, or in the workplace you may picture how your meeting will turn out. When you’re more comfortable in a situation or less nervous, you tend to do better overall,” Campbell says.
Of course, telling yourself what you aim to achieve must be within reach. For example, you can’t say something like “I’m going to write a book tomorrow” if you don’t have a single page written.
“Our self talk has to match our past performance,” says Warner-Cohen. “If we try to talk at a height that doesn’t measure up with how we’ve done previously there’s a chance for setting yourself with lesser chance for success. You’re not going to go from a six minute runner to an eight minute runner overnight,” she adds.
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