Don’t Think Of A Monkey

JKLTip In achieving goals, build a strong knowledge for your craft, practice and think about what you want to achieve, not what could go wrong
Poster, Monkey

Easier said than done, but try not to picture a monkey. This is easier said than done because our minds can’t process the abstract “don’t” but attach strongly to the easily envisioned concept of a monkey. This is the same way we focus on unnecessary evils when it comes to goals.

When it comes to accomplishing goals, big or small, it can help to keep this golf analogy in mind. I often say that a tremendous example of living our best life is the psychology of golf. Golf and life are pretty much one and the same. If you want to be successful in life, business, mental health, goals, then you do not need to look further than golf psychology.

Fear and Goals

When it comes to goals we often stall as a result of fear. We can demonstrate this default of humans to become focused on fear by the example “don’t think of a monkey.” What is the first thing you think about if I say to you “don’t think of a monkey”?

When it comes to any goal in life we can be subconsciously attracted to the exact things we fear. When it comes to golf for me it tends to be “don’t hit it in the forest”; for others, it may be “don’t hit it in the water”; “sand”; or all of the above. That little word “don’t” simply doesn’t register in our primitive action brains.

This is similar to the things we do not want but manage to attract when it comes to any goal.

Another Example

Let’s round this example out by adding something like public speaking to the mix. The reason so many people struggle with public speaking is the same reason so many hit golf balls into hazards.

Think of the classic Jerry Seinfeld bit:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Yes, public speaking can be scary, but why do people struggle with it so much?

Similar to golf when we think “don’t” do something, that is oftentimes exactly what we do. This might be don’t say “umm”; don’t stare at the sky; don’t wave your hands too much; or don’t worry what the crowd is thinking.

Just like with golf, in public speaking our “don’ts” simply become things we become subconsciously over aware of and attracted to.

Portrait of a Monkey
What’s The Cure?

Often times upon realizing this struggle people will attempt to ignore their thoughts, but this doesn’t work either. The mind needs to think of something. Therefore, the trick is to focus your thinking. This can look different for everyone, but essentially you do something, anything to bring your focus to a non-abstract, positive goal.

So, there are two parts to the approach we can take. Each part is a little bit different but equally valuable.

Part One:

In micro events, while competing, working under pressure to achieve your goals, you have to stay in the moment. This can be done by focusing on a simple, short term, specific, and present goal. To use the golf example you could focus on a mantra in your head, a visualization of the shot shape, or an exact point on the ball to contact. As for public speaking, focus on consistent deep breathes, the overall thesis you are trying to prove, or visuals that remind you of things you want to recall.

Part Two:

In the macro, when not specifically performing it is important to use your mind for positive thoughts. The manifestation of your goal will come by being on the frequency that allows you to work hard without caring what anyone else thinks. Throughout the big picture of goal achievement, it is valuable to focus on the process and engage in activities that lower stress, improve breathing and mindfulness. Every now and again review your goals and accomplishments to date, but for the most part use the saying “no past, no future”.

All people who achieve their goals have one thing in common. They have strong knowledge for their work, they have plenty of practice and a burning desire to focus on what matters most. When we use our “don’t” mindset we are stuck focusing on the petty, trivial things that we need not worry about. Ignore the metaphorical forests, lakes, and hazards, take your best shot and repeat.

Thanks for reading and sharing.
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mindset, sportspsychology

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