Creating a Mental Skills Plan Part 3

5 Ways to Work With Our Thoughts

In part 1 we talked about the elements of our experience that we can train, Body, Skills and Mind. In part 2 we looked at what happens to thoughts and how they turn into thinking, and the 4 things we can always be in control of our Thoughts (after the often initial automatic thought), our Actions, our Attitude, and our Effort.

In part 3 we are going to continue looking at building a mental skills training plan by working with 5 ways that we can practice training our thought patterns.

If you’re invested in wanting to adapt your inner dialogue as part of your mental skills training, below are some things you can begin to do straight away, with continued practice they can be very effective.

  1. Label your emotions and thinking

This is a skill. We can’t train what we don’t know is there. Raise awareness as often as possible by giving your thoughts and emotions a name “there’s the inner critic” “there’s doubt”. The simple act of labelling allows processing to happen in a different way and minimises the chance that isolated thoughts turn into stories and thinking unconsciously. This technique is called affect labelling and comes from the scientific research by MD. Lieberman, take a closer look here.

  1. Start a (performance) journal.

Give yourself a chance to regularly ‘check in’ and write unedited, a stream of consciousness about what is in the mind either connected to performance or daily life. We can start to notice the thoughts that are working for us and those that are not.

  1. Take responsibility and shake up the narrative.

The negative bias of the mind isn’t our ‘fault’ it’s connected to the evolutionary psychology of looking out for threat. However it is our responsibility to intervene when we see that the negative stories are limiting our potential and wellbeing. We can’t just tell ourselves ‘I’m great, fantastic, the best!’ that has limited sustainability. You need to do purposeful/often out of comfort zone actions you think are important (start small). That way you start to trust yourself that what you’re saying to yourself is true, not just empty words, because you’ve built up a bank of experiences that say so too.

  1. Practice Mindfulness.

You probably know the large range of benefits of practicing mindfulness but there are some less well known features. Getting caught in thinking loops is much easier to notice when you give yourself space to notice. One of the wonderful benefits of mindfulness is learning to place attention at will, and that includes redirecting attention away from thinking that isn’t serving us. The Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice at the University of Bangor has wonderful free recordings for you to use.

  1. Be patient with yourself.

When we start to raise awareness and notice our thought patterns, we don’t always like what we see. This raising of awareness isn’t easy but an important part of the training in training our mental skills. You may well have had some thought patterns and inaccurate stories about yourself and your skills for a while, it takes time to retrain the mind to have a new default way of thinking. Offering ourselves self-compassion can help with the process of learning to be patient with this work.

Once again, thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know how you get on. If you need further support with this work or where to take it next, contact me on

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