Positive/Directional Self Talk: By Dr. Rachel Hoeft


Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones had a fantastic winter break and holiday season and are getting back into the swing of things with school, work, and athletics. 

As we all prepare to fulfill our resolutions, set goals for ourselves and our children, and be better than the person we were yesterday, I figured now is a great time to provide the entire West-Mont community, athletes and supporters alike, with mental skills to help push through the upcoming challenges and difficulties we may face this year.

Below is my recipe for transforming Negative Self Talk into Directional Self Talk, my favorite tool to teach athletes who are working to overcome mistakes or pushing themselves past their finish lines. You can utilize this method for past, present, and future experiences.

Positive/Directional Self Talk

We are all prone to speaking negatively to ourselves when mistakes are made or challenges seem overwhelming. “You will never be able to do this" or “I can’t believe you messed this up.” 

But would you ever say that to someone else who is looking for help or advice in the face of adversity? No way. Our cheers resemble “You can do anything you put your mind to” and “You’ve overcome tougher challenges— this one is nothing!” 

So, here is my recipe for turning our own unproductive thoughts into something to work with. 

  1. Identify Your Negative Thought. These are typically easy to pick out, because they include words like can’t, don’t, won’t, shouldn’t, bad, awful. You get the picture. It’s not something you’d say to someone else in an effort of cheering them up. 

  1. STOP. This step is more than just stopping the action, it’s literally telling yourself to stop, whether aloud or in your mind. Doing this interrupts your train of thought and prevents you from taking that wild ride that ends with your hopes and dreams in a fiery explosion.

  1. Neutralize the Experience/State the Facts. History is not actually good or bad, positive or negative. It just exists. The emotions we attach to it determine how we view the situation. In this step tell yourself what has or will happen. For example, “I took a shot and I missed” or “I’m going to make a presentation and people will be looking at me.”

  1. Positive/Directional Spin. Using the neutral fact you’ve just outlined, now put a more positive or instructive spin on it the way a coach would. If you’re nervous about your upcoming penalty kick, rather than saying, “Don’t miss” tell yourself what you should do. “Aim low, strike with power.” 

The way we talk to ourselves influences our emotions which impact our confidence. What we focus on and create images of in our mind is most likely what we will reenact when the time comes, so make sure the thoughts and images you’re flooding your mind with are ones of success, of progress, and those that embody kindness to yourself.

If you have any questions on how you or your athlete can apply these techniques, or if you would like custom support, be sure to email me at rhoeftspc@gmail.com for a FREE 30-minute consultation.


Here's to forward progress in 2022!


Dr. Rachel Hoeft
West-Mont’s Official Mental Performance Coach