If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.

We’ve all heard about the power of positive thinking. A favorite instructional tale for youngsters is “The Little Engine That Could” with his mantra of “I think I can, I think I can…”

The importance of positive self-talk before any challenging performance, be it a sports competition or sales call, cannot be underestimated.  I was inspired by a recent article in the January 2018 AARP Magazine in which athletes were asked to share the best advice they got from a coach. Dorothy Hamill, Olympic gold medalist said, “[My coach] wanted me to stand tall on the ice, to be proud and to literally say my name both before and after a spin…”  Imagine the power of saying your own name right before and after a challenge. You are affirming that YOU are showing up. It’s YOU they want to hear from, and it’s YOU who prepared for days or weeks to meet this challenge.

I’ve coached people for years to say a positive intention out loud before a presentation. This sets up the brain to focus on that intention, but I have a theory that positive intentions work for the same reason that placebos work in medicine.  Understanding exactly how placebos work is still being researched, but scientists confirm that there is an increase in “feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine” when placebos are used.

Here’s the really interesting piece:  Placebos work best when accompanied by the “ritual of treatment.” When people go to the clinic, take a pill, get attention from a professional, etc., the brain recognizes that the body is being cared for and starts to feel better. When YOU go through the ritual of preparing and practicing for a presentation, you “feel” ready because you are ready! Now add to that a dose of positive self-talk. It might be “I’ve prepared and I’m ready.” Or it might be “I got this!” Or it might be your name. But regardless of the mantra you choose, make it powerful and positive. Not “I hope I can” or even, “I think I can” but more of “I know I can.”

Try it, and let me know what happens!