Yesterday I wrote about how you identify the way you attribute success or failure. It is easier and more effective if done using self-hypnosis as I suggested (I am bound to say that though, right?). Then, once any individual is armed with that information, we are in a position to work out how to best enhance our optimism – and if we can be more optimistic about our performances then this enhances our actual performance, according to the research.

It was Seligman (1990) who took the theories of Albert Ellis, and applied them to his optimism work in order to help sports psychologists apply theory to helping athletes.

For athletes who attribute a variety of pessimistic reasons for the success and failure, Seligman suggested building upon Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy in order to override the falsely pessimistic thought processes and enhance the more optimistic thought processes.

So firstly, as we did yesterday using self-hypnosis, we identify what the approach of the individual athlete is when it comes to how we explain and attribute a cause to our good and bad performances. In therapy, I often do that step using hypnosis for my clients

We look at whether that athlete believes failures are caused by pervasively bad personal attributions and we look at whether their successes are being used to reinforce their belief in their own abilities etc.

On the occasion whereby the athlete is leaning towards being pessimistic, then the following process based upon Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy ABCDE framework provides us with a way to enhance optimism and move towards more successful, progressive thought processes.

This ABCDE framework states that each of us experience Adversity (A) or an Activation (A) of some kind each and every day. This can vary from seemingly small things to deal with, such as a light buld needing replacing, to much bigger, more profound things such as dealing with the loss of someone close to you, or a change of career.

Whether these experiences are major or minor, they get us thinking about the reasons for things occurring which then results in us developing a Belief (B) about the situation, the circumstances, and how we relate ourselves to that situation and occurrence. Now that we have a firmly rooted belief set up inside of our mind, there are now emotional Consequences (C) which result in response to  our belief. If we develop irrational beliefs about life events, then we generate irrational emotions. These are beliefs though, not necessarily the truth and in order to deal with any irrational beliefs, we subsequently Dispute (D) them using disputation methods, and once they are successfully dealt with by disputation and seen as they are, this in turn Energises (E) you.

With all this in mind, let’s apply this to a runner (my main focus as you regular readers know) who is problematically being too pessimistic about his or her performances and move towards being more optimistic and enhance subsequent performance.

– (A) is the Activation that appears to produce C, a Condition or an emotional consequence.

– After a poor time in a race (A) for example, a runner might be disheartened (C) and even think about not running anymore. (C) is the emotional consequence and condition that is created by (B).

– (B) Is the belief, often created in response to (A). Rational Emotive Therapy suggests that it is not actually the poor performance that has caused the runner to be disheartened but (B), the Belief of the athlete.

– If this belief is a negative, pessimistic type of belief, the runner is now shown how to dispute that belief and is encouraged to Dispute (D) the pessimism and negative belief and thereby Energises (E) themselves to move forward to better performances, and energised to change the way they perceive the poor performance.

There are many ways to dispute thoughts and dispute our reasons for pessimistically thinking about our success and failure.

One way is to use a thought form. That is charting the thoughts occurring and noting them down when they occur, noting down how they contribute to the negative belief and then writing down a better thought and belief to have.

Another way is to simply ask empiricism styled questions of the belief – do you have any evidence for this? What proof do you have that this is the case? Or ask other distortion spotting questions; if you have a knowledge of Socratic questioning techniques, these are perfect.

Another way is to run through a process such as the cognition mood process. Another way is to mentally rehearse success. Another way is to develop mindfulness. All of which I have discussed here before and all of which I talk about in depth in my upcoming audio programme for the psychology of marathon running. (Ok, so I am plugging the upcoming programming… but I am excited and proud of the programme that we are releasing late Summer and it’s not as if you pay to read this blog, is it? You’ll allow me some indulgence on my own blog, surely!)

Have a great day and be more optimistic about your performances. Again, it does not have to be about sporting performance, despite that being my own focus here, it can be applied to many other facets of life.