Affirmations and self-talking your way to succeed

JawadBhatti leader

You may well have recognised that while we train our bodies, we should also focus on the mind. All top sportspeople around the world have sports psychologists working with them, trying to exact marginal gains and to be in the best mental shape in every way. By following this series of articles, you can too!

Having a better understanding of your mindset will help you in all that you do, and not just your athletics.

Future articles will cover: Elite Athletes Psychological Profile, Goals (to finish/win/time), Getting in The Zone and Managing Anxiety. 

 “Affirmations and self-talk” 

“Evidence is conclusive that your self-talk has a direct bearing on your performance”.

Zig Ziglar 

By now, we will have realised that our mind works in such a way that our internal picture (self-image), always comes true…We behave to stereotype! Our Sub-Conscious is responsible for all our automatic behaviour. Our automatic behaviour falls into two categories, natural and learned.

The natural includes…breathing…blinking…heartbeat etc.

The learned includes…reading…numeracy…writing etc.

Ask yourself how we learn? It is repetition…repetition…repetition! 

I could have added “fear of failure” to the list of learned…It is not something that we are born with…It’s something that we develop over time…Our perceptions of reality and not the truth.

All humans have a three-dimensional thought process. The words that we use create pictures in our mind, which generates our feelings and emotions! The diagram below shows how our self-talk works. 

We have 70,000 thoughts each day. We interpret based on our perceptions of the world and ourselves, this in turn drives our performance behaviour…It becomes a 360o circle!

We have to change the way we view things, for lasting change.  Our self-talk must be optimistic, so that words we use create pictures in our minds, that drive positive “feelings & emotions”. 


To make lasting change, we need to create “Affirmations”. These can also be linked to Goals, which is in the next article. 

Affirmations are quite simply, powerful statements that are about a change of behaviour/performance that we want and plan to see happen. They are descriptive (fires the imagination), and written in the present tense, as if we were there in the moment right now.

Affirmations repeated mentally and twice each day for thirty days, will then become ingrained in our sub-conscious, to create lasting change.

The late great Muhammad Ali repeated to himself 70 times each day and from the age of seven…

” I am the greatest”

The rest is history! Incidentally, when asked what he would have been, had he not been the boxing world champion, he answered

”Probably a road sweeper, but the best in the world”!


Below is an example of an affirmation that was created with an athlete that I was working with, and who had a significant time landmark that she wanted to achieve in the Dublin Marathon.

To help her visualize the success, we also created an actual picture of her crossing the finish line with the race clock showing her finish time.  A powerful mental image…The picture was on her desk!

Remember what and why we are trying to achieve:

AFFIRMATIONS(words), are used to generate VISUALISATION (pictures), which then trigger IMAGES (feelings and emotions) which build our NEW & IMPROVED SELF IMAGE…driving new BEHAVIOURS/PERFORMANCE.


The Affirmation…

I am finishing the Dublin Marathon

I am feeling fantastic

The crowds are lined along the street and cheering wildly

I look into the crowd and see my husband…I am elated

I look at the race clock…Its showing 3 hours 40 minutes

I am comfortably inside my target time…This is awesome

I feel so excited

I cross the finish line and punch the air

This is absolutely fantastic

I feel so proud of myself


Powerful statements written in the present tense to excite the mind. Remember, the sub-conscious does not differentiate between fact or fiction; simply what we tell it!

With the affirmation and image stored in our mind, we can also use it as a video clip, to play at any time. Change your thinking; change your performance! 

Always remember...You CAN! The difference between “Good and Great” is all in the mind.

The next article will talk about Goals (to finish/win/time).

“Don't be a VICTIM of negative self-talk…Remember YOU are listening”.

Bob Proctor 


Other articles from Nick Bishop include:

A positive mental attitude                                 You can read it here.

Conditioning of behaviour                                 You can read more here.

The conscious and sub-conscious mind.          You can read more here.


Readers may be interested in the following for further reading: 

Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Matthew Syed 

Self Talk: How to Train Your Brain to Turn  Negative Thinking into Positive Thinking & Practice Self Love by Aston Sanderson 

The Complete Guide to Sport Motivation by Ken Hodge 

Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Matthew Syed 

Self Talk: How to Train Your Brain to Turn Negative Thinking into Positive Thinking & Practice Self Love by Aston Sanderson 

The Complete Guide to Sport Motivation (Complete Guides) by Ken Hodge