Understanding “Our Mind” and how it works

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Nick Bishop, in his first article explained how a positive mental attitude is important in performing to the best of our ability. More recently he explained our psycological “Conditioning” of behaviour. 

Over the coming weeks, Nick will develop these articles, to help you to develop a mindset that will help you to really deliver “Peak Performance”.

Future articles will include the topics of:

Elite Athletes Psychological Profile, The T.E.A.R Cycle, Our Mind & Our Self Talk, Affirmations, Goals (to finish/win/time), Getting in The Zone and Managing Anxiety. 

By having a better understanding of your mindset will help you in all that you do, beyond the realm of your sport.

Today, we focusing on “Our Mind”.

“The brain, with its billions of cells, is the most complex object in the known universe”

Joel L Swedlow


Before we can change our thinking for new and improved performance, we have to understand how the mind works. We will always perform based on our views of ourselves. We behave based on our perceptions of reality and not necessarily the truth.

There are two parts to our minds that we have to understand…the Conscious and the Subconscious.

Our Conscious mind is our contact with the outside world. We are in touch through our eyes and ears etc. It does not form an opinion but simply acts as our contact system. Every experience is then stored in our Subconscious. Think of the Subconscious as a filing cabinet. It simply stores all of the experiences that we have captured from the Conscious mind.

We live our lives on our perceptions of reality; how we see and interpret reality.

Look at the image above. It demonstrates our thinking; the Conscious and the Subconscious (the filing cabinet).

  1. We store information in our Subconscious (our filing cabinet), building up OUR picture of reality.
  2. From our Subconscious we evaluate the picture that we are seeing
  3. We then go to the filing cabinet to validate the appropriate behaviour/performance for the situation.
  4. This is then fed back to our Conscious mind to behave accordingly.

What about the taxi-driver? The mind only reacts to our instructions. A taxi driver does not know where we want to go…Only once we tell them. The mind is no different. It takes us to where we tell it…Our perceptions and not the truth. Therefore, we always behave to stereotype. A bad experience/a bad race etc. may cloud our behaviour. 

We have to break the cycle but how?

Neurons are the nerve cells in the brain that transmit our thoughts…It is believed that human beings have over 100 billion nerve cells! The channels that allow our thoughts to flow are called “Dendrites”. In simple terms, we have a channel for our positive thoughts and one for our negative thoughts. Quite simply we have to change the flow…Think of the channels as rivers with fast flowing water. The faster the current, the faster the flow of thought. The channel gets thicker, wider, and stronger.

When we have a negative channel of thoughts and the more we think this way, the faster the current in the negative dendrite. Likewise, the current in our positive dendrite would then slow down. Once we think in a new and improved fashion, the positive dendrite speeds up and becomes stronger, meaning the negative dendrite slows down.

Think of it as someone going to the gym…The more that they work out, the more that they build muscles…Of course once they stop, the muscles start to reduce, and wither away.

This is the importance of aligning our thinking positively. To demonstrate our thought process and to demonstrate the power of the mind.


  • Think of people due a visit to the dentist tomorrow. Think of the people who don’t like going to the dentist. Although its 24 hours away, they are already getting nervous and feeling uneasy…Even though they are not there yet! The Subconscious mind is reminding them that they don’t like the dentist, and already they are exhibiting vivid feelings!  The negative dendrites are flowing fast and strong!
  • How about a person going on a date the following night? Although it is 24 hours away, they are already getting excited about it e.g. butterflies in their stomach, even though they are not on the date yet!

The mind is our master and behaves as we tell it. We act and perform based on our perceptions of reality. We have to change or align our thinking to the positive vision we prefer.

The next article will explain how…Affirmations and Self-Talk!  

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence”.Confucius

Other articles from Nick include:

A positive mental attitude             You can read it here.

Conditioning of behaviour             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