Friday, 5 December 2014

Want to feel invincible? You need to set the right tone

I recently worked with a tennis player who had become interested in the use of affirmations after reading that her hero Serena Williams used them for her preparations. From a young age Serena’s father would write motivating messages on large pieces of paper for her and Venus which he would hang up around the court where they were practising. Words and phrases such as “Believe” or “You are a winner” would adorn the courtside and would become mantras that they would repeat to themselves to get themselves in the right mindset to perform.

My client told me she had come up with some affirmations of her own but found they didn't really inspire her very much. I asked her to give me an example of one of these affirmations and she proceeded to mumble, in a totally uncommitted (and slightly embarrassed) monotone, the words “I am invincible”.  For a moment I glanced at her fingers to see if she had crossed them for good luck, such was the lack of resolution in her voice. I then asked her how “invincible” she was feeling after stating the affirmation and she admitted that she wasn't feeling it at all.  

This was unsurprising to me as words, on their own, aren't particularly effective for instilling emotions in us. For an affirmation to be effective they need to be stated with the appropriate tone of voice. It doesn't matter whether that is the voice you speak with or whether it is the voice in your head.  For example, if you were to imagine the words “I am invincible” being stated by Mickey Mouse or Homer Simpson (go on give it a try!), can you really take it seriously? Now try it using the voice of Darth Vader (the fabulous voice of actor James Earl Justice) and notice how differently you feel about the phrase now.  

An invincible affirmation requires an invincible tone of voice. If you also add to that the appropriate body language, you will find it difficult to feel anything but invincible.

Andy Barton
Performance coach