I can do better

I can do betterHenry Ford, the great American Pioneer, once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  As it turns out, a recent scientific study involving more than 44,000 people seems to back this quote up.

The study, which you can read here if you’re into scientific research, attempted to determine which sort of motivational techniques improved the performance of people playing an online video game.

Yes, I know… I also wish they would have chosen something other than a video game… but, even still, the results were quite interesting.

They learned that the greatest improvement came when people simply thought to themselves, “I can do better” or “I can react quicker” or when the people imagined themselves playing the game and beating their best score.

The study also found that watching a short motivational video, featuring four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Johnson, also improved performance.

So what can we learn from this sort of study and, more importantly, how can it relate to our spiritual and physical lives? I’d like to propose a few ideas.

Believe in Yourself

First of all this study validates something I’ve always believed and have done my best to preach to myself and to my family, especially my kids… namely that if you don’t believe in yourself you’re almost certainly going to fail.

Perhaps you have a goal to pray a certain amount each day even though you’ve never done it before. In this case, the best thing you can do is believe you’ll make it happen by creating a plan of action (along with some back-up plans in case the first plan falls through) and then being intentional about sticking to that plan.  Just don’t second guess your ability to make it happen before even attempting it!

I’ve always challenged my kids to believe they can do well in any area of their life. Whether it’s performing well in an athletic endeavor, or taking the big test, or even serving during Mass I’ve always asked them to believe they’ll do well (assuming they’ve put the work in of course… but more on this later).

Visualize Success

Next, when these video game players visualized themselves beating their best score their performance almost always improved.

So the next time you’re anxious about that big presentation, or that strict pull-up you’ve desperately been trying to get, or even doing one of the readings in front of your massive parish… take some time to visualize things going well. And I truly mean visualize it. Visualize what you’ll see, hear, and feel while performing the task… then visualize how you’ll feel and handle the situation once things go as planned.

Even better… the next time you’re spending some quality time with our Lord ask Him to help you with this visualization process. After all, He’s always with each of us… so who could be better to ask for help? I also believe it’s prudent to ask for the grace and courage to handle any potential adversity if that’s ultimately what you experience.  In other words, let His will be done… not ours!

Parati Semper

Finally, while believing in yourself and visualizing success are indeed excellent things to do… it goes without saying that lasting success only comes when opportunity meets preparation.

So, to be sure, I don’t want anyone to think they can “believe” or “visualize” their way to success without putting in the hard work success of any kind almost always requires. This is one of the many reasons I love the Troops of St. George motto, “Parati Semper” which means to be prepared always.

But, when do put the work in, and believe in ourselves, while taking the time visualize success ahead of time there aren’t many things we can’t accomplish… especially when we ask our Lord and our Lady to assist us along the way!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Update

I wanted to follow this original post with a quick update… today I attempted handstand push-ups for the first time.  Well, I’ve attempted them before since my girls do them all the time. But I was always too overweight and weak to hold myself up.

So this morning, during a CrossFit class at a local box, I gave them another try.  I was nervous since I had no idea if I could do it.  My coach for this session made it look so easy (like our own Mike Short does).

So I gave it a try and sort of flipped myself up against the wall only to lose my balance and fall right back down.  I then thought about this article I penned a few days earlier.  I told myself I could do it.  I then closed my eyes and literally saw myself doing it.  I imagined I was watching a video of myself on my iPhone.

After this few seconds of mental preparation – and few more tips on hand placement from my coach – I went for it and nailed it.

Now, was my form perfect?  No.  But I am really close and full of confidence that with more intentional practice I’ll be popping these bad boys off with ease.

The lesson?  Don’t ever underestimate yourself!