If/When – Adventures in Mental Training | Vlog #260
my vlog from yesterday, talking about my training, and the If/When difference in Mental Training
Recently I’ve been listening to this podcast by former pro-NFL player Niyi Sobo. It’s an excellent mental training resource and I highly recommend you all start listening to it. He approaches the concepts and practices of “mental toughness” in a relate-able and easy to understand way, which makes his methods immediately practical. You can check out his entire podcast library at Sports Motivation Podcast, and the episode I reference in this vlog is #118: How to Prepare for Anything.
Mr. Sobo doesn’t lay out this if/when difference that I’m talking about in the vlog, but what he talks about in terms of preparedness speaks to something I’ve been working on for a long time and when listening to this episode it clicked and the if/when concept appeared very clearly to me. In short, using the word “if” leaves open a wide gap in which the hope of not having to face that challenge can take priority over your actual preparedness for that given possibility. If my broken foot hurts in the fight, I’ll deal with it by doing x, y, or z. In my mind, thinking “if” in this train of thought means that my primary thought is hoping that it won’t hurt, and how I will deal with that pain is actually a “plan b” type scenario. But changing the word “if” to “when” makes me feel more prepared, more sure of how I’ll respond given the challenge of having an injury in the pressure of a fight. When my foot hurts in the fight, I will go southpaw so that using my other leg is more available without me having to think about it so much. It becomes more of a “plan a,” and if it doesn’t hurt in the fight, or if I don’t notice it, then that’s just a huge bonus. Consider it the difference between what you’ll do if Grandma says something racist in front of your dinner guest rather than how you’ll respond when Grandma says something racist in front of your dinner guest. One feels far more like you’ve got a bullet in the chamber, whereas the other is knowing where the shells are kept if you need them.
It’s a small difference that makes a big difference, to me. So that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately and how I’ve been approaching my visualization and mental training, which has become a huge part of my overall training. I had a boxing coach, Ray Valez, in New York who would yell at me for leaning in the corner of the ring between rounds, during water breaks. “Act like you been here before!” He’d yell, meaning I should be moving around and looking confident, like I own that f***ing ring, rather than like a lost kid trying to stay in one spot before someone tells me what to do. If you’ve thought about it, you’ve been there before. So think about it – all of it. One thing that Mr. Sobo says in his podcast that really resonated with me is that “positivity doesn’t work for everybody.” You don’t have to think positively all the time; for some people that’s not meaningful or possible. What’s important, he explains, is finding what works – the only thing that matters is effectiveness. Some people respond to being yelled at by coach like a Drill Sargeant and some people don’t respond well to that at all. You don’t have to change everyone to become responsive to the same things, you have to change the methods to create the results you want. So if thinking only about having a perfect fight and that you’re the greatest and always shutting out your doubt isn’t working for you, maybe thinking about all those things but also thinking your way through them is the right way. So instead of not thinking about your injury, go ahead and think about it and then think about how you know you can push through it. For some folks, “if” is the positive thought because it leaves open the possibility that the challenge will be avoided. For others, for people like me, “when” is the positive thought because it assumes the challenge and yet assures me that I am capable of adapting to it.