Basketball is Psychology X
“There is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking.” --William James
Sports Psychologist for the Seattle Seahawks, NBA players, and Olympians, Michael Gervais, often states confidence comes from only one place: what you say to yourself. Most people believe confidence comes from past successes or preparation, but that’s only part of the equation.
You are in a never-ending conversation with yourself. This conversation is where confidence is built or destroyed.
The most important part of this inner dialogue is what you think about yourself.
One of the most influential psychologists to ever live was William James. James graduated from Harvard and he is often referred to as the “Father of American Psychology”. One of his core beliefs was that people tend to become what they think about themselves. This is where confidence comes from. Whether it’s negative or positive, people meet the expectations they have for themselves.
So what do you think about yourself?
If you think you’re a great basketball player, you’ll probably be a great basketball player.
If you think you’re a mediocre basketball player, you’ll probably be a mediocre basketball player.
Regardless, you must understand this battle of confidence is won or lost in the mind, before you ever touch a basketball. You have to tell yourself who you are and what you want to become.
Don’t you need preparation to be confident?
It’s the other way around. You need confidence to prepare.
If your inner dialogue consists of you telling yourself you are never going to be a great shooter, you wouldn’t have the confidence to go to the gym and shoot 500 shots before every practice.
If you’re telling yourself that your opponent is unbeatable, you’re not going to prepare a detailed scouting report.
On the other hand, if you believe you are going to be the greatest shooter of all time, you’ll have the confidence to get up as many shots as it takes to turn that belief into reality.
If you’ve been telling yourself, “Our team can beat anyone,” you’ll have the confidence to invest the time and effort prepare a game plan that allows you to beat anyone.
However, you could shoot 1,000 shots every day, but if game time comes around and you start telling yourself anything other than I got this, I’m prepared for this, you won’t be confident. This is why confidence does not come solely from preparation. There are people who prepare like crazy, but they are undisciplined with their thoughts, so their confidence is destroyed. To be confident, you have to remind yourself about the work you put in, and let go of any doubts.
So in a way preparation does make you confident, because being prepared ultimately makes your inner dialogue better.
By no stretch of the imagination does this mean you can dream up confidence, you have to put in the work so the conversation you’re having with yourself is backed by your actions. You have to able to trust your training. But in order to put in the work necessary to be great, you have to tell yourself you can be great. Confidence starts with your inner dialogue.
Steph’s Premature Confidence
In the summer of 2014, Steph Curry, who at the time had 1 all-star appearance, no MVP’s, and no Championships, made headlines when he said he was a better offensive player than LeBron James. The debate is irrelevant. Steph Curry believed he was better because it’s what he has been telling himself his whole life. That season, Steph Curry went on to lead the league in scoring, win MVP, and beat LeBron and the Cavs to win his first championship that year.
His confidence didn’t come from previous success or preparation. He told himself he was the best before he knew he was. This gave him the confidence needed to prepare and then succeed, but it began with a supreme belief in who he could become.
Steph Curry believed in himself before anyone else did. That confidence came before any of his successes. Steph was an underdog, but that’s not who he was in his mind. Steph had been telling himself since he was young that he would follow in his dad’s footsteps and play in the NBA. That dialogue was consistent even when he was overlooked in high school and doubted going into the draft. This story he kept telling himself helped him overcome adversity and keep his confidence when his situation seemed to have little hope.
So what’s your life story?
Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a story of what you think your life is going to look like. You get to decide.
Tell yourself you can do difficult things.
Tell yourself the best is yet to come.
Tell yourself you have the potential for greatness.
You have to be a legend in your own mind first.
Build your confidence with a great vision of what you want your life to look like. That story may seem completely delusional, and people might tell you that you’re crazy, but there was a time they said the same thing to Kobe, MJ, Diana, Maya, Steph, Stewie, etc…
It all starts with your thoughts. Become more aware of the conversation you’re having with yourself. You choose the narrative to your story, make it one that builds confidence.
Written by Julie Fournier
Founder & CEO of Basketball is Psychology