COGNITIVE DISTORTION # 1: ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING
One of the most common traps that ensnares high performers is talking – to yourself and others – in absolutes. You’re either a complete success or a total failure. You set a PR or you stink. You’re a winner or a loser. In this cognitive distortion you have an all-or-nothing self-image. An image that doesn’t allow for mistakes, even when you win. The basketball player who scores 28 points in a victory, but thinks he’s a bad shooter for missing three shots. Or the softball player whose final run helps win the game, but fixates on a minor error she made. Outside of sports, all-or-nothing thinking could afflict the straight A student whose world falls apart when she gets a B. Or perhaps the prolific writer who loses confidence in his ability when a magazine editor rejects one of his pitches.
COGNITIVE DISTORTION # 2: OVER-GENERALIZING
This error occurs when you take the result of a specific event and extrapolate it to your entire game, personality, and/or life. You lost the game, so you must be a terrible football player and a worthless human being. You played a bad round and missed the cut. You’ll never make it as a pro golfer and are more likely to end up on the streets than on the PGA Tour. What’s the point anymore? You should probably just quit, right?
Wrong! The mistake here is selecting something local and making it global. You take one negative event and see it as irrefutable proof that you’re stuck in a never-ending pattern of defeat and failure. If you let such thoughts percolate, it’s all too easy to feel like events and other people are conspiring against you. When you over-generalize you’re blowing things out of all proportion – the classic making a mountain out of a molehill.
COGNITIVE DISTORTION # 3: MENTAL FILTERING
Filters can be very useful – for things like sorting email, improving your water quality, and, my personal favorite, making coffee! But when it comes to your mindset, filtering can be self-destructive if you start relentlessly cataloguing all the perceived negatives while throwing the positives in your trash can. Once you start down this road, you’ll soon be naming, dating, alphabetizing, and color-coding your shortcomings.
If you start to compile a mental filing cabinet that houses all of your flaws and regularly pull out the folders to pore over every mistake you’ve ever made, you start to lose your regard for the good things in your performances and your life. It’d be like watching the morning and evening news and only ever paying attention to the bad stories – soon you’ll become what you behold and will be miserable. This is no way to live, and it’s certainly not going to make you a better athlete.