Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb recently struck a chord with Philly fans by claiming he had a "great" 2008 season. Undoubtedly, some might cite the incident of not knowing that games could end in ties as evidence to the contrary. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with famous sport psychologist Bob Rotella to get a different interpretation.
Rotella's take was simple: "The great ones have instant amnesia - no matter what just happened, they're able to pull out the positive." Rotella, who has worked numerous pro kickers (who, for obvious reasons, have to have a short memory) and championship golfers Trevor Immelman and Padraig Harrington, goes on to describe a common practice of Tiger Woods: When answering a question about his drives being off line that day, he "talks about how good his course management was, how good he was putting it."
Of course, it's not that poor performances or mistakes aren't filed into memory for later points of improvement. The important point here is that mentally tough athletes primarily focus on positive performances, both to build confidence and to use as examples for positive self-talk and visualizations later on.
While it seems obvious, the values of focusing on the positive cannot be overstated. A focus on negative events can lead to negative self-talk and excessive anxiety in future performances. However, by staying focused on the positive from a competition or a season, we can come away with a sense of accomplishment, pride, and use the experience to motivate us in the future.
Check out the whole Inquirer report here.