Saturday, September 29, 2007

The power of negative thinking

Sports analogies are definitely applicable to each of us and are often used to illustrate how we should approach life. Even the Bible compares life to a race, which means we can all learn lessons from sports.

All sports have a psychological component. The mental aspects of a game are often as important as the physical though it may not seem that way on the surface.

A person's mental outlook can be the biggest difference between success and failure.

If a team has a history of success, it becomes an important resource for them when they face adversity in competition. They can draw on their experiences and know they have the ability to come through in the clutch.

There are many examples of this because all sports have teams that are consistently good. Teams like the NFL's New England Patriots expect to win rather than hope to win, and this experience served them well in each of their three Super Bowl wins.

All three games were close and were decided by only a field goal. Knowing they could play at a high level at a time of intense pressure was likely a key ingredient in them winning those games.

Of course, the Patriots got in some hot water recently when their coach and organization received hefty fines from the NFL for breaking a league rule. However, this should not overshadow the tremendous success they have had in recent years.

The bottom line is the Patriots' organization and fans have a very positive attitude about the team, which helps them when the pressure is on.

On the other hand, consider the plight of their baseball neighbor, the Boston Red Sox.

Despite the team's success in recent years, failures of the past are so steep that their fans often cannot enjoy themselves when the Sox are experiencing a lot of success.

For years, the team was haunted by the "Curse of the Bambino." The curse was a creation of a Boston sportswriter who traced all the misfortune the Sox have had back to when they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees on January 5, 1920.

One of Ruth’s nicknames was "the Bambino," and when this transaction took place, the paths of the two franchises went in two different directions. The Yankees became the most successful team in professional sports, winning 26 World Series' titles since then.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, went 84 years between World Series' titles and sometimes lost championships in heartbreakingly spectacular ways.

The Sox blew a 14-game lead to the Yankees in 1978 before losing the divisional title to them in a one-game playoff.

In 1986, a ground ball trickled between the legs of a Red Sox first baseman, which played a role in allowing the New York Mets to rally and snatch the World Series from them.

The list goes on, but these two examples show how the Sox not only lost titles, but lost them in ways that left deep scars on their fans.

This year, the Red Sox have played brilliantly at times and have led their division for most of the year. On Memorial Day, the Sox led the Yankees by 14-and-a-half games and many sportswriters proclaimed the race over.

However, in recent weeks, injuries and inconsistent pitching led to a slump that allowed the charging Yankees back in the race.

Despite winning the World Series in 2004 and allegedly ending the Bambino's curse, many in the Red Sox nation have reacted as they had in the past when their team started struggling.

To say there has been gnashing of teeth would be an understatement. Just a casual search on the internet will uncover articles with titles like "10 reasons why the Red Sox will collapse."

The bottom line is a culture of negativity like this can spread to the mindset of the team as well. If a team hears over and over that they are going to fail, it certainly increases the pressure on them.

Even though the Red Sox have now clinched their division, it will be interesting to see if all this negativity will hurt them in the playoffs.

Likewise, if we find ourselves in a culture of negativity, it becomes that much easier for us to give in and be negative. When we do that, it impacts our judgment and self-confidence.

Negativity is tough to break free of once a person gives in to it.

Avoid it at all costs.

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