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  • Writer's pictureMindy McCarthy

Only Different in Your Mind

This holiday season has certainly not been what I imagined. After avoiding it for almost two years, a Covid positive test result changed our plans. Thus, began the quarantine.

I am not one to binge watch shows or have movie marathons. I usually get too antsy sitting still for that long. However, quarantine and not feeling 100% pretty much calls for time in bed, and so I gave into binge watching.

Quarantine also meant I didn’t have any excuses for finally watching Stars Wars with my husband as I had promised him years ago. While sci-fi isn’t exactly my genre of choice, I think there are a lot of sport psych gems that can be found in these movies.

The first one came when Yoda was training Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi. Luke is struggling to do a task that Yoda has assigned him where he has to use the force and powers in his mind to complete. Luke complains about the task saying it’s too hard, and he begins listing out a number of excuses as to why it can’t be accomplished.

Yoda responds by saying, “Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”

When we first begin trying something new, it can seem difficult and maybe even sometimes impossible. Whether you are trying to learn a new move in your sport or have more explosive moves or speed, it can seem to be a daunting task when the results aren’t immediately noticed. The highlight reel that plays in our heads can constantly show us past failures where we have tried to do this before and shown no success.

These are the things that we must unlearn. We must unlearn our past failures. We must unlearn the thoughts that inhibit us from reaching our goals. We must unlearn certain ways of doing things in order to replace them with the new ways you are trying to learn.

Becoming aware of these things that are inhibiting you from achieving your goals is the first step, and it is usually things that happen between your own two ears.

This brings me to the next Star Wars gem that I enjoyed hearing. In the Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn is determined to train a young boy named Anakin how to be a Jedi. One quote he says to the little boy rings true for everyone,

“Your focus determines your reality.”

If you remain focused on the reel that is showing your past failures, that will become reality for you again. If you remain focused on reasons why you cannot succeed, that will become your reality. If you remain focused on doing things only one way, you may miss the opportunity to become successful another way.

The good news is that if you focus on your goals and what you are hoping to achieve, this, too, can become your reality. If you feel that you are not achieving your goals, what has your focus been on? What do you focus on in your training sessions? What are you focusing on daily to help you achieve your goals?

We can always choose what we are focusing on, and that becomes our reality.

The last gem of the movies so far came when Ob-Wan Kenobi was speaking to Anakin and said, “You’re focusing on the negative. Be mindful of your thoughts.”

As many sport psychology professionals will tell you, the goal is never to eliminate negative thoughts as we cannot always control the thoughts that come to our minds. That is why what Ob-Wan says is so interesting.

He doesn’t say control your thoughts. He doesn’t say change your thoughts. He simply says be mindful of your thoughts.

Becoming aware of the thoughts that come to mind, especially if you can identify certain cues, is helpful when it comes to controlling your reaction to these thoughts. Anakin found himself in a negative state of mind thinking about the future and what might happen to his loved ones. Ob-Wan reminded him that these thoughts were starting to change his behavior and control his actions.

Be mindful of your thoughts. What thoughts are driving you to act certain ways? What thoughts are controlling your emotions?

I will not say it’s mandatory to watch Star Wars if you do not want to, but this is also a lesson in making the best of a situation even if you didn’t have the most positive thoughts going into it. It turns out there are many things you can learn from situations, even ones that you may have been avoiding up until now.

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