"Don’t think of a purple cow,"

The Power of the Negative Image

Thinking is a complicated process. A process that can help you find a solution to a problem, or a process that can bring about the very outcome you hope to avoid.

Over the past few years golfers have been advised to have a strong pre-shot routine. This routine usually includes feeling the swing or putt, seeing the flight of the ball and several other elements designed to separate the thinking from the hitting aspects of a shot.

Lining up for goal

The same applies to other set routine skills such as kicking for points. You only have to watch Johnny Doyle or Colm Cooper preparing for a set shot to see this. Unfortunately, many players include some very destructive aspects in their pre-shot routine. One of the most damaging of these is the negative image.

Avoid thinking about the outcome you want to avoid

Remember that every time you think of what you want to avoid, you practice making that mistake. The way the mind processes information makes this nasty occurrence happen. Remember the old joke about "Don’t think of a purple cow," and, of course, you have to think about that purple cow. You have to think about what you don’t want to think about because part of the process is to clearly identify the subject, the purple cow.

Of course, a cow is an object and not an action. If you think of an action, especially one that has a strong emotion attached to it, your mind will automatically begin to recall and/or create the experience.

Never ask yourself to do what you don’t want to do. This means that when you think of something your mind must process the thought down to the fibres of your muscles.

When you think of a water hazard, and hitting it into the water, your mind processes the thought and you must mentally PRACTICE hitting the ball into the water. It doesn’t matter if you want it or not. If you think it, you practice it.

Occupy your thoughts with what you want

Avoid the thoughts that force you to practice what you do not want to do. The best way to do this is to occupy your thoughts with what you want. Focus on the centre of the goals (pick a specific target behind the goals), focus on the feel of a good goal kick, focus on the exact spot where you will put the ball. In the early stages of shot preparation, look up the field, at the target and where the mark is, but when you are ready to actually take your kick your thoughts must focus on the positive, on success. When it’s time to kick the ball avoid all thoughts and/or images of failure.

Focus on the positive

Do not use thoughts such as: "I sure hope I don’t kick it there again." or “My last shot was far too short”. These negative thoughts force you to think about the very thing that you want to avoid. When you think it, you practice it. Confidently hold the image of the target and take your kick.

It would be ridiculous to believe that you can avoid or eliminate all of your negative images or thoughts. You do not need to fear having these images or thoughts, they will occur.

Control the effects negative images have on your game

What you can learn to control is the effect that the images have on your game. You do this by controlling when you have them. This means that you control the sequencing of your thoughts.

If, as you prepare to kick at the goals, you remember badly shanking a similar kick last week, don’t panic. Simply remember to take an extra five seconds and immediately go to a positive image and recall a strong feeling of success.

Ask for success

Refocus your mind on the target and execute the kick with all the confidence a good shot requires. Never let a negative image or thought be your last image or thought before you kick. You will probably get what you mentally ask for, so don’t ask for the negative, ask for success.

''don’t panic''