I have always found it fascinating that we place so much emphasis on what we feed our bodies, making sure that we nourish and look after the physical aspect of ourselves, but very little emphasis is placed on the importance of what we feed our minds. I often ask myself “Is your mind controlling you, or are you controlling your mind,” and a lot of that has to do with what I am feeding it.
When I was playing for the Australian Women’s National Water Polo team, we had this dreaded swim test that we had to do. I was like the Usain Bolt version in the water. I was lightning-fast, and speed was my strength. This swim test was like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon and be one of the best. It was a long-distance slog of a swim that was more mental than physical. Being a professional athlete, and training two to three times a day, meant that I could―100%―do this swim test, and do it well, but my success would be determined by my mental toughness leading up to, and during, the test.
I was in the World Championship Selection Camp in Canberra and had come directly from a road trip, playing 4 games in 4 days. I had also completed the dreaded swim test a week prior to the camp and had performed my fastest times. My body was tired, but I was excited to focus on my skills and work my way onto the World Championship team. The night before the camp was due to begin, we were informed that we would be repeating the swim test the next morning. I could not believe what I was hearing, and I immediately went into panic mode! I started telling myself how tired I was, how sore my body and muscles were, and that I did not have enough time to recover. I slept awfully that night, constantly worrying and mentally psyching myself out of what was to come. You can only imagine how that swim test went the next morning… every negative thought worked its way into my performance, and I had my worst result in that swim test, and one of the worst results of anyone in the camp. Immediately after that session, the coach called me into his office and proceeded to tell me to pack my bags and get on a bus home. I had a long, 5-hour bus drive to remind myself how my mind had tricked me out of performing at my best, which in turn cost me my spot on the World Championship team.
We all have that voice in our heads that says: we are not good enough; we are not smart enough; or, we won’t succeed―that voice that wants us to play small, and trick us out of achieving what we know we are capable of. Since that bus ride, I have become hyperaware of the dialogue playing in my mind. It is only natural to have both a positive and a negative dialogue, but which voice is “winning,” and what are you feeding your mind to combat the negative and replace it with the positive?
We all know how powerful words are, but few of us realize what powerful changes we can make with simple alterations of our self-talk. I call my negative thinking, “Stinking Thinking.” When I catch myself in the “stinking thinking” phase, which is a key step, I recognize the space my mind is in and work on reframing. Just like building physical muscles takes time, so does building your mental confidence/positivity muscle. Catching yourself in a negative thought and reframing that thought do not happen overnight―it is a conscious practice of recognizing when you are playing in the “less than” space, and then intentionally training your mind to default to the good rather than the bad.
I am learning that, by turning my negatives into positives, it is not only a life-changing tool for myself, but also becomes a powerful leadership tool I can impart on others. When your negative voice starts becoming loud, it is often a reminder to unpack where that self-doubt is coming from and to reframe your dialogue. When you have an awful night’s sleep, instead of telling yourself how exhausted you are, remind yourself that you get to try again tonight. When you are feeling insecure about your performance in your job, remind yourself of all the value you bring; then write down 3-5 great things you have done that day.
Just like changing a food diet is about consistency and good habits, so too is changing the feeding of our minds. The more we practice, and the more we surround ourselves with positive influences, the dimmer that negative dialogue becomes; and in turn, WE take control of our minds.
About the Author
Seri Kravitz: Former Professional Athlete and Manager of the Signature Collective
Seri Kravitz boasts a distinguished 12-year career as a professional water polo player, representing both South Africa and Australia on the global stage. Upon retiring from active competition, Seri transitioned into coaching, where she demonstrated a knack for nurturing highly successful teams. Her coaching acumen propelled her to the helm of the South African Women’s National team, where she was a vocal advocate for equality for women in minority sports.
Transitioning from the pool to the digital realm, Seri played a pivotal role in the inception and exponential growth of the online community for JEFF Fitness, a South Africa-based startup. As one of the cornerstone members of the company, Seri contributed to its remarkable expansion from a modest team of 15 to a robust workforce of over 100 within a year. Under her stewardship, the JEFF community grew from the ground up to a thriving network of over 70,000 members. Seri was instrumental in developing a unique platform, revolutionizing the approach to health and wellness.
Now serving as the Manager of the Signature Collective, Seri is dedicated to supporting the 3,000-strong alumni of Signature leaders, fostering a vibrant community of trailblazers.
Seri now calls Franklin, Tennessee home, where she enjoys a fulfilling family life with her spouse, two young children, and a pair of beloved dogs.