CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi, Paul here,


I hope this finds you well. This week’s topic is:


A few bits


Self-talk can be defined as the conversation within our minds. It can exert a profound influence on our thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviours. For athletes and coaches alike, mastering the art of self-talk is a potent tool for self-improvement and overall wellbeing. Developing the ability to identify helpful and unhelpful thoughts, and learning how to use or challenge this internal narrative, can have a powerful impact on performance in high pressure situations.


Today we will explore the instances where self-talk can be particularly useful (“Triggers”) and how we can control our resultant thoughts, emotions and actions (“Cueing”).


Triggers: Self-talk is triggered by a host of external and internal stimuli. Common instances where we might be self-deprecating, frustrated, dejected, or over-emotional include:

  • When faced with a challenging situation or task

  • In the aftermath of mistakes

  • When stuck in a problem

  • In the face of set-backs

  • When we act based on how we feel rather than being rational and objective.

Simply put, it is those times when we lose track of ‘what’s important now’.


Cueing: Cues are the succinct, often single-word or short phrases we use to direct our attention in response to triggers. Their brevity, precision and personal meaning guide us toward what truly matters now. Affirmations, like “I can do this” or “I have what it takes,” empower and motivate. Questions like “What can I learn from this?”, or, “What’s my next step?” catalyse problem-solving and self-improvement. Employing words or phrases that resonate with us, like “calm,” “focus,” or, “next ball,” keeps us grounded in the present moment. Mnemonic devices, such as a “Reset button” or “ACE Card” (Attitude, Composure and Energy) enable the retention of specific self-talk cues during high-pressure moments.


By first becoming aware of triggering situations we can prepare cues to challenge, motivate and direct us in the right direction. Engaging in deliberate reflection and journaling can help prepare us for such situations, allowing us to be calm in the eye of the storm and stay focused on ‘what’s important now’.


An impactful exercise is to write out and practice your ideal response to your triggers. A simple yet profound question to then ask is: “What words do I need to hear?”.

CARVER Insight

I was in a secondary school this week delivering a number of workshops on the topic of student journaling for wellbeing and performance.📝

To facilitate discussion among the students, I used a recent video of Arnold Schwarzenegger discussing his new book- Be Useful: Seven tools for life. In the video Arnold, in his distinctive accent and dialect, says:


“My first rule to success is you got to have a very clear vision…of where you want to go. Because if you don’t have that, you’re just floating around.


I was very fortunate that I created that vision. I was very fortunate that there was not the side kind of things going on. We didn’t have a phone in our house… or a television. At that time there were no iPhones or iPads. There was no computer… you had all the time in the world to think and to really just sit quietly and to just visualise.


I always say that I feel sorry for kids today that are spending hours and hours on that iPhone or an iPad or computer, and they don’t give themselves that chance to just settle back and to just figure out what they want to do or who do they want to be…


If you don’t know where you want to go and who you want to be, you eventually just float around and you eventually crash…


And I think a lot of it is because people really don’t have as much of a purpose… a mission …the vision… the things that drove me from the time I was like 15 years old, it was very clear which direction I wanted to go.”

His message really resonated with my young audience and facilitated some great discussion among the groups. It was the first time I had used this piece of video as a stimulus for a journaling activity. I will certainly be using it again.


I’ll be back,




P.S. You can see the full interview referenced above here

Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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