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The Dreaded Word "Don't" and Why to Avoid It

Don't think of pink elephants. Whatever you do, don't think about pink elephants. Let me guess, that's hard to not picture in your head? Whenever you tell yourself "don't" and follow it with an action you are trying to avoid, all you are doing is reinforcing that avoidable action deep in your sub conscious. This makes it hard to avoid and usually the "don't" turns into a "I can't believe I did that!" Or more like, "I knew I was going to do that." As tennis players, each strike on the ball gives you instant feedback. Unlike most sports, you are very aware of any mistake as it often ends in a point for your opponent. This can make you aware of the mistakes you want to avoid, which you remind yourself as you play. This can be a recipe for disaster as your brain will fixate on that mistake if you're not careful. Let's look at a way to avoid this in your future tennis matches.

Instead of giving yourself an image of what you want to avoid, try focusing on positive imagery. Imagine the perfect shot going exactly where you want it. Although this won't happen every time, you at least have your mind and body aligned with the correct task at hand. Our first language is through imagery so try to use that to your advantage. Next time you're on the court with a second serve. Try to go from "don't double fault" to imagining a smooth and confident strike on the ball going exactly where you want it. You will have a much better shot at success than using the dreaded word "don't!"

Another tactic to relate this to is what I mentioned in a previous blog on "silver linings." Silver linings are what pro tennis players use to keep them positive and in control throughout a match. For example, a silver lining for you can be to split step when your opponent hits the ball. This is controllable as you can make a split step regardless of the outcome of the point. By doing things like this, you are able to stay positive and shoe that you're trying your best on the process rather than the outcome.

Want to hit stronger volleys? Try this simple yet effective tip the next time you are at the net:

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