From the Navy SEALs and CEO’s to the NFL, Trevor Moawad’s clients have one thing in common: They have to perform at the highest level every single time.
Moawad is not your typical mental conditioning coach, because his clients, who include NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, extend far beyond the sports world. And his ideas are far from the typical “positive thinking” that many are used to.
So what does Moawad, named the #1 brain trainer from Sports Illustrated https://www.si.com/edge/2017/11/17/russell-wilson-trevor-moawad-mental-conditioning-brain-trainer believe and teach?
“Neutral thinking beats positive thinking every time,” he says. “Most people, whether they are world-class athletes, Special Forces members, or everyday folk, tend to think negatively. Rather than trying to make the jump from negative to positive, I say move from negative to neutral. Neutral thinking may be the greatest guarantor of success that I’ve ever seen.”
Moawad grew up in a highly motivational environment—his father was the president of the National Association for Self-Esteem and one of the early contributors to Chicken Soup for the Soul. So Moawad was getting a dose of uplifting thinking every night at the family dinner table.
He offers 5 techniques for peak performance.
“Neutral thinking,” Moawad explains, “means accepting the idea that when something good or bad happens, it happens. Instead of getting caught up in the negativity of a bad past ora mental or physical mistake, you just accept that it happened and move on.
“It’s very Zen. It’s very Eastern. The problem with positive thinking is that when you do something wrong, it destroys that positive mindset. So I tell our athletes, instead of aiming for positive thinking, stay in neutral. It means that your behavior, which you’ve drilled into your muscle memory, will dictate what happens next—not your feelings.”
2. Stop giving credence to feelings.
“Feelings are confusing and misleading,” Moawad says. “Sometimes they are accurate depictions of reality, and sometimes not. The more we pay attention to our feelings, the more we move away from our capabilities and our training. So that’s why I say, don’t pay too much attention to your feelings.”
Moawad points out that feelings are far less controllable than behaviors. He teaches that you can behave your way into feeling better, but you cannot always “feel” your way into acting more effectively. In short, focus on the behaviors that allow you to be your best.
3. Use what you have.
Most of us tend toward focusing on what we don’t have instead of what we can offer. Moawad gives the example of his coaching client Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback who is 5’ 11’ feet tall, nowhere near the 6’4 height that the NFL traditionally expects of quarterbacks.
“Russell recognized that he did not meet the very specific rigorous standards predetermined by the National Football League relative to height and other anthropometric evaluations,” Moawad says. “Instead, he combined his behaviors along with his aptitude for football and said, ‘I’m going to use what I have rather than let the outside world tell me what I don’t have.’”
As a result, Wilson went on to win a Super Bowl and has been highly regarded as one of the top NFL quarterbacks for years, frequently speaks about how neutral thinking has impacted his life, on and off the field https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7buhirplVaQ
4. Focus on reducing negativity, not increasing positivity.
“Less negative is significantly more powerful than more positive,” Moawad argues. We’ve all seen situations where TV commentators will say that an athlete has, “a million dollar body and a ten cent head.” In other words, some athletes or other top performers have phenomenal skills but they stay so trapped in negative thinking that they are not able to cash in on those skills and maximize their performances.
Moawad’s answer: if you can eliminate negativity, or at least reduce your negative thinking, that’s going to be far more powerful for you than trying to buy into some hoaky positive thinking mindset. “Less negative beats more positive every day of the week,” Moawad says.
5. Watch your language.
“What you say out loud is far more powerful than your self-talk,” Moawad says. “Great teams are great at communicating powerfully and positively with each other. It matters less with what you tell yourself and more what you tell your teammates. You’ve really got to watch your external language if you’re going to succeed.” Moawad notes that most motivators focus on self-talk, and while he agrees that positive, or at least neutral, self-talk is important, he makes the point that it pales in importance when compared with how we communicate with others.
“What you say out loud is always in your control,” Moawad points out, “which is different from self-talk, which you cannot necessarily control. I’ve seen studies in the Harvard Business Review pointing out that negative external talk can be four to seven times more powerful than positive communication. So let’s keep it simple. What if I just didn’t say stupid things out loud? What if I made only that one change?”
Moawad says that some people in his field teach athletes to meditate, to focus on their self-talk, or to create rituals for success.
“All well and good,” Moawad says. “But the simplest thing, and the most powerful thing is just not to say stupid things out loud. It’s amazing how much success that one trait brings.”
The beauty of these five lessons is that they are applicable to anyone, not just elite athletes, CEOs or Navy SEALs. So watch what you say, let your feelings go, focus on what you have, and aim for neutral instead of positive…and watch your success rate soar.