There are many days I wonder about falling victim to practice. Definitely a creature of habit, just have to make sure that I'm choosing the right habits and mind-sets.
When I coached, I had to struggle to remember not to frame the talk around negatives like "Don't walk this guy" or "Don't give him anything good to hit". "Don't" leaves too many open variables and options for the mind to consider. You don't effectively convey what you want the athlete to "DO". Often you end up subconsciously talking the athlete into the outcome you wanted them to avoid.
From the New York Times:
A Creature of Bad Habit: Why Mistakes Are Repeated
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
Published: July 18, 2009
Daniel M. Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, is a professional scientist, not a professional athlete, and in a recent issue of Science magazine, he reviewed the research on the problem. A recent article in The New York Times explored the social implications.
When the pressure is on, Wegner wrote, the unconscious attempt to avoid errors consistently increases their likelihood of occurring. The same happens with words and thoughts as it does with physical actions. Tell someone, “Don’t think about a white bear,” and you can almost be guaranteed that for the next 10 minutes, white bears are all the person will think about.
Under even a little stress, the problem becomes worse. If you tell people not to think of a given word, then give them a word association test under time pressure, they are likely to blurt out the forbidden word as a response. The concentrated attempt not to think about it becomes just another way of thinking about it. Wegner calls this “the ironic return of repressed thoughts.” Baseball managers, and athletes suffering with the disorder, may have other words for it.
It can become quite embarrassing, and not just on a baseball field or a golf course. Experiments have shown, for example, that if you ask people to concentrate on suppressing prejudices like racism, sexism or homophobia, they blatantly express those biases despite — or perhaps because of — the effort to control them.
In one experiment, researchers put eye-tracking cameras on soccer players and instructed them to avoid a particular part of the goal in making a penalty kick. Guess which part of the goal their gazes most often fell?