Negative to Positive: Reframing Destructive Emotions in Sports with the Two Arrows Mindset

Picture of By Jesse Engelbrecht

By Jesse Engelbrecht

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UNDERSTANDING THE TWO ARROWS MINDSET

The path from negative to positive involves reframing destructive emotions. The two arrows mindset is a profound teaching from the Buddhist tradition to help with this reframing.

THE PARABLE OF THE TWO ARROWS

The parable of the two arrows illustrates how when an individual is struck by an arrow, they experience pain. However, if a second arrow hits the same spot, the pain intensifies significantly. The first arrow symbolises the unavoidable pain you encounter in life, such as an unexpected defeat, injury, or criticism in sports. The second arrow, however, is self-inflicted. It represents your response to the first arrow, your negative thoughts, self-criticism, and unnecessary rumination on the pain.

THE POWER OF THE TWO ARROWS MINDSET

This two arrows mindset is a guiding light in reframing destructive emotions in sports, leading you from negative to positive. While you may not have control over the first arrow, being hit by the second arrow is entirely within your command.

APPLYING THE TWO ARROWS MINDSET IN SPORTS

Consider an unexpected loss in a match after being well in the lead. That’s your first arrow hitting you, sometimes unavoidable and often surprising. Your reaction to it, however—whether you see it as a lesson or a reason for self-blame—that’s the second arrow. The two arrows mindset helps you understand that the pain of the loss is a given. But the suffering—negative self-talk, plummeting self-esteem, fear of future failure—is optional.

FROM NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE: DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS

Reflect on the proverb, “death by a thousand cuts,” which symbolises a major setback resulting from many small problems. Each small problem is a cut, an arrow. Now, your reaction to each one determines whether it’s a single cut or the start of a deep wound. With the two arrows mindset, you see that the second arrow is your choice to let each cut deepen, instead of addressing it, learning from it, and moving on.

IMPLEMENTING THE TWO ARROWS MINDSET

The next time you grapple with those destructive emotions—frustration over a missed goal, anger at a teammate’s mistake, self-doubt and fear after a loss—recall the two arrows mindset. Recognise the first arrow, and then consciously decide to e hit by the second one. Use this mindset as a powerful tool in reframing destructive emotions in sports. Turning negative to positive, and transforming your pain into lessons, resilience, and personal growth.

REFRAMING DESTRUCTIVE EMOTIONS: THE JOURNEY FROM NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE

Remember, the journey from negative to positive isn’t about evading the first arrow—it’s about how you choose to respond to it. Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I win or learn.” Let this mantra encapsulate the essence of the two arrows mindset. Guiding you in reframing destructive emotions in sports, from negative to positive.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Whenever you’re ready, here are 4 more ways you can consume SportMind content to help you train your mind:

  1. Check out the SportMind podcast. And this is my FAVOURITE episode to date
  2. Get your coach in your pocket by downloading the SportMind App on Apple or Android
  3. Ever wanted the tools to Unlock Flow? I have a workshop just for this
  4. Become a SportMind member and gain full access to mental training. Learn more here

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Jesse Engelbrecht

SportMind Founder,
High Performance Coach,
& Squash Professional

A professional and dedicated coach full of enthusiasm and passion for helping and teaching.

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