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What are thoughts and how can we use them to our benefit?

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Our brains have around 100 billion nerve cells called neurons interconnected by trillions of connections called synapses. Each of those 100 billion neurons are firing between 5 – 50 signals per second, and essentially, those are thoughts. This is of course a very simplified version of what is known to be truly complex and hard to fully understand.

Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.”

Dr Caroline Leaf

Everyone has a choice

One of the most powerful things we can train a child in is their understanding of choice.

As parents, teachers, coaches or mentors, if we can teach a child in their understanding of their personal choices, and how choices have an impact, we have the opportunity to empower them with a foundational tool that will touch every area of their life.

As everyone knows, we can’t control everything that happens, but we can control our choice of what we think about a certain situation, and therefore we can control how we react.

Our thoughts and reactions have a far greater impact than we imagine

What is a child thinking when he/she loses the game, misses the goal, makes a critical mistake in the game, can’t achieve the skill you’re showing them?

If they are going down the path of negative, self-abusing thoughts, their thoughts are not only hindering them from achieving what they want to achieve (by debilitating their prefrontal cortex), they are also building negative but powerful memories about their competence.

Instead, if they chose to let their thoughts focus on continuing the game with their best effort, thinking of themselves as capable of pulling the game back, believing that they are capable of mastering the skill you’re showing them, they will enable their brain to work at an optimum level.

How do our thoughts affect our brain?

A child is more likely to focus and think deeply during an activity that they have set out to achieve if their thought life is positive. When they have positive thoughts, they are therefore improving their (1) cognitive skills, (2) the football goal they are working on, (3) their self-confidence and (4) their growth mindset. They will be impacting their present circumstances, but they will also be building new positive and powerful memories in their brain that will help them in the future. Positive memories will be developed about their resilience, competence and perseverance.

Your brain is thus malleable and has the ability to change throughout your life…through your choices.

The correct view is that the mind is designed to control the body, of which the brain is a part, not the other way around.”

Dr Caroline Leaf

The important tip to learn this month is to realise the power of your choices so that you can begin making choices that will positively impact your life. On average you will be making around 12 000 to 50 000 conscious choices every day. You’ll have plenty of practise to rewire your thoughts about each scenario! Why not have a conversation with your child about the process you’re on, and go on the journey together?


1. The Human Memory

Authenticity, Brain, Children, Confidence, Encouragement, Growth Mindset, Mindset, Parent-Child relationship, Positive Mindsets, Resilience, Thoughts

Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

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