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The Power of P3 Thinking

We have all heard the adage “just think positively!” when we are faced with a challenging situation. While it is more conducive to think positively than negatively, what if you do not believe it?

Sports psychologists acknowledge that successful athletes think differently. Successful athletes understand that thoughts are controllable; they do not simply happen. P3 Thinking, coined by Robin S. Vealey, is a mental training tool that can be used to enhance one’s mental skills.

The 3 P’s in P3 Thinking stand for Purposeful, Productive, and Present. If dancers think in this way, they can transform their thought processes and ultimately enhance their performance.

Accomplished dancers and athletes alike think purposefully. They know what to think about and when to think about it. Dr. Walker explains that “the flow state (optimal performance zone) is impaired when an athlete is encumbered by random or reactive judgements” (2011). Reacting to the environment is associated with impulsivity and emotion-related responses; therefore, it is something that does not take any effort or control. In comparison, thinking purposefully in a situation empowers the individual and enables him or her to take control and remain unaffected by emotional states. Purposeful thinking requires discipline and practice.


Productive thinking is the second “P” in P3 Thinking. Productive thoughts are always task-relevant and present. Dancers should think of the task at hand and what they need to do to fulfill it. “Thought patterns focused in the past tend to trigger should’ve, would’ve, could’ve self-talk and can often lead to discouragement” (Walker 2011). In a similar vein, future thinking can trigger anxiety with “what if” questions. Ruminating on unknowns takes us away from the present moment and distracts us from completing relevant tasks.

The final aspect of P3 Thinking is thinking presently. Present thinking grounds us and allows us to fully experience each moment. Being fully present affords personal control over our actions and thoughts. Most importantly, we can really enjoy what we are doing!


Thoughts will always come in and out of our heads, including negative ones. Even the most decorated athletes are not immune to negative thoughts. What gives an individual that “inner edge” is how they deal with those thoughts.

Enter P3 thinking: the mental training tool every dancer should have in their bag.


Vealey, R.S. (2021). Coaching for the Inner Edge: Practical Sport Psychology for Coaches. West Virginia University.

Dr. Walker, Stephen. P3 Thinking- Conditioning Yourself Mentally. 28 March 2011.

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