Cue Ball

Cue Up Your Life

As a gymnastics coach, I help athletes come up with “cues” to say before each skill that emphasize finer points to achieve the result they want. Take balance beam for example, some athletes have a technical cue they say to themselves, such as “push through my legs” or “jump” before their flipping series. Other athletes have emotional cues, such as “patience” or “aggressive” before executing the skill. I believe life can be broken down into a series of cues that will help us live a fulfilling and happy life.

Understand that those two words Fulfilling and Happy will mean different things to different people. To think that there is a One Cue Fits All philosophy is inane. Part of the fun of life is figuring out what Life Cues help me have fulfilling and happy days; and when is it time to change my cues.

As a coach, it is vitally important to communicate with our athletes to make sure the cue is resonating with them in a way to produce positive results. The most vivid memory I have of this is working with 2001-2004 UCLA gymnast, Yvonne Tousek, on beam. She was super consistent, but always had a slight knee bend in her back handspring and layout step out. I tried a ton of different cues: “Jump through your legs,” “Split later,” “Push through your feet,” “Aggressive set”… Finally, one meet she executed the skill perfectly.

When I asked her what she told herself before the skill she said, “I simply said, Strong Legs.” Even though the cues I had given her were meant to accomplish the same thing, nothing resonated with her until she came up with her own cue.

That was a great life lesson for me, thanks Yvi!

In my life I work to find the right cues. For example, when heading into a meeting with one of our coaches, knowing we’re going to discuss a touchy subject, I used to coach myself up by saying, “I know I’ve thought this through and I believe I’m right so I can’t be afraid to stand up for what I believe is best for the team.” That cue immediately puts me on the defensive… not a good place to start a conversation, especially a sensitive one. I have since shifted my cue to, “Listen.” In order to execute that cue I understand I need to silence my brain when the other person is talking. That cue immediately establishes a “Let’s figure this out as to what’s best for the team” emotion versus “I’m going to explain to you why I’m right” statement. The entry of the conversation based on a simple cue makes a big difference in the outcome.

The biggest cue shift I’ve made is one I’ve discussed in a past Musing: “I Get To vs. I Have To.” Changing my inner dialogue by one word for everything I encounter has totally shifted my emotions, intentions, and actions. Try it and let me know what you think.

Since I love constantly learning about this awesome adventure called Life, please share one (or some) of your life cues that have worked toward furthering your inner barometer of fulfillment and happiness.

Leave a Reply

20 Comments on "Cue Up Your Life"

Notify of

Thanks so much for bringing this back into my consciousness! I used cues all the time when I was a gymnast to ‘get out of my own head’ and focus only on one thing, enabling me to perform at the level I needed to at the time. I still struggle with the tendency to overthink things as an adult, and this was a helpful reminder that cues can still have the same impact, regardless of the situation.

Keith Patti
I like this thread since it speaks to something we don’t normally let sink in: the impact of the words themselves. I was a ESL education major at Arizona State (actually saw UCLA. compete there, too) and I wrote a paper pertaining to interlanguage pragmatics transfer. What means is how the nuances of word choice transfers into other languages. The example i saw was pertaining to necessity. If someone were to say “I need to study” it sounds less pressing than “I must study.” One word intensifies the meaning that much. What this thread should tell us, like the example… Read more »

[…] In gymnastics, I coach our athletes to continuously hit the refresh button. It has the same affect on their mental game as it does on a computer. It allows them to discard any junk in their brains that is keeping them from performing their best and gets them refocused on the important stuff… their cues. […]

I definitely use a cue for my job, and that cue is “listen.” I’ve been an attorney for about five years, which is an interesting job for me as I am not naturally an aggressive person and can be quite shy. When I first started taking depositions, I would get so, so, so nervous. I would run through my outline of questions without much followup, and one of my supervising attorneys would say, “You need to stop overthinking it and just LISTEN. Listen to what the person is telling you. You’ll find that if you listen and really hear what… Read more »

My main cues lately are “big picture” and “gentle”. When I’m discouraged I tell myself to look at the big picture. Will it matter 5 years from now? Is it worth getting upset over. Are my actions today going to help me reach my goals? And I use “gentle” as a reminder to be kind to myself and others.


This is going to require some pondering for a good week or 2! (at least!) 🙂


There are a few cues I use to get thru moments. As a retired military service member, diagnosed with PTSD. I use the cue “Everyday is a GREAT day”. We are blessed beyond belief to be in this great Country. Secondly, the 3Ps of life are Prayer, Patience and Positivity. Also thanks to you Ms. Val for being and inspiration.

One of my cues that I have adopted in the last few years is “rabbit hole.” I have struggled over the years with taking a minor issue and turning it into something major in my mind. I would go from making a small error at work to thinking about being fired, not having enough money, and being homeless. These types of thoughts would send me into a tailspin that would sometimes last days, drain me of my energy, and contribute to my depression. My therapist labeled these thoughts “rabbit hole” thoughts, like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. This… Read more »
Abbe S
I am in a period in which I realize that I have to change my life cues – I have to re-cue to accommodate change. My kids are grown and as much as I want them to still need me, I also realize that it’s okay if they don’t feel they need me because it is time for them to live their lives and explore who it is they want to be. I also have to explore who I am now and who I want to be. I haven’t discovered or determined my new life cues yet. I wonder if… Read more »
When I started my undergraduate studies, I struggled at first to deal with some test anxiety that I had never experienced before. I’d study all night, and then I’d have a difficult time falling asleep as I continued to recite facts and equations in my head. I’d wake up tired the next morning and keep reciting facts in my head as I walked to the exam, and by the time I got there I was a ball of nerves. I noticed that the anxiety calmed down a lot when I started telling myself: “I’m done preparing. I’m not thinking about… Read more »