Q: What’s your single word or power pose that takes you into the present moment; to shift from selfishness to selflessness? The word you use to ‘flip the switch’?
This is your escape from worry, self-doubt, and all anxiety that contributes to choking under pressure. Sian Beilock, one of the world’s leading researchers studying the science on optimal human performance writes;
“People choke under pressure because they worry. They worry about the situation, its
consequences, what others will think. They worry about what they will lose if they fail to succeed
and whether they have the tools to make it. They may even conjure images in their head of the
unwanted outcome—the flubbed performance, the missed shot, the fall on the ice.”
Not so surprising, the key to performing well in stressful situations is staying present. We only worry when we are thinking about either the past of the future. When we are present, we are able to focus all of our cognitive resources upon the current moment. Being selfish is an instant ticket out of the present moment. We are not present when we reminisce on what others have thought about us in the past or consider what people may think about us in the future. It may seem counterintuitive, but spending your limited focus considering what others will think of you is self-centered and it takes up precious energy that you can’t afford to squander.
The immediate remedy, that will bring you into the present moment, is thinking about how you can serve your teammates in this precious moment. Think about the last time you encouraged a teammate during a tough workout—I bet it helped you ‘flip the switch’ and allow you to push past your perceived physical limits. Beilock continues,
“In any performance-based activity in which elite performance is a result of a TON of motor-skill development we should simply let them run on autopilot because they’re so grooved into our consciousness. (This is called “procedural knowledge.”) But… When we allow worry to seep into our brains, we tend to bring *too* much thought into what should be a thought-less activity. Rather than let our bodies do what we’ve trained them to do, we attempt to control our behaviors and our once fluid, expert motions become rigid.
Result? We choke.
So, how do we train our minds to stay anchored in the present moment? How do change these automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) to positive automatic thoughts (APTs)?
A: We practice.
We need to experience more moments of presence, where we can proactively choose our response to a stimulus outside our control. You can create more space, instead of automatically responding with worry by meditating. This is where we practice our focus. I recommend a minimum of 5 minutes every morning thinking exclusively on an anchor of your choosing. this could be your breath, a mantra you recite, a body sensation, or the sounds of your environment.
All life is meditation and this practice can be practiced throughout the day during every mundane task. Bored, in class? actively practice focusing on what your teacher is teaching. Make it a game and measure how many times you notice yourself lost and thought. You can improve! Cleaning the house? Focus on sweeping the floor like it’s a competition. If the task is easy, make it tougher to find your flow state–perhaps see how fast you can do it, can you make a bigger pile than the person you’re sweeping with. Take pride in staying present!