Enhancing quantum performance

I am constantly being asked questions about the psychology of performance and the ‘state of mind’ that is necessary to ensure success in competition.

Many athletes adopt a mechanical approach to their mental preparation. Specific goals are set which the athlete then strives to achieve. While this sort of approach offers structure and clarity for the athlete, I feel that it only taps into the logical part of the brain. Further, this approach is outcome based and does not embrace the fluidity and ever changing nature of competition.

Exceptional performance that catapults the athlete onto a new level requires an added dimension that incorporates an approach that taps into imagery and creativity. This approach is based in a philosophy of quantum thinking in which mental energy is seen as having properties similar to water, where multiple levels of thinking are integrated into a holistic focus.

The nature of this approach is nonverbal, intuitive and story-like in which ideas generate powerful meaning that the athlete can connect with. In line with this way of thinking, photographs, images and/or meaningful stories can help crystalise mental energy that will help the athlete reach higher levels of performance in a spontaneous and creative way.

On a recent walk I took three photographs that best illustrate ideas regarding the integration of three mental processes, that if one taps into, will assist the athlete during the unfolding process of competition.

Three inter-connected mental components form the holistic model that embraces quantum thinking. These three components should co-exist and be utilised at the appropriate time, depending on the nature of the challenge that is being encountered:

  1. The optimism and joy of a dog on a walk
  2. The alertness of a cat ready to pounce
  3. The freedom and flow of a bird in flight

In a conversation with an iron man triathlete, I was explaining that it was necessary to remain present in the unfolding moment of competition. The three dynamics mentioned above, are ever present during the race.

There needs to be an overall optimism in the way that one approaches and deals with challenges, particularly in the tough, down periods of a race. Remaining connected to the joy of a dog on a walk supports the athlete at times when doubts, despondency or fears creep in.

A cat that is ready to pounce is in a proactive state of readiness. The alertness of a cat helps the athlete deal with the unexpected. To be successful, it is important to trust your abilities and to respond immediately and spontaneously to a threatening or challenging moment. In order to respond in such a way, the athlete needs to be in a concentrated state of alertness, where nothing is taken for granted. Nothing should distract the athlete from the present moment of focus.

Many athletes go into competition with a definite, structured game-plan having specific outcomes. While this may offer the athlete security, the challenge during competition is to be able to adapt and be flexible to change. Trusting your instincts and being able to change strategy at critical moments of the unfolding process is a skill that champions possess. If the mindset is too rigid, the athlete is likely to hold onto a game-plan that was formulated before the start of the race, but may no longer be working due to changing conditions and/or opponents that have found a way to neutralise or defeat you.

In summary, the table below captures the holistic, and integrated mental state that will offer you the best chance of a quantum performance:

Aligns you to:

Counters:  

Dog on a walk

Optimism, Joy, Support

Despondency, Fear, Stress

Cat ready to pounce

Alertness, Concentration, Discipline, Stillness

Lethargy, Complacency, Distraction

Bird in flight

Flexibility, Flow, Freedom, Creativity

Rigidity, Tightness, Limitation

The column of counters highlight the mental challenges that negative energy activates. If you are feeling despondent during competition, then tapping into the theme of walking the dog will help you. If you become aware that you are getting too tight or rigid in how you are approaching the challenges, then linking to birds in flight will offer you the necessary flexibility of movement to navigate around the obstacle.

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Each new day begins with a sunrise, that brings light and warmth.

A new beginning or a new way depends on new insights that help direct your energy into a new direction. The model above does not only apply to elite athletes that are constantly working on expanding their expertise and skills to master taxing challenges in the heat of competitive battle.

A client of mine revealed that she was aligning herself to the themes of freedom, fearlessness and joy, as part of her change process, in how she wanted to live her life going forward. She stated that she wanted to better utilise and embrace opportunities that crossed her path. Such is the way to lead a more fulfilling life where your light can shine in its own uniqueness.

On the balcony – Part 3

28 November 2014

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Respond immediately to crisis

I did not take a photograph today. I had to deal with a crisis and take Humfrey, my bull terrier, to the veterinarian. Dealing with the crisis took precedence over my project, resulting in me not being able to be on the balcony during the allocated time period.

Dealing with this crisis was the opposite experience that I had a couple of days ago when I was surprised by the balloons flying in the sky. Surprises/miracles and crises/accidents are opposite sides of the same coin. They arise from the random, unpredictable nature of life.

29 November 2014

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Reflection

I felt unsettled and despondent today. I was searching for a meaningful photograph and nothing was emerging. Time was moving on and there was about 10 minutes left to get a photograph.

We have a red, glass table on the balcony. I don’t know how it happened, but as I looked ‘into’ the glass table top, I saw the reflection of the moon. I felt a jolt and immediately knew that I had seen my photograph. The photograph has a simple, yet surreal feel.

Taking time to reflect on our actions or on experiences that have had an impact on us, help us to gain deeper insights and understanding of ourselves. As part of my clinical work, I often ask my clients to take a moment ‘out of the conversation’ and keep silent and to reflect on some of their thoughts and feelings that are unfolding within them at that given moment in time during the consultation.

30 November 2014

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The qualities of water

We had a downpour around 17h00 today. When I walked onto the balcony, I noticed the droplets of water still hanging from the leaves of our plant. As I focused on one of the droplets I could see the reflection of the building and the setting sun within the droplet.

Water is precious. It supports life as we know it.

Water is soft, gentle, flexible and flows. Despite its yielding nature, you should not discount the power of water. It has the ability to overcome hardness and rigidity over time.

The qualities of water, when experienced in a relationship, are likened to love – soft, gentle, yielding and flow.

1 December 2014

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Fly

The photograph activated two predominant thoughts.

Firstly, we need to fly into the possibilities that exist in our lives. In order to do this, we need to remove the mental restrictions we may have placed on ourselves.

Secondly, the eyes of a fly are very large in comparison to its body. Being a ‘fly on the wall’ suggests that we need to be more receptive and open to what is unfolding around us. We need to listen and watch more, so that meaningful learning can occur.

2 December 2014

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Memory and transience

The camera was set for a long exposure and I walked into the frame very slowly.

The photograph reminds me of the transient nature of life. Nothing lasts forever. However, we carry with us the memories of our experiences.

3 December 2014

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Clear focused intention

As I walked onto the balcony today, I was immediately captivated by the moon and I knew exactly what photograph I would like to take. I focused on the moon and just had to wait patiently. About ten minutes passed and then two rose-ringed parakeets flew up towards the moon. This was exactly what I had been waiting for.

Setting a clear intention is linked to the idea of ‘ask and you will receive’. This reflects a sense of knowing that the reality that you have visualised, will manifest itself. But you have to be ready to embrace the unfolding moment.

A Tribute to Humfrey

‘You turned heads where ever you went. You were a true champion. We will miss your uninhibited energy and love for life. Thank you for all of the joy you brought to us. We love you’.

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Finding your own unique solution

I have been seeing a client who suffers from hypertension. In the initial stages of our process, her major concern was the need to reduce her high blood pressure. Before coming to see me, she had seen her GP who had prescribed medication. However, she was reluctant to take the medicine due to the possible side effects that had been listed. Her alternative was to embark on her own process of trying to resolve her physical condition by coming to see me.

She was in her mid fifties, and looked healthy. She had no weight issues, did not smoke and exercised routinely. In addition, she was a vegetarian. What struck me was that her lifestyle did not match the general profile of one who suffers from hypertension. Given this, one could not suggest more exercise or modifying her diet to help reduce her blood pressure. In other words, there were no obvious solutions to her ailment.

I have always been fascinated at how the body reveals an internal struggle (issue) via a physical symptom. Metaphorically, I think of hypertension as being excessive, trapped internal energy that needs to manifest in a creative way in the external world. In other words, there is an excessive amount of internal pressure that builds up that is looking for external release. That’s why exercise is usually so helpful for those suffering from high blood pressure. Further, I believe that hypertension is a ‘fight response’ to an external threat that a person perceives that does not switch off, causing an over-revved energy system over time.

In discussion, she stated that she perceived her heart to be a powerful muscle and that its rhythmic pump was strong, thus exerting extra pressure within her arteries with each beat. While this gave the impression of physical strength, what struck me about her was that she was extremely sensitive. In my interactions with her, I noticed that she was overly reactive and quick to respond to any external stimuli (which were some of my ideas that I presented to her). She felt her emotions strongly.

My client was keen to find her own unique solution to her hypertension. This proactive stance was the foundation on which she was going to base her healing. She bought a blood pressure monitor to read her pressure when she felt the need. She wanted to measure her variations during the day and draw her own conclusions about her blood pressure pattern. She started doing research on the topic of hypertension. She gained more knowledge. She surfed the net and came to our sessions with remedies (information) that she could try. She became aware that there were many opinions regarding how to reduce blood pressure, but these were general remedies. We discussed the information in more depth until she was satisfied that she had a more comprehensive understanding of what was being suggested by those who were working in the field. She compared suggestions, looked for similarities and noticed unusual differences that were being offered by articles that she had accessed.

She then decided to run some experiments on herself. She tried some remedies and tweaked them in her own unique way and then measured the effects on her blood pressure. She tried to give the remedies a chance by following them routinely for a period of time. In our sessions she reported some success, but she had not managed to reduce her pressure significantly enough for her own liking.

At that point in our process, I introduced the idea of trying to cultivate a ‘calm-submissive’ attitude toward her external environment, similar to what Cesar Millan of the Dog Whisperer suggests that dogs need when interacting in a pack. Since she was a dog lover, she was intrigued by the concept and wanted to monitor herself on this level in her everyday interactions.

Teddy in a calm-submissive state

Some four months into our work together, she reported that she had managed to consistently reduce her blood pressure; which was now falling within the average range. After a month of achieving this success, she shared her unique formula with me. She takes two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water every morning and evening. On an interactional level, she does not feel it necessary to defend her views or to take the opinions of others personally. When she hears something that unsettles her, she takes time to connect with her breathing pattern before she responds (if she decides to). Otherwise, she has learned to let things go. And just before taking her blood pressure she goes through a ritual of settling herself by closing her eyes, connecting with her breath and then calling up images of love.

While this story may inspire you to embark on your own exploratory journey to seek your own unique solution to whatever ailment (or difficulty) you may be encountering; it is always wise to consult with the relevant, trusted professionals so that a healing process unfolds in a caring, supportive context.

Humfrey – a true champion

I have had a lot of comment about Humfrey. While I am sure that ‘Humps’ would not mind to be seen only in the light of the picture that I displayed of him in my last posting ‘what if it defeats you’, I thought that I owe it to him to give you a more holistic perspective of him.

Humfrey is a champion. In a recent leadership workshop, I was discussing living life in a conscious way according to the 4 P’s. In brief, the 4 P’s stand for Presence (nowness), Participation (connection), Purpose (intention), Playfulness (joy). In elite sport, I believe that the 4 P’s feed into each other to produce successful PERFORMANCE (which can be thought of as being the 5th P).

Humfrey - Living the 4 P's
Humfrey – Living the 4 P’s

Humfrey is a symbol of living the 4 P’s. He participates in a playful way in everything he does. He has remarkable presence. He radiates confident energy. When I take him for a walk, he is very purposeful and focused. He lives (and loves) the walk fully, totally wrapped up in the process. On returning from the walk, he rushes to the pool to cool down.

Cooling down and resting in the pool
Cooling down and resting in the pool

There is another side to ‘Humps’. He is a clown. He loves life and he certainly enjoys entertaining me and my wife. His most enjoyable past time is to find his own chair, to join in on our conversation.

Sneaking onto the chair
Sneaking onto the chair
Celebration
Joining in on the celebration
Caught in the act and feeling embarassed
Caught in the act and feeling embarrassed

I hope that I have helped expand your perception of Humfrey. I didn’t think it would be fair on him if you only had had that one image of him soaking up the sun on Spring day.