What are you thinking about when you’re communicating?
Would you say that:
1) you’re being mindful of the moment or
2) that your mind is full?
Number 1) is the key to getting great results but
Number 2) leads to stress and low performance.
Let me explain.
Have you ever wondered why sometimes you manage to do something really really well, and other times you don’t even come close?
Of course, you’ll need to know the fundamentals of the field you want to excel in, the “nuts and bolts”. There’s no escape from learning the building blocks of your subject.
But once you know them, what separates the consistent high performers from the ups and downers?
Just take a moment to think back to the last time you were disappointed with your performance and ask yourself this question: how was I thinking at the time?
(I’ll use the example of speaking in a foreign language but it could be anything from leading a team to giving a presentation in public, from learning how to ride a bike to playing golf.)
It may have been something like this:
- What if I make mistakes?
- What if I don’t understand what she means?
- I hope there aren’t any awkward silences.
- I’m such a loser, I’ve never been able to speak well and this time isn’t going to be any different.
- What if I don’t know the answer to his question or I can’t think of a word?
- What was that 5-step formula I learned recently? I can’t remember step two.
+ 10,000 other options.
Is it any wonder that you lose your ability to perform when you’re up in your head, thinking like this?
Compare this to a time when you performed really well. What were you thinking about?
It may have been something like this:
- Very little. (sound of crickets)
I’m sure if you ask anyone who loves public speaking or foreign languages, they will probably answer that they’re not really thinking about anything, they’re just in the moment, opening their mouth and taking one step after another instinctively. They’re what we could call in the flow. (Flow isn’t a place you try to get to, it’s your natural state when you’re fully present).
In a nutshell, their mind is free. They’re alert, open to their own intuition and senses. They’re not caught up worrying, overanalysing, lost in their thoughts about X, Y, Z.
Think about the times when your mind has been clear and you’ve just been “in the moment”. How did you feel?
Probably nothing at the time but if you think about it with hindsight, you might say mentally strong, a kind of natural invincibility, of innate okayness.
Why is this?
First, two questions for you.
Have you ever been in awe at the natural intelligence behind nature? How everything just sort of clicks into place: seasons change, leaves fall and plants grow without us having to control anything.
And what about our physical bodies that automatically regulate our breathing, temperature, blood flow, bone growth etc.?
Well, our mind also has a self-correcting capacity, which means that it will always go back to its natural default mode of “healthy thinking“, provided we let it.
But we tend to get in our own way. We pounce on certain thoughts like a hungry tiger with its prey and play with them until we’re exhausted. We live in our thinking instead of living in the moment.
We get hundreds to thousands of thoughts “downloading” into our minds every day. That’s how the human mind works. And we don’t have to do anything about them.
To give you a seasonal example, your mind is like a snow globe. If you shake the globe, snow will fly around like crazy. (That’s usually when you’re rushing & running, feeling stressed and everything feels hard, confusing and complicated). But as soon as you stop shaking the snow globe, the snow will settle and clear the globe completely. All is calm. Just like your mind.
And when you have a clear mind and automatically access your own natural intelligence (instinct, intuition, peace of mind…), you’ll know what the next step, thing to say, or course of action is, based on your real-time responsiveness.
But when you’re lost in “busy thinking”, analysing, guessing, imagining, caught up in your head, how can any fresh insights, creativity and understanding reach you?
Your actions will obviously be less inspired and less effective than if they are born from your healthy free-flow thinking.
To resume, for a healthier high performance with less stress and more presence, you need to show up and open up:
- see any uncomfortable feelings (stress, frustration, irritation, worry) as a sign that you’re caught up in your thoughts (lost in past regrets or future “what ifs”);
- automatically come back to the present moment where your true power to perform lies;
- just do the next thing that intuitively feels right based on what is in front of you (not what is in your head).
Photos courteys of: Rawpixel, Alfred Schrock, Aaron Burden via Unsplash & Kris