Monday, May 23, 2011

Peak Performance: Playing it Safe?

  • Erin's Story
  • Preparation for Peak Performance
  • Action Steps: "Fear Inventory"

Erin's Story

In most every individual's performance issue there hides a life-long pattern of thinking that was necessary "back then" and now bites them in the butt.

Erin is a 39-year-old accomplished university professional and an avid cross-country mountain bike racer. Her concern: "I'm a slow descender.  I pick good lines but I'm slow...I'm afraid of getting hurt."  We could apply some simple EFT to these surface complaints, but it's my job to dig deeper and give her the most effective, fastest change.  I zero in on "I'm afraid of getting hurt" and ask a couple questions... "Well my dad...he liked to tease...constantly humiliated all of us kids."  In repeated comments about her biking and life, I hear her state, "I plan and prepare for potential pitfalls and how to avoid them...or something bad will happen."

Life Patterns for Safety 

Ask yourself:  How fast or effective can anyone be when they are preparing for something bad to happen?   How might you be holding this similar pattern of fear?

Erin's long-held pattern of how to avoid danger is a common theme in every client's story.  We all have unconscious patterns developed for very good reasons. They served us well - in fact, were necessary when we were younger. They kept us feeling some sense of control and safety in an environment that didn't offer enough of either.  As adults, the patterns that kept us "safe" back then are now biting us in the butt.  They block, stop - and painfully create a sense of being stuck, preventing us from moving to our most desired goals.  They literally say, "No, you can't do what you want - it's NOT safe!"  It's like living life with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake. 

It's not safe to play full out.

Preparation for Peak Performance

The typical way athletes prepare for continual improvement is through good coaching and physical practice.  They learn the skills and continually fine tune more complex aspects of each  skill (same with musicians, speakers, business people).  Elite athletes focus on positive, inspirational messages, success behaviors, self-affirmations, visualizations - all good and essential.  What's missing, however, is one of the key elements in peak performance - mental preparation - clearing out all negative emotions, all expectations (good or bad), mental effects of injuries, fears, and self-doubts.

Ask any athlete when they haven't performed well.  "I just couldn't stay nerves got the best of me...I started falling apart after I took such a big lead...I just couldn't get my "act" together."  They're not talking about their physical preparation or their lack of affirming visualizations.  They're really verbalizing deficits in mental preparation, though most seek remedy with more "physical" practice!!

Consider Erin's case of going slow on the descent.  We can clear her belief that "I'm not safe" with focused EFT, and her need to plan around pitfalls will fall away.  Her focus will shift from "danger - slow down - be careful" to a safe, fun, feeling of full out "GO!"  This is the physiology and intense belief of a winner.  This is where EFT shines as a power tool.

We don't have to clear every humiliating incident that set this belief into place.  We just clear enough humiliation out of her system that the lack of safety starts to not feel relevant (this happens physiologically!)  We then strengthen the positive behaviors that now feel safe to accomplish.  The process is systematic and literally creates a shift in how she experiences safety for herself.  After applying this new safety to specific bicycling skills, the internal biological, psychological conflict is over, and she's free to GO! 

Interested in how EFT does this

Action Steps for Athletes:  Fear Inventory
(Please note this tool is equally useful for any peak performance issue)

Becoming mindful of the negative things you say to yourself is crucial if you are to clear what's blocking your best performance. 

Construct a "Fear Inventory" to help you identify what things need some EFT tapping for resolution.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and list as fast as you can every self-doubt, fear, or statement that comes to mind about your current playing or upcoming event.  Here are some examples.
  • Erin (cycling) - I'm afraid I'll miss that sharp third turn and fly over the ledge.
  • George (tennis) - I don't like playing Sam  - or - I hate playing in that stadium.
  • Sarah (swimming) - I'm struggling with my turns in the 100 meter butterfly.
  • Robert (golf) - I always slice the ball on the 13th hole at ...
Artful, investigative EFT can quickly get to the specifics of these negative thought patterns and clear the way for optimal performance.  I think you will enjoy hearing triathlete extraordinaire Matt Smith's experience with EFT and his amazing performance in the Hawaii Ironman!

Shout Out!

CONGRATULATIONS to Sybil Praski, Xterra mountain cyclist & former client.  Sybil won the South Central Xterra Championship in Texas this April and has earned a slot to the world championships in Hawaii this October!  "I guess it works - I won!" she emailed. "This is what I really wanted!"

Note:  Sybil went from sport to expert class racing less than one year ago and is already beating the pack in her age category of "expert".  Wahoo!

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