Viewing entries in
Think Clearly

Think Clearly to Perform Better

Think Clearly to Perform Better

KEY POINTS:

1. To reach your potential, you need to be able to learn, be creative, be positive, and be able to focus to unleash your creativity and beautiful ideas on the world.

2. Thinking Clearly is how we can take our physical health and energy and translate that into a better life on a day-to-day basis.

3. In the same way that daily exercise builds a healthy, high-performance body and mind, specific thinking clearly strategies can have powerful physical and mental effects that unlock your potential.

Every person is capable of exceptional things. Your exceptional may not be to swim the fastest lap. Your extraordinary may not make the history books or dazzle a crowd. Your remarkable may not even excite your friends or your dog! But to you, it’s everything. It’s living better, achieving more, feeling good, having energy, staying healthy, and believing in yourself. It’s offering your best at work, at home and on the court/track/trail/bike/mat.

To really actualize excellence and to reach your potential as a unique individual with powerful dreams you need to make sure that you can think clearly. You need to be able to learn, to be creative, to be positive and happy, to be able to focus, and to unleash your creativity and beautiful ideas on the world.

This is where we can bring so many powerful ideas together to help you live at exceptional. Now, keep in mind when I say things like world-class, excellent, and exceptional that can mean anything. For my Olympic athletes that is being the best in the world at a sport. For a musician that might mean playing a beautiful piece of music. For a business person that might mean coming up with a new solution for a client or delivering a great presentation. It might mean being a good friend and listening patiently to someone who is struggling with life. It might mean being able to let go of distractions and to be fully present with your children in a park. If you are battling cancer it might mean walking up and down a hallway after a chemotherapy treatment. As a wonderful little girl at Sick Kids hospital said to me once: “You can’t let cancer ruin your day”. She was thinking clearly despite being faced with an incomprehensible challenge.

Thinking Clearly is how we can take our better physical health and energy and translate that into a better life on a day to day basis. In the same way that daily exercise will build a healthy, high-performance body for your and improve your health and many aspects of your brain and psychology, daily mental health practices like meditation work exactly the same way, with powerful physical and mental effects that unlock your potential.

Thank you for being a part of the Program and I hope that this module has been super helpful for you!

Today's POWER-UP: Apply the 1% Better concept to your mind

1. EVERY DAY, YOU CAN MAKE A 1% IMPROVEMENT TO YOUR MINDSET!

2. AIM FOR SMALL IMPROVEMENTS IN HOW YOU THINK AND MANAGE YOUR DAYS. MICRO-WINS ADD UP OVER TIME TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Build Your Zone Routine

Build Your Zone Routine

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Using the techniques we've discussed over the past couple of weeks, you can learn to develop systems, routines, and skills that make your Zones available to you whenever you need them.

2. This is called Building Your Zone Routine and will help you get into the Zone on demand. 

As we wrap up looking at the Zone and how we can get into flow states to optimize thinking and performing, let’s talk about a deliberate way to approach your Zones that will help you achieve the goal: being able to get into the Zone on demand.

If you follow these steps, you can develop a deliberate process for getting into your Zone whenever you need to.

Step 1: Your Zone Moment
Bring to mind what it feels like to be in a particular Zone. Single words are great. Pictures are okay too. Anything that reminds you of the actions, thoughts and feelings that happen during optimal performance in a particular situation.

Step 2: Act – Think - Feel
Zoom in. What exactly were you doing (body), thinking (mind) and feeling (emotions) before and during your flow performance? Write down any additional words that specifically describe your body, your mind and your emotions.

Step 3: Build Your Zone Routine
Identify three things that you can do to recreate your iconic past performance in the future. What thoughts and actions will move you closer to the state you described above?

The key is to build a picture of your ideal performance state so that you can trigger that state by acting like you did when you were in it. From there, the thoughts and feelings will follow. And if you get distracted and are acting in a way that isn’t optimal, take control. Make some changes. Breathe your way into it. Move differently, think differently, transition to a different emotional state.

The goal is to develop systems, routines and skills that make your Zones available to you whenever you need them.

Today's Power Up: Build Your Zone Routine

1. BUILD A PROCESS FOR ESTABLISHING ZONE ROUTINES THAT WILL GET YOU INTO YOUR IDEAL PERFORMANCE STATE. USE THE ZONE WORKBOOK TO BUILD YOUR ROUTINE.

2. PRACTICE GETTING INTO THE ZONE / YOUR FLOW STATE AT LEAST ONCE PER DAY, IDEALLY WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO DO YOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORK.

IF YOU WANT SOME FEEDBACK ON YOUR ZONE ROUTINE FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW AND WE'LL GET RIGHT BACK TO YOU!

Name *
Name

Get Back in the Zone

Get Back in the Zone

KEY POINTS:

1. Stress and anxiety are the biggest threat to your Zone.

2. Combat Breathing is when you breathe deeply and controlled to calm anxiety and stress. You can do it anytime you feel that you are out of your Zone.

3. This is so effective because the centres of your brain that control breathing are closely linked to the area that controls stress. If you can calm the electrical activity in the breathing centre, then you can control your stress levels.

Now that you have a sense of what your Zone is, you need to learn how to return to your ideal performance state when going gets tough. When tension creeps into your relaxed, high-energy, high-output state, your effort increases but your performance drops. Stress and anxiety are the biggest threat to your Zone.

Remember figure skater Joannie Rochette at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics? She used relaxation breathing while standing by the boards with her coach to get back into the Zone when her emotions about her mother’s death arose as she was about to start her program at the Olympics. As a result, she went out and won the Bronze medal.

The reason breathing is so effective is that the centres of your brain that control breathing are closely linked to the area that controls stress. If you can calm the electrical activity in the breathing centre, then you have a good chance of calming the stress. That’s why yoga and meditation work.

Deep, controlled breathing to calm anxiety or stress is often called Combat Breathing. You can do it anytime you feel that you are out of your Zone.
 
Here’s how:

1) Get into good posture by aligning your spine and stretching yourself upward. You can be lying down, sitting in a chair or standing. Then relax your muscles.

2) Do a scan for tension in your body and then focus on that area while you take a slow deep breath. Think about “letting go” of the tension as you exhale. (It might take a few breaths to get an area like your shoulders or forehead to release and relax.)

3) When you feel you have addressed the tense areas, start taking controlled breaths. (I usually take 4 seconds to inhale, hold it for 2 seconds and then exhale for 6 seconds.) If you are trying to relax, exhale longer than you inhale. If you are trying to psyche up or increase your energy, inhale longer and exhale quickly.

The key is to realize you are stressed and take slow deep breaths – no matter what you are trying to get in the Zone for – a presentation, a performance, a meeting, an exam or just trying to get in the right head space to arrive home to your kids.

Today's Power Up: Relaxation Breathing

1. PRACTICE RELAXATION BREATHING WHEN STRESS OR TENSION PREVENT YOU FROM BEING IN YOUR ZONE.

2. TAKE A MOMENT TO PRACTICE RELAXATION BREATHING AT LEAST ONCE PER DAY IDEALLY DURING A MOMENT WHEN YOU'RE FEELING TENSE OR STRESSED. I LIKE PRACTICING THIS IN THE CAR WHEN I'M DRIVING TO AND FROM WORK. IF YOU PRACTICE IT ENOUGH THE RELAXATION RESPONSE WILL BECOME ALMOST AUTOMATIC WHENEVER YOU'RE FEELING ANXIOUS.

Get in the Zone

Get in the Zone

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Often, when in a high pressure situation, we let our emotions drive our actions. We might feel anxious, scared, or tense. This leads us to have negative thoughts and ultimately a diminished performance (this is called Feel-Think-Act).

2. Act-Think-Feel has the opposite effect: if you move your body in a particular way – by consciously smiling, taking deep breaths, or purposely standing tall – you tell your body to release hormones that change the way you think and feel.  

3. By exploring how you were acting, thinking, and feeling during previous zone moments, you can learn to recreate your zone moments by acting the part.

As we continue to look at the Zone more clearly, let’s add techniques for controlling your flow state.

Shortly before the London Olympics, diver Alexandre Despatie was training in Spain when he hit his head on the board, leading to a concussion and a 10 cm gash in his forehead that required surgery. With the games only a few weeks away, the injury was shocking.

Alex followed his doctor’s return-to-sport protocol closely and resumed training 10 days after the accident. And by the time the games arrived, he was ready to compete, which would require him to perform the same dive that had led to his injury.

If you put yourself in Alex’s shoes (or bare feet on the diving board), you can imagine the emotion of performing that dive in front of thousands of people and millions of viewers. How would he feel? Tense? Nervous? Scared? Anxious?

He was none of these. I know, because I happened to be there that day to see him use a deliberate technique to prepare for the dive. He stood under the board going through the motions of the dive – right down to the facial expression – acting as if there were no fear or tension in his body.

By acting the part, he was able to get his thoughts and feelings to come along. I call it Act – Think – Feel.

The basic physiology is simple: if you move your body in a particular way – say by consciously smiling by contracting the muscles in your face – you tell your body to release hormones that change the way you think and feel.  

The challenge we all face is that this is not the typical sequence. Usually, negative emotions like fear, nervousness, or anger come first and then create negative thoughts that lead to particular actions. Feel – Think – Act. But like everything else, we can create a more healthy and effective way of living if we deliberately use our knowledge of physiology.

Regardless of how you’re feeling, always adopt a posture of confidence and control. Breathe deeply and relax. Unclench your hands. Change your thoughts and emotions through action. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!

Today's POWER-UP: Act-Think-Feel 

USE THE ACT-THINK-FEEL TECHNIQUE TO RE-CREATE YOUR FLOW STATE ON DEMAND, ANYTIME YOU WANT, RATHER THAN JUST HAVING IT “HAPPEN”.

THINK ABOUT THE LAST TIME YOU PERFORMED REALLY WELL AT SOMETHING. MAKE A MENTAL NOTE OF THAT MOMENT—OR WRITE IT DOWN—THEN ASK YOURSELF A FEW QUESTIONS.

1. WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THAT MOMENT? WHAT WERE YOUR ACTIONS? WERE YOU STRETCHING? DID YOU HAVE A GOOD BREAKFAST? FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING. WRITE IT DOWN IN THE ZONE WORKBOOK OR IN THE FORM BELOW.

2. NOW YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WERE THINKING. WERE YOU LISTENING TO A PODCAST OR TO MUSIC? DID YOU TELL YOURSELF WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO DO? WHAT MINDSET DID YOU HAVE? WRITE IT DOWN IN THE ZONE WORKBOOK OR IN THE FORM BELOW.

3. THE FINAL STEP IS TO REMEMBER WHAT YOU WERE FEELING. WHAT WERE YOUR EMOTIONS? WERE YOU ANGRY? EXCITED? MOTIVATED? HAPPY? WRITE IT DOWN IN THE ZONE WORKBOOK OR IN THE FORM BELOW.

WHAT YOU’LL END UP WITH IS THE ROADMAP FOR THE PROCESS ELITE ATHLETES GO THROUGH WHEN THEY’RE PREPARING FOR AN EVENT. THE BEST PUBLIC SPEAKERS USE THIS PROCESS AS WELL. THAT’S WHY ATHLETES AND PUBLIC FIGURES HAVE ROUTINES THAT THEY’RE ALMOST RELIGIOUS ABOUT KEEPING.

THEY KNOW THAT IF THEY DO SPECIFIC THINGS, THEY WILL GIVE THEMSELVES THE BEST CHANCE OF PERFORMING AT THEIR BEST.

Name *
Name
What were your actions? Describe your physical state here.
What were your thoughts? Describe your mental state here.
What were your emotions? Describe your emotional state here.

The Power of Flow

The Power of Flow

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. A flow state, otherwise known as the Ideal Performance State or the "Zone", is when you're energized, motivated, focused, happy, and able to perform your best at a particular task.

2. This flow state can happen while playing a sport, while at work, during a performance or presentation, or simply when reading a book. 

3. Over the next couple of weeks, you'll practice identifying your zone moments and learn how you can reach this flow state on demand.

As we continue our Think Clearly module, I want to ask you a few questions:

Have you ever been completely focused and absorbed in a task, then then an hour later, you emerge from the flow and realize you have just done some of the best thinking you’ve ever done?

Or a day when you were working or studying and understood everything easily – and the words just flowed smoothly onto the page?

Or gone for a run and settled into a smooth rhythm in which your mind quieted down and you flowed through the steps, when running became easy and you were able to perform at a level you never knew you were capable of until that moment?

Just about everyone can identify with moments like this. Unfortunately, for most of us, these moments are rare and seem random. But when we explore the science of human performance, you’ll see that the flow state – “the zone” – is something you can achieve on demand, and it is a state you can control.

In the research literature “The Zone” is known as the Ideal Performance State (IPS). When our activation is low, we lack motivation, interest and energy. When our activation is high, we are agitated, anxious, stressed or tense.

But somewhere between these two activation states (either too activated or not activated enough) there lies the magical ideal performance state. The state where we are energized, motivated, focused, happy, and able to perform at our best.

Your ideal state for a given task depends on the task. When I’m playing with my daughter I have to be almost meditative, slow and calm. Before public speaking I have to get really psyched up. I activate my body just like I used to before a swim race. I try to get a bit nervous so that I have great energy to start the talk. For television appearances I have to have energy and clarity of thought and total focus. If you’re thinking about anything other than the topic of the day, the appearance does not go well.

The Peak Performance Zone exists between two extremes of low and high activation – and you can learn to get there! Knowing what you need – and how to ignite your body and mind to prepare for that demand – can help you build your own Peak Performance Zone. By taking some time to understand your own Peak Performance Zone, you can learn how to achieve your most productive mode in every area of your life.

Today's Power Up: Identify Your Zone Moments

1. DOWNLOAD THE ZONE WORKBOOK HERE.

2. THINK ABOUT TIMES WHEN YOU WERE PRODUCTIVE, ENGAGED AND FULL OF ENERGY – EVEN IF THE ACTIVITY WAS LOW KEY – WHILE ALSO FEELING A SENSE OF TIMELESSNESS. THIS IS YOUR PEAK PERFORMANCE ZONE.

3. MAKE A CLEAR LIST OF THOSE MOMENTS, TIMES, OR TASKS WHEN YOU WERE IN A STATE OF FLOW / IN THE ZONE. WE WILL BEGIN TO DECONSTRUCT THOSE MOMENTS IN THE UPCOMING POSTS TO SHOW YOU HOW YOU CAN ENTER THE ZONE ON DEMAND.

4. IF YOU WANT SOME FEEDBACK PLEASE COMPLETE THE FORM BELOW AND WE'LL GET BACK TO YOU WITH COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS.

Name *
Name

The Power of Focus

The Power of Focus

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The ability to focus is one of the most important mental skills to learn.

2. Each day you need to overcome the distractions of our world to focus on what is most important for you to accomplish, be it at work, at home, or during your passionate pursuits.

3. Focus is a powerful tool for managing stress, directing your mind, taking care of yourself, and reaching your goals. 

"In all my years working with Olympic athletes, I have learned that focus and concentration are the most important skills. Those who attend to the things that will make them successful, succeed. Those who get distracted are left wondering why they didn’t win. It’s that simple." - Dr. Greg Wells

Focus is effective in helping all of us perform, control stress or improve mental and physical health. It can also be critical for success of a business, such as when Steve Jobs came back to Apple. The struggling company was making many different configurations of computers, printers, monitors and accessory products. None were great and none were selling well. The stock price had tumbled.

At the first board meeting, Jobs walked to a whiteboard, picked up a marker and drew a huge + sign. In each of the four quadrants of the +, he wrote one product. He said that they would make a personal and a business version of a laptop and a desktop. Everything else had to go.

The results were unreal. By focusing on just four products, Apple established a culture of excellence to support great new ideas and designs. And they laid the foundation for the creation of the iPod, which revolutionized the music industry, and the iPhone, which revolutionized the mobile phone industry.

Without focus, these achievements would never have been possible. Here's another example from the sports world.

Jose Bautista’s famous “bat flip” home run – a three-run shot in the ALCS against Texas on October 13, 2015 is now up there with the most famous home-runs of all time. It is also a perfect example of how an athlete uses focus to get into the Zone.

Here’s how Jose described it in his Player’s Tribune article “Are you Flippin Kidding Me?”:

We knocked in the tying run…the crowd just exploded…50,000 people going crazy…Then I took that lonely walk to the plate with everything on the line….My adrenaline wasn’t 10-out-of-10. It was ten-million-out-of-10. The stage was set. I was so locked in that all I could see was the pitcher. Everything else was out of focus. It was so loud that it was quiet.

What he was describing is the ability to channel the intensity of the moment into his performance by focusing on one and only one thing – the ball. That’s how an elite athlete gets in the Zone and stays there.

It’s no different for you. Each day we need to overcome the distractions of our world to focus on what is most important for us to accomplish if we are to reach our potential.

But what is focus? The Focusing Institute (www.focusing.org) puts it like this:

“Focusing” is to enter into a special kind of awareness, different from our everyday awareness. It is open, turned inward, centered on the present and on your body’s inner sensations. When doing Focusing, you silently ask, “How am I now?”

Here’s what’s key in that description: attention is turned away from the world around you and toward the task so that only the current mission exists. Also, only the present moment exists – there is no past or future. There is only now. This is the required precursor for getting into the zone or a flow state.

The ability to focus is one of the most important mental skills I want you to learn – and it starts with realizing how important it is.

Today's POWER-UP: The 90 - 90 - 1 Principle

ACCORDING TO MY FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE ROBIN SHARMA, YOU SHOULD SPEND THE FIRST 90 MINUTES OF YOUR DAY ON THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK YOU NEED TO ACCOMPLISH. TRY THIS FOR 90 DAYS. HENCE THE 90 - 90 - 1 PRINCIPLE. THIS IS A TOTAL GAME CHANGER AND WILL ENABLE YOU TO GET YOUR BEST WORK DONE IN THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME WHILE SUPER CHARGING YOUR LIFE.

WITH THE DEMANDS OF YOUR JOB SUCH AS MEETINGS, PHONE CALLS, AND EMAILS, THIS MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE POSSIBLE. HOWEVER, TRY IMPLEMENTING THIS STRATEGY WHENEVER YOU HAVE A MOMENT FREE FROM DISTRACTIONS. IF YOU CAN'T DO 90 MINUTES, TRY 20 OR 30. TRY TO MINIMIZE YOUR DISTRACTIONS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. FOR EXAMPLE, IT MIGHT NOT BE POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO IGNORE PHONE CALLS, BUT TRY TO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAIL TO HELP YOU FOCUS ON YOUR TASK. 

IF YOU DO THIS, THIS WILL ENABLE YOU TO GET YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TASKS DONE WELL IN THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME, WHILE SUPER CHARGING YOUR LIFE.

Welcome to Think Clearly!

Welcome to Think Clearly!

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Mental health is just as important as physical health in your journey towards a high performance life.   

2. This month, we're going to learn techniques that will help you deal with stress, stay focused, overcome setbacks, and ultimately reach your health and performance potential.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

On October 2012 Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a small capsule that was attached to a balloon that had climbed to an altitude of 127,852 feet – the edge of space. During the fall, Felix claimed the title of the fastest man ever in freefall having reached a speed in excess of 1300 km/hr. His heart rate ranged from 143-185 beats per minute (the same level as would be achieved in a maximal effort running race). During the fall he managed to maintain control and to get out of a 13-second-long flat spin where his body was rotating a rate of one full spin every second. It was without question one of the most incredible human achievements and is a perfect example of peak performance that required precise preparation, elite execution, and clear thinking under pressure. But the mission almost failed, because Felix was afraid of the suit he had to wear.

In the months leading up to the jump, Felix developed paralyzing claustrophobia. The suit that he had to wear was a space suit that was sealed and pressurized. It was not comfortable. Felix began to panic when he had to deal with the suit. Keep in mind that prior to this even Felix had completed 2500 jumps and had jumped off of skyscrapers as well as out of airplanes. So he was no stranger to fear and managing his psychology.

To overcome this challenge, Felix enlisted the assistance of a sport psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais. Dr. Gervais went to work with Felix to provide him with the tools and techniques that he needed to be able to execute his performance while under tremendous pressure – in this case while his life was on the line. He began his work with Felix by checking that Felix was in fact committed to the mission and not just using the suit as an excuse not to jump. The second step was to determine where Felix was focusing his thoughts and attention. They figured out that Felix was fixated on the suit, and had lost his connection with the overall vision of the mission. He had lost the dream, and was focused on the urgent issue of the day, not the important work that would lead to achievement.

Dr. Gervais and Felix Baumgartner began to work together to do a few key things. The first item that they worked on was to reconnect Felix with the most powerful element of the mission, which was the dream to do something that no human had ever done before. Then they slowly began to desensitize Felix to the suit, getting him used to small parts of the suit one step at a time. For example, they would put on the boots, and just leave them on for the day, while doing other tasks. Slowly Felix began to get used to the parts of the suit and was able, incrementally, to tolerate the suit. This mirrors our principle of the aggregate of 1% gains, which I've talked about throughout this Program. Dr. Gervais taught Felix how to control his breathing to calm himself, and how to speak to himself positively to stay focused. Finally, they worked on staying in the present so that Felix could manage his mind.

The message that you can take from this is that everyone, even the most highly trained and experienced specialists, encounter mental challenges that affect their performance and health. However, by applying principles from sport psychology, positive psychology and eastern philosophies we can learn to perform to our potential and to achieve better health at the same time. That’s the foundation of what I call Think Clearly.

This month we will work together to build the foundation for better mental health and performance.

Today's POWER-UP: Play to Your Strengths

IN THE FACE OF SETBACKS, WE OFTEN FOCUS ON WHY WE WERE NOT ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THAT TASK OR GET THAT JOB/AWARD/GRANT/ETC. BY SHIFTING OUR ATTENTION TO OUR STRENGTHS, WE CAN GAIN GREAT CONFIDENCE IN OUR ABILITIES DESPITE SETBACKS, AND WE CAN OFTEN SEE WHERE WE SHOULD BE DIRECTING OUR ENERGIES.

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS:

AM I A LEADER?

AM I CREATIVE?

DO I LIKE LEARNING NEW THINGS?

AM I GOOD AT WORKING IN A TEAM?

AM I GOOD AT GETTING LOADS OF WORK DONE WHEN I'M ALONE?