"The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it" - Felix Baumgartner
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. However, by applying principles from sport psychology, positive psychology and eastern philosophies we can learn to perform to our potential. That’s the foundation of what I call Think Clearly.
This month we will work together to build the foundation for better mental health that will help you reach your high-performance potential.