Improving performance and success at work, sport and learning
Before thinking of improving performance and what it means for you, picture this scene….
A motorcycle rider takes his place on the grid for the race. His hands are loose, but ready. He is relaxed yet totally alert. His breathing is deep and rhythmic. His gaze is unfocused on any one object, but he can see almost the entire start area. He is in what martial artists and athletes call the “zone”. When the count down starts, he remains calm and still until the last instant. Then there seems to be a blur of motion. To this top rider however, time seems altered. The other motorbikes seem to be moving in slow motion, while he himself seems lightning fast. In an instant they are left in his wake, and the rider remains in this perfect state of being for racing – totally relaxed, yet fully switched on and in control – for the rest of the contest. What seems to separate the superstars from the rest may be their ability to stay in this altered state of consciousness.
The “Zone” or “Flow” state
But you don’t have to be a top rider or athlete to experience the “ZONE”. It happens when your vision is open and full, you feel centred and grounded, totally calm, yet very alive, with sharper reflexes, absolute confidence and superb judgement. There seems to be no internal dialogue, or self talk, getting in the way, causing you to analyse and hesitate. Everything just flows easily. This is what the Japanese call ZEN. Being in the moment.
In fact, when you want to excel at anything – be it business, a degree or professional qualification, sport, acting, driving, painting, writing, performing music or whatever- you really need to learn how to access and stay in the “ZONE” more often. This state is not the preserve of superstars! You can learn how to massively improve your performance using the power of your mind, some easy self-hypnosis, and a few simple techniques, to be in the “zone” and accelerate your learning skills. And it is your ability to learn faster than everyone else that is going to turn you from OK, to good, to great.
On first view, the super active and physical world of motorbike racing would seem to be a long way from the generally quieting techniques of hypnosis and NLP. (Neuro -Linguistic Programming – which is all about how your mind works and how to make it work better for you.)
But upon closer examination it shares many similarities with hypnosis and NLP. Because excellence operates using the same general principles. If you can understand the basics of one skill then you can understand the basics of another, you can identify and emulate what role models do to be so good and you can essentially speed up your learning curve by tapping into and utilising your subconscious mind.
Ways of getting into the right state
Like the top rider, techniques of breathing and centring, as well other ‘going within’ techniques from hypnosis and NLP, can be used to get into and remain in the right state before during and after events”. Where physical skills are involved such as motorbike riding, the important concept of physical memory or mechanics of movement is of course critical. For example you are unlikely to ever be a great footballer if you cannot control a ball. But that physical prowess is secondary to the internal (or psychophysiological) state of the superb performer.
Remember too that many challenges are largely mental in nature such as studying and passing exams. Just imagine what it would be like to be in the Zone when taking a test or making a presentation or playing poker. To perform anything correctly, exceptionally, time after time, one must enter into a specific state of mind/body that is totally centred, the Zone state.
Hypnosis, relaxation and visualisation
And the centred Zone State has several aspects that closely parallel hypnotic trance. These include deep relaxation, lack of startle reflex (nothing gets to you), unfocused gaze with wide peripheral vision that seems super sharp, parasympathetic response (you stay calm, when you would normally get physically revved up) and time distortion (everyone else seems in slow motion, while you’re moving quickly), deep rhythmic breathing from the diaphragm, and you seem to be able to sense energy about you (KI). All of these distinct physical changes, along with a deep inner awareness, can be found in martial arts training for example as well as in a hypnotic state.
In Hypnosis, and NLP, relaxation is a primary component. You relax using deep breathing and guided imagery. I then guide you into a focused “Zone” like stat .and run you through mental exercises that enable you to achieve your goals. You do not have to be deeply “under” or “asleep”. In fact, in hypnosis your senses are heightened and you are aware of everything around you.
One of the first things that you can use this altered state for is to learn to control the General Adaptation Syndrome. This is the fight or flight response where your sympathetic nervous system puts your body on high alert. Your body releases epinephrine and noreninephrine from your adrenal glands. This leads to a heightened startle reflex, rapid breathing, an elevated pulse, narrowing of vision, decreased hearing, loss of strength, shaking of hands, and a loss of cognitive abilities. It has been estimated that you can lose up to 90% of your physical and mental capabilities when this response is in full force. It is why you need to have a quiet mind; not over think, to react in a flow.
Hypnosis anchors in this relaxation response and by performing visualisations of being in flow you can successfully teach the brain so that excellence becomes second nature i.e. it becomes unconscious like so many other things that you do.