The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Performing At Your Best By Being Fully In The Present

Big Ben Midnight

“Great athletes perform at their best by being fully in the present,” said one sports coach.

“They produce high standards whether they are doing a training drill or playing in a competitive game.

“Some athletes fail because they may be thinking of past mistakes or anticipating the celebration of a potential victory.

“Great athletes always prepare properly. They click into action when entering the arena, follow their chosen principles and give everything to achieve success.”

This is a theme underlined in the often quoted phrase: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Where does this happen for you? What are the specific kinds of satisfying work in which you naturally focus on the present and do superb work?

You may do this when encouraging a person, painting, writing, gardening, giving keynote speeches, solving complex problems or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific kind of satisfying work in which you often perform at your best by being fully in the present.  

Describe the specific things you do to perform at your best by being fully in the present.

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People sometimes take the following steps towards making this happen. They prepare properly, are fully in the present and then perform at their best. Let’s explore these steps.

Being Willing To
Prepare Properly

Looking at your own work, what is the activity in which you rehearse everything in great detail? What are the steps you take to prepare?

Different workers do this in different ways. Some people start from their destination and work backwards. They ask questions such as:

“What is the picture of success? What will be happening that will show I have achieved the goal? What are the actual words that the various stakeholders – including myself – will be saying?

“How can I do my best to achieve these results? What are the three key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of achieving success? How can I implement these strategies successfully?

“What are the potential challenges along the way? How can I prevent some of these challenges happening? How can I deal with them successfully if they do happen?”

“What is my action plan? What are the specific things I want to achieve – and by when – on the road to achieving the goals? How can I get some quick wins? How can I then do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success?”

Great workers often mentally rehearse what they are going to do to achieve the goals. There are many models for mental rehearsal. Here is one approach.

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Let’s imagine a person has prepared properly. They may then relax, rest and gather their energy to tackle the task. It is then time to take the next step.

Being Fully
In The Present

Great workers aim to be positively engaged when doing the work. Different individuals have different triggers for clicking into action when entering their equivalent of the arena.

A person may relax and then say: “Right, time to get the show on the road.” They put their head up and stride towards doing their chosen task.

How do you click into action? How do you become fully alive, alert and aware of what is happening?

Great workers are often calm in the heat of battle. Different people achieve this in different ways. One approach is to focus on the soothing effects of deep breathing.

There are many ways to use this technique. Here is one approach that is highlighted on the website of Human Givens. You can discover more via the following link.

Deep Breathing – The 7-11 Approach

Deep breathing techniques all have one thing in common, they work by stimulating what is known as the Parasympathetic Nervous System. 

You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response, the Parasympathetic Nervous System is simply the opposite of that (‘fight or flight’ is the term for the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System) – instead of getting you ready for action, deep breathing activates a natural bodily response that can be described as ‘rest and digest’. 

Out-breaths decrease your blood pressure, dilate your pupils and slow your heart rate – lowering emotional arousal in the process.  

Practising a breathing technique a few times a day will lower your overall stress levels in the long term. 

It’s important to realise that it’s the out-breaths that stimulate the response, so it stands to reason that a breathing technique with longer out-breaths than in-breaths will be more effective at lowering emotional arousal.

On our Human Givens College training courses, we teach a technique called ‘7-11’ breathing because it’s the most powerful technique we know.

1 – breathe in for a count of 7.

2 – then breathe out for a count of 11. 

Make sure that when you are breathing in, you are doing deep ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ (your diaphragm moves down and pushes your stomach out as you take in a breath) rather than shallower higher lung breathing.  

If you find that it’s difficult to lengthen your breaths to a count of 11 or 7, then reduce the count to breathing in for 3 and out to 5, or whatever suits you best, as long as the out-breath is longer than the in-breath.

Continue in this way for 5-10 minutes or longer if you have time – and enjoy the calming effect it will have on your mind and body.

An added bonus of 7-11 breathing is that the very act of counting to 7 or 11 is a distraction technique, taking your mind off your immediate concerns. 

This 7-11 breathing technique for relaxing quickly is the most powerful we know and has been used for thousands of years throughout the world.

Let’s assume that a person is fully present. They can then take the next step.

Being Able To
Perform Superbly

Great workers often do superb work by combining being fully present and yet also being able to see patterns. They then pursue the key strategies most likely to achieve the picture of success.

Different people report different sensations when taking these steps, but there are some common themes. One family therapist highlighted some of these in the following way.

“The first time I experienced these sensations was when I was running a family therapy session. This sounds odd, but suddenly it felt as if I was floating above people in the room.

“Looking from above, I could clearly see the family communication patterns. At the same time I was still completely involved in the face-to-face communication with each person.

“Since then I have experienced something similar in many therapy sessions. This enables me to see patterns and help the family to get positive results.”

Great workers gather lots of information when being fully present. They then use their experience and insight to do the following things. 

They quickly see patterns – both the successful and unsuccessful patterns – and the consequences of these patterns.

They see the potential picture of success.

They pursue the best strategy for achieving the picture of success.

Let’s return to your own work. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific kind of satisfying work in which you often perform at your best by being fully in the present.

Describe the specific steps you can take to do more of this kind of work in the future.

Describe the specific benefits of taking these steps and doing this kind of satisfying work.

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