FINDING YOUR FLOW TOOLKIT
ENTERING THE MOMENT
Engaging Moments of Performance will be written in a 3-part series. This week we will focus on Step 1. Planning & Preparation (Entering the Moment). Next week we will focus on Step 2. Execution & Feedback (Performing in the Moment). On the third week we will focus on Step 3. Evaluate and Learn (Exiting the Moment).
For the past 41 weeks, we have spent considerable time discussing the framework, tools, and strategies for Finding Your Flow and being fully engaged in the present moment—all from the broader twelve dimension perspective. During these next three Flow Tools, we will discuss a strategies checklist—within the discussion of rituals and routines—to help you prepare for, execute, and evaluate your most important moments of performance.
To successfully enter your “moments of performance” (MOP) with full intention and attention, it is helpful to establish pre-performance rituals and practices. From airline pilots to dancers, athletes to executives, peak performers of every kind enable their attention and focus by clarifying motives, setting goals, managing energy, thoughts, and moods, and other important strategies to ensure all systems are “go” prior to any MOP.
In the MOP, high performers place their attention only on what’s most important—leaving the irrelevant behind. Self-regulation, on par with moment-by-moment intentional focus, is the fundamental skill-set of the seasoned performer.
Exiting the MOP, experienced performers capture the lessons to be learned (both good and bad), and use this information to change course and improve their next MOP.
These three flow tools place us right before the MOP (Short Future), within the MOP (Focus), and after the MOP (Short Past) in order to enter, execute, and exit every moment of performance with intent, focus, and maximum learning.
As we consider the entire performance cycle, let’s talk about these three simple stages:
Step 1: Pre-Performance Planning & Preparation
Take a moment and reflect on a MOP during which you experienced failure…
Now, reflect on a performance where you experienced success…
Consider the differences in your experiences. What was different about your:
As you consider various strategies, it is important to remember that preparing for any performance is a personal process. While you may learn many best practices from others, it’s important to discover what works for you. Also, remember that preparing for any performance is context specific. Preparing for an engaging workout (i.e., organizing gym bag, warm up, use of music, etc…) may be slightly different than preparing for an important meeting (i.e., organizing your notes, collecting files, making lists, setting goals, visualizing outcomes, etc…). Each arena is technically unique, but with slightly different pre-performance practices.
By design, these flow tools are about effective preparation. Every strategy, process, or tool given is designed to help you maximize your performance by staying fully present and engaged in the moment. Doing this requires some preparation (intentional, ritual, or habitual) in every dimension of focus we have discussed within the Twelve-Dimension Model.
As discussed effective rituals and routines are important in preparation for any MOP. However, it’s important to note that daily, weekly, monthly, even yearly rituals and routines, provide a solid foundation for our immediate pre-performance planning. Let’s review the value of these broader strategies before discussing the pre-MOP planning exercise.
The Value of Rituals
According to Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, positive rituals and habits:
- Help us manage energy through conservation of conscious attention
- Decrease our use of conscious will
- Provide a stable framework where creative breakthroughs can occur
- Help translate powerful values and priorities into the actions that matter most
- Provide a level of comfort, continuity and security that frees us to improvise and to take risks (Loehr & Schwartz. 2001. p. 166-67)
Rituals, routines, and pre-competition habits exist in just about every MLA:
- Each time Ivan Lendl stepped up to the line to serve during a tennis match, he predictably wiped his brow with his wristband, knocked the head of his racquet against each of his heels, took sawdust from his pocket, bounced the ball four times and visualized where he intended to hit the ball…” (Loehr & Schwartz. 2001. p. 172)
- Military Training
- Almost every aspect of military training focuses on the development of rituals, routines and habits, such that the solider can act “on demand”. These rituals include “After Action Reviews” so soldiers can maximize learning from every simulation or drill.
- “ Successful executives, managers, and salespeople often have their own pre-performance rituals. In advance of an important meeting, these rituals might range from taking a walk in order to shift gears, to abdominal breathing in order to relax; from rehearsing the key points to be covered to reciting a series of affirmation around desired outcomes.” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2001, p. 172)
- Writers often use pre-scribed rituals and organized behaviors prior to writing sessions to usher in a creative flow. Such rituals include organizing one’s space, setting up and uninterrupted writing environment, having the right tools in place and playing music.
- Astronauts & Pilots
- Both astronauts and pilots use detailed rituals, routines, and checklists prior to any simulation, flight, or launch. These include such activities as pre-flight plans and system checks to ensure “all systems are go!”
General vs. Specific Rituals & Routines
In previous communications, we discussed the value in some common daily rituals and routines such as:
- Getting up 15 minutes early and planning the day
- Carving out time for daily spiritual or meditative practices
- Early morning work-outs or walks
- Writing daily goals
- Nutritional strategies to maximize daily energy
Similarly, rituals and routines may be practiced weekly, monthly, or yearly:
- Spiritual practices or reflections
- Sunday review of weekly goals (accomplished last week/new goals this week)
- Workspace organization
- Journal writing
- Leisure time with family & friends
- Review of monthly goals (accomplished last month/new goals this month)
- Review and clean up personal files
- Strategic “unsubscribe” from email lists
- A night out with closest friends
- Re-write mission/vision/legacy documents
- Re-write Philosophy of Engagement
- Review of yearly goals (accomplished last year/new goals this year)
- Complete physical check-up
As you consider valuable daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rituals and routines, let’s now drill down to specific MOPs and spend a few minutes talking about a pre-MOP preparation checklist that you can use (or refine as necessary) prior to any important engagement or performance.
Get Ready to Perform
Visualize if you will an upcoming MOP. This might be a test, presentation, competition, or some important MOP that is important to you. Let’s now consider a handful of questions that you might answer (in writing or mentally) to maximize your readiness:
For training’s sake, take a few minutes and answer these questions in writing (Use “Pre-MOP Planning” exercise template attached).
1. How does this MOP serve my missions, vision, or purpose (Long Future)?
2. My goal(s) for this MOP include (Short Future).
3. What spiritual strategies might I employ before this MOP (Spiritual)?
4. My personal philosophy (rules of engagement) for this MOP will be (Philosophical)?
5. My images, attitudes or self-talk will include (Psychological)?
6. What emotions do I need to tap into prior to this MOP (Emotional)?
7. Strategies for reaching my optimal physical state (rest, recovery, nutrition, arousal management) to maximize my performance will include (Physical)?
8. What memories give me the most confidence in prep for this MOP (Long Past)?
9. What feedback/data will I use during this MOP to adjust my approach (Short Past)?
10. What tools and resources will I need to maximize my performance? How does the arena need to be organized or influenced (Immediate Environment)?
11. What have I done to review the context of my performance? Is there anything I can do to change it? Or what do I need to accept about it (Extended Environment)?
12. What is the most important thing I should be thinking about during this MOP? What are the “critical factors” that need my attention (Focus)?
Other pre-performance rituals include:
This week, in addition to building a broad rituals and routines framework, carve out a few minutes and review these questions above (or produce other questions) to get ready for an important MOP. After the performance (whatever it is, giving a speech, having a challenging conversation, some type of test, etc.) see if these preparation strategies helped you keep your attention where it belonged and if your outcome met or exceeded your expectations.
We’ll check back in with you next week and move on to Step 2 in the Planning and Preparation Process.
See you next week!
EXERCISE AND PRACTICE:
- Take 30-60 minutes and consider the five or so rituals or routines that would influence your performance daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Keep this close at hand (in your SmartPhone) and refine as necessary.
- Utilize the Pre-MOP Planning sheet to prepare for one important MOP. Notice its value and consider making this tool a permanent part of your pre-MOP planning process.