FINDING YOUR FLOW TOOLKIT
ENGAGING 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).
Discussing “in the moment” engagement is much like explaining what salt tastes like. You know it when you taste it, but words provide little meaning…
If I were to describe this experience as a picture it might look something like this:
Hence the very circle that is at the center of the 12-dimension model we discuss weekly.
By definition talking about pure in the moment focus is already taking your eye off the ball, placing your attention inside your head and not on the task at hand.
It is said that that job of a good performance coach is to help facilitate awareness, provide knowledge and meaningful tools, then, at the Moment of Performance (MOP), remove the head from the body and let the performance just happen. So let’s keep this simple (as it should be) and illustrate all of the 12 dimensions of focus, but especially the center space (in the moment performance or Flow), with one of the great tragedy/success stories from the Olympic Games:
In 1988, Dan Jansen, the best speed skater in the world at the time, was poised to win the gold metal in Calgary. Given his performance at several international competitions, the odds for a gold metal were in Dan’s favor. In the early morning of his 500-meter race (his specialty), Dan was informed that his sister was dying of Leukemia. A few hours later she passed away. Only hours after receiving this news Dan competed in the 500-meter race but fell, failing to metal. Just four days later, during the 1000-meter race, he fell again—an Olympic nightmare everyone could feel and appreciate.
So, let’s stop a moment. Personal feelings aside, where do you think Dan’s attention was at the time of his performance? Given how many Flow Tools we’ve discussed thus far, you have probably guessed it. It was most likely a combination of Short Past (SP) thinking (his sister’s death), Emotional & Psychological pain (thoughts and feelings of loss) but not what mattered most during the competition: skating really fast!
Fast-forward four years to the Olympic Games in Albertville, where, after many significant accomplishments, he once again failed to metal. Now, perhaps the most talented and prepared man in speed skating history was considered an Olympic choke! Calgary was understandable, but not in Albertville! Next stop, the 1992 Olympic Games in Lillehammer—his last official race. This was it!
Leading up to the Lillehammer games Dan broke 36 seconds four times in the 500 Meter and was now destined to win the gold metal in that race, but alas, he finished eighth! With just one race to go (the 1000 Meter, and not his best event) Dan made it to the final rounds and….
Ok, one last pause. Put yourself Peter Mueller’s role (Dan’s coach, who won the event in 1976). How would you coach Dan? What would you say? Do?
Think about the 12-dimensions for a moment…
You could talk about Dan’s mission, vision and legacy and get him focused on the Long-Future (LF). You might ask him to set a goal to win the race or “not fall” heaven forbid—all Short Future (SF) attention. Perhaps you take him back to his last race and have him identify what went wrong and how to fix it—Short Past (SP) attention. Perhaps it’s self-evident that going into the Long Past (LP) might be a place to avoid (remember Albertville & Lillehammer). Do you have him focus on his physical body (Physical), his emotional state (Emotional), his internal self-talk or images (Psychological), his rules for competing (Philosophical), or perhaps get him to pray to a higher power for divine guidance (Spiritual)?
Looking down on Dan were his parents, his wife, and his children, all wondering how the next minute and thirteen seconds +/- would justify his existence as an Olympian. Certainly putting attention on the surrounding arena (Immediate Environment--IE) or grander arena—the Olympic Games (Extended Environment--EE)—are all places where Dan’s attention could go, might go, but shouldn’t go.
Bang!!! Dan starts off strong against a Japanese rival, and at every interval he’s in first place, then…. Dan slip’s but recovers. Moving smoothly now Dan executes with utter precision, speed, and focus as he comes into the final stretch and…..
Dan Jansen not only wins the gold metal, but also breaks the world record in the event that he wasn’t even expected to place. What a beautiful day for the Jansen family. If you have ever wanted to capture tears of joy (and relief!) look at the face of Dan’s wife after that win. These are the stories of legend—where triumph transcends tragedy!
So, how did he do it? Or maybe a better question might be: where was Dan placing his attention? You might have guessed it: putting one skate in front of the other.
When speaking to Jim Loehr (Dan’s sport psychologist at the time—and mine as a tennis player in the mid 80’s) he said that the only thing that he instructed Dan to do besides staying in the moment was to tap into feelings of gratitude—for the honor of competing in the sport—and to let go of any outcomes.
With those simple things in place (placing one foot in front of the other and tapping into feelings of gratitude), every other type of focus was irrelevant during those 83 seconds.
Now think about your own Moments of Performance (MOP’s). Where does your attention go? In the future? In the past? How you feel physically? How you feel emotionally? Are you thinking about thinking? Are you attending to your values or your higher purpose? What about the immediate or extended environment? Are you paying attention to things outside of your control (other people, the organization, the weather)?
When you are in the zone or Finding Your Flow you have already done that work allowing you to place 100% of your attention on the here and now.
That’s it! That’s the secret…having everything in place (that can be in place) so you can focus on the WIN (What’s Important Now).
Once your MOP is complete, and now resides in the Short Past (SP), only then is the time to take some strategic reflection time—the focus of next week’s Flow Tool…
EXERCISE AND PRACTICE:
- Consider several MOP’s that you will engage this week and identify the “one thing” that should dominate your attention.
- Identify anything (internal or external) that could interfere with your focus.
- Notice quickly these interference patterns and identify the personal strategies you will use to place your attention back on the “one thing”.
Attached is a simple exercise to help you think about your next MOP and how best to stay in the moment of your performance...