Thursday, June 04, 2009

Relaxed and ready

Doesn't it sound easy? Research says that the best state for performing hard things is relaxed and ready.

Wish it were easy.

It's not as hard to relax, even under pressure, as you might imagine. We have pills and substances, distractions and entertainments, deep breathing and exercise. We have ways to relax.

The problem is maintaining relaxation as we get ready. Get ready. Do you hear the tension? It's not a bad tension, just a contracting of the muscles as they prepare for effort, a slight holding of the breath. Get ready. Get set. The anticipation builds. Anticipation feels a lot like pressure. It's contagious.

You might only need a few muscles, probably only need some balance and a clear head. And yet. Get ready. Get set. You're just sitting there reading this and your breathing is starting to change. After all, if the adrenaline doesn't start flowing, how will you know you're really ready? If you're not on the edge, how will you see both sides?

Get ready. Get set. And you tense a little more. You shouldn't. You know I'm just playing with you. But now your mind is making connections. You're asking yourself: "Am I ready? What's coming next? Am I sure I'm ready?"

That's why we need to practice. That's why we need discipline and its best friend, will power. That's why we need to repeat to ourselves: Breathe. Relax. Be loose. Work only the part of your mind that needs to be working.

Let go of the tension in your neck, in your jaw, around your eyes. You know that none of that is preparing you. Look at the task ahead and relax into it. Find the flow.

Take some training in finding and supporting your best performance state. Then practice it. Over and over again. Until it feels as natural as it is.

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