As I’m sure many of you know I am an avid reader, mainly of books in the personal development genre, but many of them lately I would have to say fall into a more specific category of peak performance development. Not just my reading list, by audio programs I listen to, such as those by speakers like Tony Robbins and Les Brown.
Anyway, my latest read is The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, written by Josh Waizkin, world champion in both Tai Chi Push Hands and chess, as well as the main character in the movie Searching For Bobby Fisher. Josh’s story is truly inspiring, but it has been one of the most educational books I have ever read as well. Let’s hope so, given the name, right?
Much of what Josh discusses is about emotional awareness, and how those who lose themselves in their emotions, i.e. those who get too angry to perform well under pressure, tend to get eaten alive by those who can either keep cool under pressure or use their passion to their advantage.
Personally, I can attest to both sides of this argument. In my football years, I was never able to keep my cool, but was able to use my anger as a conduit for peak performance. If someone made me look bad, you could bet they were the one looking like a fool during the next down, or maybe even the whole rest of the game, depending on how they handled my aggression.
Contrastingly, I was not quite as good at wrestling, or at least I didn’t perform as well at it, and often got frustrated, unable to separate myself from my apprehension of whether I would be able to live up to the potential I thought I had, but was constantly wondering whether it was truly within me or not.
Emotion Makes or Breaks You
In football, our team honed our passion as one entity, walking out onto the field with our heads held high and our heart on our sleeves. We instilled fear into our opponents from our raw animalistic shouts and cheers, roaring things like “We will set your ass on fire,” or stealing war chants from movies such as 300 as we marched into battle.
It might appear that I am being hyperbolic I have been using, but this is what harnessing emotion and exploiting it is all about. Peak performance is as much about training the mind as it is the body, and seeing your sport, or whatever your endeavor may be, as a battlefield may be what you need to prevail.
So, passion and anger might have been what worked for our team, but it is not what works for everyone. Some people crumble under pressure because they do not have fiery personalities, but attempt to rise up to the level of intensity that others are portraying. Some people need to steel their emotions to perform.
Using emotion to fuel peak performance, for some, is about allowing their emotions to pass them by, like clouds in the sky, and calmly watch as their opponents either tire themselves out, or get frustrated by the lack of emotional response. For someone who uses their anger to knock their opponent off track, the most frustrating thing is when they receive no emotional response in return.
For the more docile personality types, remaining poised is what truly works most often, but if you have fits of rage where you can’t handle what is happening inside of you, there is work to be done. You have to master your emotions by embracing them before you can ever have a chance of living up to your true potential.
It’s all about going with the flow. You have to learn what works for you and what doesn’t, utilizing your strengths when they are present, and weathering the storm when they are not. You can’t always expect the ideal conditions to be present when you need them, so learning to ride the wave is true intelligence.
My senior year, the reason we won the State Championship was because we had mastered the emotional game. Yes we got angry when things didn’t go our way, and yes we were passionate when it looked like our game might fall apart, but the thing that held us together was the focus on “leaving it all on the field,” or giving it our all and never looking back, regardless of how things appeared to be going.
The Connell Eagles, our rivals, were a very strong team. They won the championship the year before and beat us during the season both years. We were the underdog of the game, but came out on top because our resolve would not be shaken. It was far from our most perfect game technically, but our drive to win overcame theirs.
We became the Royal Knights, embodied the namesake of our mascot and instilled it into the minds of our opponents that we were a force to be reckoned with. Yes we had some of the top athletes in our division, but our coaches inspired us to come together as a team in such a way that, even before any of us were even in elementary school, became the reputation of our team.
We were fast and strong, and, most of the time, when we needed a first down the other team might as well have laid down and handed it to us, but when other teams stepped out onto the field with us it was the name that put doubt into their hearts.
During my first practice as a Freshman, Wiley Allread, our head coach, was discussing what a difficult game we had ahead of us, to which one of the seniors responded, “Come on coach, its gonna be like 50 to 0,” referring to the score. As someone who played sports but never really watched them, I had no idea he was telling the truth. The vast majority of our games were in fact blow outs of this magnitude.
Creating Your Emotional Trigger
So, how can you apply these principles in a way that is practical to your own life? Some of you reading this may not be athletes, and are probably thinking this all nice to read about, but how can I apply it to my life? Well, emotion is always present. If you are not feeling emotions 24 hours a day, you have become numb to them.
Anyway, the best way to use your emotions to your advantage is to master them in your own time. Whenever you feel an emotion, whether its positive or negative, embrace it and be fully present with it, because repression is what creates most of the unbalance in our lives.
Once you really get in touch with your emotions in your personal time, you can begin to fully utilize them during your times of performance. If you are an artist of any kind, learn to harness whatever you’re feeling and incorporate that into your art. I will finish this post with one of my poems so you can get an idea of how you can use your emotion to fuel creativity.
If you’re a businessman, salesman, or something on the more technical side, emotion can be your bridge into really thriving. In your relationships, either professional or personal, learning to tap into your well of internal feelings can be the best way to connect with someone and create rapport with them.
You have to learn your emotional triggers, and then create a routine that will do this automatically. For some people meditation is great for this, while others are more inspired by listening to a particular kind of music or even playing catch with their son. Only you can know what inspires you, but testing the waters will give you a pretty accurate blueprint of what fuels your peak performance.
So, without further ado, here is a poem I wrote. I will let you decide how I allowed my emotions to guide me during this one.
Crows and Ravens
Odd marvels with profound bends, likeness to the creature within/Thorns afoot and knives taken aback, not what the others will lack/Darkness below the eye, such a keen sight/Marveled by the ones who spare, vilified by those who dare/Pledged to those who have taken ahold, this banner of splendor will fall.
The crow flies and the raven cries, wind and wing taken from above/All that has been shared has been stolen away, cut off from the source/The wellspring of maintained finery, severed from eye and mind.
Heart and soul alike, such a keen sight/Darkness below the eye, secrets in the dead of night/Shared by those who relish, lost in the ones who relinquish/The crow spreads its wings, as the raven refuses to deign.
Shame is dispersed among the refugees, trapped inside their separation/Beauty in the eyes of cursory, sketchily cast aside/On display for all to see and chide, those who stare are cold and snide/Refuse in the dilapidated mind, such negligence has rendered them blind.
The phoenix arises from the ashes, a paragon of transcendence/Crows taking flight in the frost, ravens losing sight from their loss.
Well there you have it. Getting in touch with your emotions and learning how to utilize them to your advantage is yet another key to the puzzle of peak performance.
For more tips on how to live up to your true potential, schedule a free 30 minute healing session, where you and I will dive into whatever you need to live a more productive, emotionally balanced life.