Did you ever asked yourself how to be more focused during the day and be more relaxed at the same time? How prevent to come home exhausted and mentally drained? And eventually how to stay ahead of “the game”?
In the daily working life one encounters these guys who always appear to be cool, two steps ahead and never loose temper no matter how chaotic or lost a situation might seem. Some of them where just born and raised the way which allowed them to train their mental toughness (be it conscious or not). Some of them have tough jobs some don’t. Therefore, their mental state or perceived amount of stress cannot be explained by the workload and level of responsibility the have to carry. So, what is it exactly what they have what other don’t and how can we achieve it?
If we look at the classical Olympic disciplines, say pole vault or long jump, it is always a matter of cm that separates the winners from the losers (of course there are exemptions life Usain Bolt) . Therefore, the sole physical ability or superiority is often not the deciding factor. But it is the ability to mobilize our absolute maximal performance exactly in the moment when it is needed. The deciding factor that enables us develop and to focus our capabilities is something which has been used in pro sport for years and is called mental training.
What is Mental Training?
Mental training is the art how one can increase his mental abilities. This includes improvements of:
- cognitive skills
- resilience capabilities
- self esteem
- perceived well being
Initially developed in professional sports to optimize the learning of complex body movements, it has been developed further to regulate attention and relaxation. Mastering the techniques of mental training often decides between winning or losing in highly competitive athletic situations. Due to the similar mental requirements in sports as well as in business the art of mental training has been lately deployed for highly demanding business roles, too.
Benefits of Mental Training:
An average human being generates 50’000 thoughts per day. Most of us will probably agree with me if I say that a big part of these thoughts are either uncoordinated or circle around a specific problem without leading to a solution. Mental training enables us to control our brain activities. We will be able to instantly switch on our activities to maximum performance and ramp down to recharging our energies. We will be able to channelize our entire brain power like a laser beam to one topic at a time over a long time period. By clearly visualizing our goals and using your full brain power mental training will help us to overcome resistances which are standing between us and our goals.
But be aware, only those who constantly hit the gym no matter what will get the six pack abs 😉 Same applies to mental training.
3 pillars of Mental Training:
Now I want to introduce you 3 pillars of mental training on which, I believe, your mental training should be based on.
- Controlled breathing
- Laser-like focus abilities
- Crystal clear visualization of your goals
Imagine you are taking a deep breath. Inhale the fresh air through your nose. Feel the oxygen moving from your nose tip to throat. From there is flows gently into your lungs. Pause shortly and observe the moment where you levitate at the point between inhaling and exhaling. Now gently breath out through your mouth. Feel the air, and with it your inner tension and stress passing by your teeth and tongue finally leaving your body. Your heart beat immediately slows down and you anticipate clearness and relaxation ascending into your mind.
Some of you are maybe asking to what should I be mindful during the controlled berating? The answer is absolutely nothing expect of the way you’re breathing. Other thoughts will pop up in your mind during the controlled breathing. Just be shortly aware of them and let them pass by.
Simple controlled breathing is the best method to quickly reach a relaxed state where our mind recharges and collects new energy. There is hardly a method which enables us to recharge in a shorter amount of time! And we can do it whenever we want and wherever we want (e.g. during commuting, staying in a queue or even during a short speaking pause during management presentation).
Concentration is the skill to focus our entire brain power to exactly one dot on the wall in front of us or any topic at hand for as long as possible. Ideally the state of laser like concentration is perceived as stimulating or even joyful and not at all exhausting.
As we discovered previously our mind does create around 50’000 thoughts per day. Since thoughts are the results of electrochemical processes in our cerebral system they consume energy. Our brain required around 20% of our total daily energy intake. And as we all know our brain and thoughts like to take on a life of its own. Therefore, we are practically “wasting” up to 20% of our total energy on thoughts which are in the best case just unnecessary or in the worst case depressing us.
Even if we would improve our concentration abilities just marginally, this would already lead to a huge amount of focused thoughts leading us eventually faster to our goals.
Speaking of reaching our goals; this leads me to the third pillar; the ability of crystal clear visualization of our goals.
Our brain is constantly visualizing our brightest vision as well as our deepest fears. Visualization can thus be understood as an inner movie which our brain is playing to our inner self or subconscious. And our subconscious is constantly striving to fulfil what has been shown to her. Or as Earl Nightingale used to say that human beings have the tendency to become what they think of the most. Similar to generating thoughts the process of visualization occurs automatically. Unfortunately, many of us have the tendency to mostly think about worries and problems. Therefore, thinking mostly negative things will not encourage our subconscious to work in our favour to reach a better self. However, if we take over control of what and how our visualization looks like, we will be able to transform our entire way of thinking and eventually our whole personality in the way we desire.
Take for example the three-time World Cup winner Pele. Before a big match he always used to go through the same ritual. Well before each game he would retreat to a quit place, say a locker room, covering his eyes with his towel and get himself to a relaxing state of mind through controlled breathing. After some minutes when he felt relaxed he would imagine himself as a child again. Back then, when football was his biggest passion and he could play it all day long with his friends and enjoying life. He would then go through all his major successes. He would visualize every detail, the extreme relive and adrenaline rush when he realized that the ball would hit the goal, the applauding crowd while he performed his victory lap. And he would eventually put all this emotions and pictures and would apply it to the coming game. The moment he steps in the field he may look the same as all other players on the field. Except that every cell in his body and brain is focusing on realizing what he had vividly and crystal clearly visualized in the locker room.
In this article I tried to explain the importance of mental training in our professional as well as private life. How it helps you to relax, collect your energies, increase your abilities to utilize your complete brain power to the tasks at hand, and put your long term goals into effect!
However, there is a catch. To reach the muscle mass of a bodybuilder or endurance of a pro marathon runner one needs to train for it, go for progression in weight or speed, train regularly and over a period without surrender. Mental training required the same persistence of you. Only then you will see progress and results.
In the next articles I will give some simple and most effective exercises which you can apply during our daily life. They will help you to:
- relax through controlled breathing
- reach laser-like focus abilities
- enable crystal clear visualization of your goals
… and they will only take a few minutes of your day.
Please let me know if this article was of use to you. Please let me know your thoughts on this topic.