"Everything you do they don't teach in the minors. I was so confident when I first turned pro I didn't think I needed the mental training and coaching. Now I know it's essential. Your coaching and book (Dugout Wisdom) is right on."
A Clear and Present Beauty
The Power of Full Engagement
When we're fully present, time often seems to slow down, movements become effortless, awareness is heightened, and we may even feel as if we're spectators watching everything unfold. Artists, musicians, and athletes have all described moments like that.
Andy R., a national champion in golf and professional singer, described singing opera: "It's like playing golf. I want to be one with the moment and get beyond the actual task. In one particularly transcendent concert I was giving, I almost passed out. Not from fear or nervousness, but from being so removed from my body as to have temporarily forgotten I was even onstage." To be fully present is to reach a higher level of consciousness, a more powerful vibration of energy.
In performance, desire is a powerful motivator. It pushes us to be disciplined and do the work that needs to be done in order for us to improve. Desire, however, can also prevent us from giving our best performances if it is not controlled. We really want to be successful, but for that to happen, we must be so focused in the moment of performance that desires fade away. Don't confuse desire with passion. Passion is found in the present, while desire looks to the future.
Desire is focused on something you don't have yet. It's a state of lack that has a different energy from the energy that comes with actually having what you want. Judgment often follows desire. Because we desire a certain outcome, we are constantly judging whether that outcome will materialize or not. When you're present, however, your goal is a successful outcome, but your focus is absolute in the moment. Thoughts have diminished to the point where desires have moved to the subconscious, with the outcome no longer a concern.
Imagine Tiger Woods lining up a ten-foot putt that would win a major tournament. In the moment of execution, he, as well as the rest of us, would perform best with a clear mind and an unburdened heart. The desire for the ball to go into the hole is not part of a clear mind—it's a thought wishing to control the future, which cannot be completely controlled. The time to look into the future is before the shot, visualizing the ball going into the hole.
During performance, there are no thoughts about the outcome whatsoever when you're fully present. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee put it this way: "The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or in defeat."
Take the case of a salesman working on commission who needs to close a deal in order to pay the rent. He really wants the sale. Now he has a problem. His fervent desire to make the sale can significantly hurt his chances of actually doing so. His attachment to what he wants but can't control makes him needy. It's like asking someone on a date: if you really, really like that person, and he or she sees that, you may seem desperate. Whether you're selling yourself or selling vacuum cleaners, to be your best is to not be attached to whatever happens with your sales pitch.
Desires and expectations clutter the mind, and a cluttered mind always translates into doubt. Even a mind filled only with good thoughts can be detrimental. Clutter is the enemy of clarity. To reduce the clutter, it's helpful to simplify, to narrow down the essence of what you're doing. If you examine your best performances, you're sure to notice such qualities as confidence, relaxation, enjoyment, and discipline, all of which helped you pursue and attain some level of presence. If you had to narrow it all down to the most important factor in peak performance, you would find, I believe, that it is your ability to be fully present…