Your mental, emotional and physical energy is your greatest asset and key to high performance. Being able to manage that asset requires discipline, effort and focus but first and foremost it requires self-awareness. It’s why Billie Jean King said, “self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
The first step towards making any change, achieving any goal, completing any project is to take stock of where you are now. But when it comes to our own internal thought patterns, emotions and behaviours we often lack that awareness. Below are three exercises to help you not only develop awareness and stay mindful but set the stage for high performance during the day.
by Liz Doyle Harmer
Labeling Thoughts and Noticing Judgment
Thoughts happen. Usually without us even being aware of them, often creating emotional reactions or physical stress in our bodies that we only catch later. We notice the after-effects – the anxiety, the stress, the overwhelm, but not the original thought that caused the storm. The first step is awareness of thought.
Try this practice: Commit to a day of noticing your thoughts. This can be overwhelming, so pick a common thought pattern like judgement (comparison and complaining might be others you’d like to try too). Set an intention to notice judgment, by reminding yourself of the power of thoughts to either build you up or tear you down. Every time you notice yourself judging something, “I like this or I don’t like that” or “This is good. That is bad,” simply label your thought “judgment.” Repeat as thoughts come up during the day. The purpose is to begin to notice thoughts without getting carried away by them.
Physical Energy/Noticing Your Body
High performers know that their bodies are tools to support their minds. How you carry yourself matters. Round your shoulders, hunch your back and set off a system of neural responses that trigger cortisol, stress and anxiety. Take an open, expansive, confident position and breed the opposite.
Try this practice: Set an alarm to go off in your phone every hour during the day (Mindfulness Bell App by Spotlight Six Software works well). When the alarm goes off, take note of your posture. Notice how you are holding your physical body and also notice what emotions you are currently experiencing. Ask yourself if you are standing in an empowered, confident, position. If not ask yourself what changes you can make in your physical posture to support you.
It’s normal to experience emotional highs and lows. In fact, people who experience a broader range of emotions (have greater emodiversity) are generally shown to be happier. However, high performers know that their emotional state drastically affects performance and that there are often times when they need to be able to step into an emotional state that differs from the one they are currently in.
Try this Practice: Take stock of the last week. Ask yourself what emotions you experienced. How did you feel? What came up? Now ask yourself is that what you want to feel? If not, what is? Let’s say it’s inspiration. Take a moment to practice that now. Stand tall and breathe into inspiration now. Imagine yourself being inspired and breath into those feelings now. Feel the opening in your body that comes from an inspirational place of being. High performers know that they can’t wait for positive emotions like inspiration to hit them. The more they practice and cultivate inspiration, the more they rewire neural pathways in their brain, creating a positive environment for more inspiration to come.
Liz Doyle Harmer is Co-Owner of Afterglow Health & Fitness Inc, a yoga and fitness studio in the beach neighbourhood of Toronto, offering individual classes, teacher trainings, corporate mindfulness workshops and leadership coaching. For more info: www.afterglowstudio.ca