Sunday, September 23, 2012

What does squeezing a ball in your left hand have to do with “getting out of your head?”

“Pressure” is not a welcome activity always. We can go one of two ways: choke or rise to the occasion. It’s a delicate balance which can be toppled even among seasoned veterans if we become discombobulated for some reason. That is, if our minds get the better of us.

So enters the term “getting out of our heads” as an antidote to crashing or freezing or whatever behaviour is manifested when we are unsure of ourselves. But how do you do it? Nice in theory; however, hard to implement when faced with a situation that evokes panic or distraction or uncertainty.

The sustainable path to building a “cool head” is well-known: meditation, yoga, saying daily gratitudes, deep breathing, exercise of any kind and deliberate practice in your domain of expertise (becoming a chess master, so to speak). These all grow strong and automated neural connections in your brain so you don’t have to think for long if at all when faced with uncertainty or an over the top schedule fraught with soft issues. The trick is “to get out of your head” and just do it!  Squeezing a ball in your left hand, horse-whispering and acting lessons can help.

Squeezing a ball:
According to David McGinn in a September 21, 2012 article in the Globe and Mail, German researchers discovered that Olympic athletes in complex, accuracy sports could improve choking under pressure by squeezing a ball in or clenching their left fist before competing. They theorize that the motor activity activates automated behaviours in the right side of the athletes’ brains which control movement, enabling the brain to ignore thought.  Put another way, the squeezing action dampens down conscious rumination.

The proviso though is that this does not likely apply to lefties.

Horses are very intuitive. Imagine then trying to tune into them to obtain their cooperation. Leaders taking “training” at Lisa Arie’s 3-day boot camp learn how to get off their pedestal, walk in the shoes of another and let their instincts have a chance. A bonus is becoming entirely relaxed once they learn “to get out of their heads”, to become CEO horse-whisperers. As tapping into intuition enables better decision-making, the practical benefits are obvious.

Acting Lessons:
Jacqueline McClintock, who passed away recently, was renowned for her coaching of actors, such a Naomi Watts, Alex Baldwin, Gregory Peck, and Diane Keaton to name a few. She learned her techniques from an equally famous acting coach, Sanford Meisner who encouraged actors “to get out of their heads” in order to do the job well. He wanted them to stop thinking about what they were doing, become more “in the moment, “spontaneous” much like comedians must do to succeed.

McClintock reinforced this by not listening to what actors were saying but instead listening to whether they were genuine – whether they meant what they were saying.

Albert Einstein once lamented that we had sacrificed our sacred gift of intuitiveness in service to our conscious thoughts. Many decades later, his words still resonate - the workplace reinforces conscious rumination to a fault.  We have some work to do and in the process we might all relax a little more and gain more trust in each other.