Are climbing and kayaking in any way alike? When you consider mental training and what it takes to attain a flow state performance, there’s no difference. Challenge is challenge; stress is stress; performance is performance…regardless of the medium. We need to get our minds into a flow mindset if we want to perform optimally in our chosen medium.
As many of you know, I’m working on a new book that introduces The Warrior’s Way® material to the general public. This means it’s applicable to any sport, discipline, or activity we engage in. I was excited to participate in the recent Flow Conference with other presenters, almost all of which were not climbers. During the conference, I participated in a panel discussion titled The Pillars of Thriving Through a High Performing Lifestyle. Nick Troutman, a professional kayaker and world class athlete, was another panelist. We all had a lively discussion sharing our perspectives on how to thrive while performing.
Nick has a podcast called The Art of Awesome. He invited me to participate in it (episode #184), which I did recently. One thing that’s cool about Nick is that he lives only an hour away from me. We’re both Tennesseans, enjoying the adventure sports offered by the miles of rock and river across the eastern part of the state.
Nick interviews many high performers to find “the secret sauce” of performance. Is there such a sauce? Probably. Check out some points below from our discussion and see if you can discover it. And listen to the full discussion.
Points from our discussion:
- A lot has changed in mental training in the last couple decades:
- A blending of neuroscience and psychology
- A blending of Eastern Buddhism and Western psychology
- The value of having an eclectic approach to developing training programs
- We went into the core tenets of The Warrior’s Way® and how they can impact flow:
- Attention: Our mental training goal is: attention focused in the moment on the current task, which makes us more mentally powerful.
- 2 basic ways of focusing attention: in the mind doing cognitive thinking; in the body via somatic experiencing.
- Motivation: It is both important to be motivated by achievement (goals) and the process (learning); what’s critical is when we utilize each, which gets us into flow more easily. Before action utilize achievement motivation; during action utilize process motivation.
- Process motivation is our primary motivation because it makes up the majority of our lives. We demonstrate we’re process motivated by doing the work for its own sake.
- Incremental learning: since process motivation is primary, then we need to engage stressors incrementally so we’re willing to be present for them. It’s essential to have some stress in order to learn; yet, we also don’t learn if we take on too much stress.
- Fight, flight, freeze seeks to escape stress that’s in the present moment. “Fighting” seeks to fight to get it over-with; “fleeing” seeks to escape it; “freezing” seeks to stop change from happening.
- We want to enjoy our lives so we need to be willing to be in the midst of struggles, not to fight, flee, or try to freeze them into some artificial comfort zone.
- Falling and failing help us understand the consequences of our decisions and accept responsibility for them.
- You will digress when learning new things because you have to break down your old foundation. This drop in performance can be discouraging so it’s really important to be curious. Once it’s broken down and new skills are learned, then you can take your performance to the next level.
- Coaching: we tend to coach others toward end results: “You’ve got it.” Athletes will lose focus so need to coach them in ways that refocus them on the task, not solve the problem for them.
Why is it called The Warrior’s Way®?
- Traditional warriors have a job to protect their country. When there’s a stressor or threat, they move toward it. In a mental training context, it’s important to move toward the stressors in life as warriors do. It takes courage to do that. If we see stressors as opportunities, then it’s easier to be courageous.
- Is The Warrior’s Way® violent? No, we don’t fight against those stressors, we fight with them. The climber and the rock need to come together to create a performance. The kayaker and the medium of the river need to come together to create a performance. Flow performance means that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
- My favorite quote: Stoics say “amor fati”, which means a love of fate, or loving what is. This helps me remember to honor stressors as learning opportunities.
- My favorite book currently: Peak Mind, by Amishi Jha
- If today was my last day on earth, what 3 truths would I leave for the world?
- Life is impermanent. It seems like life lasts forever, but it doesn’t. Make sure you invest your minutes on what is important to you. Today is important; pay attention to it.
- You need to be grateful for blessings and struggles.
- Trust how life unfolds. If you try to control life, you’ll just get frustrated. Have an internal locus of control and an external locus of trust. Be mentally flexible. Know where you’re going by setting goals and then trust how you’re getting there.
- What is my definition of awesome? Being able to really appreciate the present moment. Being able to see it, experience it, and appreciate it.
Did you find the secret sauce?