During my time as a national athlete, I could have used heaps more clarity and confidence. One time, I remember being in Australia on tour for the Hong Kong National Netball Team, that I stayed awake all night before a competition, worrying about whether I could put the ball in the basket the next day. How bizarre, losing sleep over a sport I loved, why do we do this to ourselves?
Why is it we put ourselves under enormous amounts of pressure to do well, improve or do the right thing, especially now during the lockdown; to eat well, stay connected, get involved and be on-line, with everyone else keeping fit? What if, our state of mind is not willing? It is no surprise that people get a sense of being left behind hopelessly struggling, with low self-esteem, and falling energy levels.
As a mental skills specialist, my affirmations reminded me of all the times I had performed out of my skin. Positive self-talk and visualisation practise calming my busy mind filled my training diary. My knowledge of NLP and CBT developed my capacity to be mentally and emotionally aware and re-frame my thinking to reroute from habitual negative behaviours. Yet, none of these techniques brought me the confidence I needed to sleep easy and perform well. There were times when it felt agonisingly painful, leaving my whole body hurting, and my breathing shallow. The sport was impacting my mental health and wellbeing, which ultimately hindered my performance and results.
During this Coronavirus, it’s common to want to feel better, get some relief, worry less and experience hope even amidst uncertainty and dramatic change, but where should you look?
What do you usually do when you feel uncomfortable?
Most people seem to up their game, and change something or someone out there, very few would look inside to the nature of their experience and the incredible intelligence of nature working behind the conceptual human system.
What if you have everything inside already to feel OK, yes, I know, mystics have said this for hundreds of years, but stay with me, what if it is true?
What if, all through your life, there is a resilience that you cannot explain that has got you through when things do not happen the way you want them?
What if that same intelligence is what is connecting people right now, a strong sense of unity, compassion and gratitude. After all, you don’t make yourself tear up in sincere heartfelt appreciation, it just happens! You don’t need to grind those feelings out; somehow they just come, why, because they are natural to all human life. How can you harness this innate resilience and mental and emotional wellbeing that sits within your soul, and is yours to keep, just tucked under your temporary habitual thinking of how you want life to be?
A full-length feature show, with Andy Winter, Denise Holland and contributions from special guests Barbara Jorden, and Declan Stout. A conversation which demystifies the so-called, 'Performance Zone' state that a performer experiences when there appears to be no separation between themselves and anything or anyone else, a pure connection to the energy and intelligence behind all nature (life). Psychological freedom, it turns out, is simpler than you think and is not something you attain through experience or knowledge. Sportspeople cannot look to the intellect and concepts to understand that which is formless, and some might say, Divine, it doesn't make sense? To get the best out of this show, Denise invites you to listen beyond the words, like you would a piece of music, soak up what the speakers are pointing to, leave your personal beliefs to the side just for an hour and see what you hear? This understanding offers another dimension to sports coaching, which has an incredible impact on people's lives and results.
So what is this new understanding that has elite athletes head in an entirely new direction of, performing from a place of enjoyment, love, and exploration, rather than the chasing and deliberate endeavour of needing to believe in yourself, setting goals, and being confident? And how do you teach it? Andy Winter and Denise look to the source and nature of all human activity and "the excitement of knowing that at any moment and that at all moments the wisdom of life is flowing through me and expressing itself, that is unavoidable". What if the next evolution in sport is more about tuning in with that which you are as a spiritual being, rather than that which you can become?
We wouldn't dream to control the shape of the waves, so how is it we think we can dictate human performances which is another act of nature? What's possible for athletes when they get to that place of openly expressing rather than needing to control, or exploring instead of achieving? What if, sportspeople could see what's behind what they see in people?
Andy Winter, shares experiences of his daughter watching Rafael Nadal, at the US Open in 2017. She noticed, that, "he's not having fun anymore". What makes Elite Athletes enjoy their performances? Some would say that "winning makes you happy", but we know that's not true. Magic Johnson, wowed the global stage in basketball, what's behind this so-called X Factor? What is it that if we open up to it, we get to play freely, and impersonally?
Human beings have practised movements and making decisions before we have too much thought, for thousands of years. "Grace is the gift of being human; we are the spontaneous interaction with the moment were in". When you're playing from this your true nature, the feedback is different; it's more productive and more immediate.
Andy Winter and Denise Holland, both sports professionals, for over twenty years, share how their sports coaching has changed since coming across this understanding of, how the human mind works to create experience. What happens to athletes and coaches, when they let go of the contents of their conditioning and fall into the Grace of pure Being? Beyond the linear perspective of living life, the chronological of time, and the continuum of memory and projection, there is a stillness, a Divine Universal Intelligence, a supreme creative presence. When human beings are aligned with this essence, they re-connect with their true Self, rather than live from the conditioned self; concepts, judgments and assumptions. Performing from this space of peace and pure joy is the ultimate leveraging point for sportspeople.
Andy Winter has been an Educator, Administrator, and Coach for over thirty years. He encountered Dicken Bettinger and Sydney Banks twenty-five years ago, and his life and his work changed dramatically. Since then he has worked with adults, children, couples, schools, athletes and teams to help them better understand their innate health, and wisdom, and live work and play with greater joy.
Andy is the Director of the Center for Insight and Change in Brattleboro, Vermont - where he works sharing the principles behind the human experience. He also continues his practice as a Tennis Pro.
A unique style we could call performance meditation, Denise takes you to the spaciousness before the creation of memory, your true nature/Self, that place of pure creative potential – of BEING rather than proving, striving or even competing. As human beings, memory logs experience through the lens/perspective at the time; it is part of the design to support the individual expression of the one Divine life force. Are we, however, misusing this function of the human mind? When we recall, it can never be the previous moment that we are remembering, it can only ever be today's take on it?
Are you giving your memories far too much importance and significance? Is this misunderstanding sabotaging your capacity for psychological and performance freedom? If you woke up with no memory whatsoever, just the divine inspiration to live utterly present to the moment, how would your day go? Imagine, showing up for competitions, without any ideas of consequences, medals, or mistakes, just a deep connection to that which has evolved humanity for hundreds of years, and which brought you here, that which can be trusted to fuel, and deliver a performance perfect for you at that time?
The human memory system, a brilliant part of the human mind (not brain), continues to the subject of scientific research to find clues as to why people behave the way they do but are we looking in the wrong direction. What is the memory, and as a function is it any different to imagination, discernment, judgement or appreciation? Do we give that which we hold in our minds too much importance and significance? Can it be trusted to provide us with an accurate account of what happened? How is it that humans have this capacity to forget, move on, get over things? Is it conceivable that human beings are not supposed to remember, to operate optimally in the now, present to each moment, ready to be intuitive and instinctive for the greater good?
Joe Marler Professional Rugby player was recently shown a red card during a Harlequins Premiership match, which left him unavailable for national selection. When hormones go crazy in the heat of the moment, how helpful is it for coaches to know what’s happening inside the human body and mind? There is an enormous benefit to coaches of elite athletes, to get ‘buy-in’, rather than ‘compliance’. Some coaching approaches appear too inflexible and rigid whereas a Super Coach would be someone who has a profound understanding of the role of the human mind to create experience. They see beyond the traditional methodology to regulate behaviours to the source, and intelligence of all human performances, positive and negative. Super Coaches are better equipped to gain overall buy-in and help athletes work within the broader goal of the team and the rules of the game.
Michael Neill shares the distinction between setting goals as a course of direction, to inform your work together rather than something to put pressure on yourself, with consequences for non-achievement. Athletes perform at their best when they are not conscious of themselves – anything that makes you self-conscious works against high performance. Denise asks Michael to talk about the question of 'controlling outcome', do athletes even have the capacity to control the outcome of human accomplishments and how helpful is it to believe they can or cannot?
Michael Neill talks with Denise Holland about 'pressure'? How is it sportspeople often comment that they need to feel under pressure to be able to perform well? What's going on with this perspective and is it healthy? Is feeling under pressure helpful to athletes? What happens to the physical body and mind when human beings continuously feel under attack, threatened, or frightened? In contrast, is there an optimal state of mind and body for sustainable high performance? Often we witness sparks of genius appear out of no-where and in many cases when the chips are down, what's behind this human phenomenon? Is it true that 'pressure' is an inside job, that circumstances, people and situations can never be the cause of feeling under pressure? If so, this is well worth investigating further, don't you think, nothing and no-one to blame for your experiences!
Denise Holland talks with Michael Neill about match point situations, in the heat of the moment, when it is highly likely that athletes get caught up in a lot of thinking, how helpful is this 'Understanding of the Mind? Also on this show, Michael shares his wisdom about ‘Talent Identification and Development’ – How useful is it to focus on traditional attributes and characteristics, i.e., self-determination, self-preservation, being self-absorbed, a win at all cost mindset? Are you missing one vital core ingredient of all human performance; ‘Love of the Game’, the inspiration to live, breath, and sleep your sport, an unconditional drive to explore new ways to go further? What's behind athlete's motivation and is that worth the investment?
Special guest Michael Neill, an internally renowned transformative coach and the best-selling author of six books including, The Inside Out Revolution and, The Space Within, explains the inspiration behind writing his new book, Creating The Impossible. “It’s easier for people to create what they actually want than what they think they can get – it brings something different out of them”. “It’s a call to go beyond yourself, to go beyond what you think you are capable of, to live from a deeper part of yourself and there is nothing more exciting for people than when they tap into that and start to live from it”. Understanding how the mind works helps to explain great performance which shares certain characteristics; the most common is the feeling of, being lived, being the vehicle for performance not the cause of it, in the flow state.
It is very common for coaches to feel bad when their athletes suffer disappointments, so what’s the best way to deal and cope with this situation when it arises? Denise used to use techniques and rational thinking to help the Scotland National athletes, ‘park it’ so that they could quickly learn from poor performances and plan for the next one. Nowadays, Denise no longer uses strategies to help athletes to feel better; instead, she points them towards understanding their reality and how it is created, from the inside to out. It may seem a little odd to suggest that coaches do not need to intervene, that there is nothing wrong or to be done. By using a parenting example, Denise shares a recent shift which has helped her family enormously.
Rudi and Denise talk about a behavioural performance model; that dealing and working on poor behaviours, with consequences, and discipline procedures are missing the point, i.e. it is too late by then as all responses are an effect of a person’s state of mind in the moment and not the cause of the problem.
Whatever people think, it is going to look real and true to them; however, with a glimpse of how the mind works to create our separate realities, you can take a step back and see that thought is a construction, not an instruction. We gain a deeper respect for diversity; wisdom shows us we no longer need to be right.
How does an understanding of the inside out nature of life change the use of the Performance Analysis? Are sportspeople mistakenly comparing and over-thinking today about yesterday’s performances? Is this preventing a stronger download signal of fresh, innovation in the moment?
Traditionally, we identify talented athletes as those who demonstrate attributes, i.e. being self-determined, keen willingness to learn, capacity to overcome adversity, self-less, highly driven, ability to self-analyse, and be self-motivated etc. If you were to truly understand that experience is created from within and projected out as our separate realities and is not caused by the situation or circumstances, how different would this list be of desirable characteristics? If athletes profoundly know that no-one or nothing is to blame for their feeling state, how many of these attributes are redundant? If athletes are not afraid of their experiences and merely allow their minds to clear naturally, qualities to 'get over' poor performances wouldn't be required. Is it possible that athletes who have learned to control and manage their thinking fall into mediocrity, and settle for something way short of what's possible given the infinite divine intelligence to produce incredible human performances?
The subject of adaptation is widely researched and discussed, especially in the field of sport. Many people resonate with knowledge-based, application of tools and techniques which appears to result in change over time. Few, however, refer to the sustainable transformations, which happen naturally, when a person experiences an insight or deep realisation. Rudi Kennard and Denise Holland, look beyond information and experience to develop and master human performance, towards what is innately part of every human being, irrespective of knowledge gained cognitively.
It is difficult to conceive as humans the notion that, we (the person) are not in charge and that we connect to a higher power in us, which seems to have life unfold perfectly. As Sydney Banks referred to often, the IS-ness! Many questions arise, including, what's the point then, if we are merely the vessel and not the captain? There are times in our lives with little or no personal thinking that we are capable of extraordinary things. Rudi talks about his experience at Everest Base Camp, which points to two things:
1) Our connection to a divine intelligence which fuels our bodies and minds, and
2) We are more likely to sink into that performance zone (flow) state when we are not distracted by the personal head noise.
Why would sportspeople want to look in the direction of understanding the formless nature of life and experience? What is the potential impact on performance results when you start to understand how the human mind works? As a former contestant on the BBC show 'Gladiators' Rudi shares how his mental stamina was not on par with his physical prowess, which leads him to grossly under-achieve. Nowadays, as an international speaker, Rudi talks about “unconditionality” meaning that we have the potential not to be bothered by our feeling states, and perform regardless of what is going on in our head.” A knowing which is “revolutionary to our wellbeing”. All humans have an innate psychological immune system which if left alone does well at equalising us.
Denise auditions for the reality TV show, 'Take Me Out'. Amused by the prospect of winning a date on the magical Island of Fernando's, she went along with the fascinating questioning, the best and easiest to answer, was 'what is your biggest turn-off'? Answer - A chap who is never present? During the past five years, Denise has seen beautiful insights about her experience and knows that this too is made from Thought in the moment. Nevertheless, it seems to Denise that the most precious gift anyone can give to another human being is, the presence of Mind. Authentic connection and what she means by this is, a meeting of the souls, the spirit and essence of which we are all created, this is where transformation happens. What has this got to do with performance sport?
When you have superstitious thinking, it can lead to behaviours which are a little off the wall. You know they are, but you still do them, as you feel if you do not it will somehow affect future performances. What if, your entire perspective is a misunderstanding of how the human mind works and that you are innocently living in an illusion of thought every second of your being? Just like superstitious thinking, you have the free will not take your thinking seriously, no matter how real, crazy, or scary, it appears? What IS it that is fuelling our capacity as human beings to think and therefore experience and why does an understanding transform peoples' lives?
We have heard the word "unconditional' used many times in connection with the word "love." Here Denise talks about falling in love with your capacity for sports performance, unconditionally irrespective of strategic targets or KPI's. There is a distinct difference in the mindsets of sportspeople, those on the treadmill of, 'one more medal, another PB, or a rise in world rankings, searching for that missing something in their life. Then, there are those who are in it for the LOVE of the game, highly engaged with the thrill of exploring what's possible, and absorbed by their inspiration to perform rather than the results. What is your motivation? Is it fear, lack or need, based or is it purer than these somewhat negative constructs, which zap vital energy reserves? Are you one of the 10%, who are not searching but discovering and uncovering the infinite potential for performance expression in the now through your mind and body?
We are all ‘outed,' and not before time! Evolving a world where people are not ashamed of the way they feel inside is brilliant, but is this enough? Denise encourages you to look beyond what you know conceptually, to understand not the content on your perspective or worldview but how it is manufactured, i.e. the operating system of the human mind. As soon as you insightfully see how it works, you will know that there is nothing wrong with you, nothing to fix, irrespective of the states of mind you find yourself, low or high. Understanding the nature of the human experience gives humanity a chance to re-connect and relish that which binds us all, the energy, the oneness, love, and intelligence of all things.
What are people looking for when they ask high-performance coaches to help them improve their consistency of performance? Sportspeople spend hours striving for excellence in their performances. You live in a physical, practical and commercial world of sport, where being on your game can impact your income, profile, selection, rankings and contracts, so why not 'want' your best performances out there every single time? Jamie Smart takes a closer look at your personal preferences for a certain range of consistency and makes a valuable point about the weight and value you may have on it, in terms of your mental health and wellbeing.
With all the latest technology in sports science to work on human performance why look in the direction of what's behind it, who and what is the creator? What are the benefits to you as a performer, when we say that the Three Principles are playing out anyway, in all human beings, whether you know, care, or understand them? In Denise's life, since coming to this understanding of how the human mind works to create an experience, there is less worry and suffering. When you see how something works, you can see how it doesn't work. It makes no sense to spend living minutes in your story of blame, and need if it isn't serving you! Jamie Smart shares his inspirations for dedicating his life's work to pointing people towards the psychological paradigm of human experience.