Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Is this what you do? No way, often you don’t even know the horse is dead. Instead you try many other strategies to include:
Buy a stronger whip.
Declare, “This is the way we’ve always ridden the horse.”
Appoint a team to revive the dead horse.
Ignore the dead horse…what dead horse?
Create a training session to improve our riding skills.
Outsource contractors to ride the dead horse.
Appoint a committee to study the dead horse.
Arrange to vast other sites to see how they ride horses.
Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
Isn’t it interesting that rather than following sage wisdom, our brain loves to stick to a plan, even when it isn’t working? Many of us have been taught – working hard brings success – so we work harder and harder to the point of dead or dying. Our brain is programmed to fight to keep things the same and to do what has worked for us in the past. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain gets strong at doing what it has always done, especially under pressure.
Why especially under pressure? Because being in the line of fire, (under pressure) you resort to your natural tendencies. Our brain is dedicated to accumulating, not releasing – emotional baggage, mental habits, and physical over trying. These tendencies consume a lot of our physical energy to keep the status quo. We may have every intention of this year or this time things will be different, but when in the line of fire, all our good intentions go out the window. So, what’s the answer?
Calm is as Calm does…
In order to excel under pressure, we must work to develop a different muscle, the muscle of calmness. You must not only desire calm and to think calm, you must condition your brain and nervous system to be calm and thereby keep calm.
Here are six ways:
Observe yourself under pressure. Catch yourself when you begin to try harder and switch gears to come at things differently.
Increase your skill at doing the opposite of what everyone else does under pressure (rather than raising your voice, lower your voice).
Loosen up, flow more, stay curious, travel lighter.
Practice putting yourself under extreme pressure for brief periods and flexing your calm muscle – remaining calm with high energy, but low muscle tension. Practice staying calm – no matter what.
Mentally rehearse calm effectiveness. The brain doesn’t know if you’re doing it or imagining it…so ‘see yourself’ in the line of fire and getting the job done effectively while remaining calm.
Develop calming skills. Notice when your neck, shoulders, facial and jaw muscles begin to tighten and make the conscious effort to relax them. I know I have to constantly remember to relax my neck during work out sessions. You have no idea how tight you’re holding yourself during your work day. This is one reason you’re so tired at night.
Use your strengths to move you into different ways of thinking and acting. Use these same strengths under pressure. Challenge yourself to use your strengths to achieve your dreams as opposed to working harder and longer.
It’s never easy to change, we feel like we’re in a state of flux or chaos oftentimes. Change can often be fearful, but we must remember fear is just the flip side of courage – flip the coin over and make ‘forward’ the only option. Moving forward beyond the fear, to the vision of what that dream or desire is, remaining calm and focused on your target. “The exceptional life depends not on working harder, but on different, even opposite, actions from habit and the crowd.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emmerson