You can change your zip code, the direction of your business, even your outward appearance, but if you don’t change your state of mind, then the same circumstances that have always held you back from achieving success in your life and your business will persist. You will fall victim to the common pitfall of distracting yourself with external changes when the inward reality is that nothing has actually shifted. Developing your inner capital then is one of the most critical aspects of the changing business world. It is also the biggest return on investment you will ever receive.
Unfortunately, many business people struggle to decipher what it really means to achieve their top inner game. Let’s be honest, none of us has ever taken a class in inner management. No business school I’m aware of even bothers to address the topic. The only people I’ve known who have had access to any type of inner management skills training are professional athletes. And that was solely because those athletes recognised the need for it. Even in the elite athletic world, where most are on par with their competitors physically, have the same level of training, follow similar diets, etc., the winner is always the person who’s playing from their best inner game.
Just like athletes, in business your top inner game is likely needed when you have no choice but to perform at your best — for example when you find yourself pitching your top value idea to a potential investor, giving that crucial make-or-break speech, being interviewed by the media, or giving a big presentation. The inner game, whether for athletes, entrepreneurs or executives, is the same construct. The context is different, but in both settings, we must face the same inner battles when having to perform at our best.
Being Mentally Present
As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve learned that in those peak performance moments, it comes down to staying mentally present. If I can avoid thinking about the future (i.e., outcomes) or avoid thinking that has me stuck in the past (i.e., worrying about messing up like I did the last time) – I know I can perform at my best.
Bottom line: in order to win in the fast, paced, ever changing business world, you must remain centred and present.
Here’s a personal example: Having developed two global martial art brands, I’m often asked to be interviewed by journalists, podcasters, etc. As an introvert by nature, I don’t relish these requests. To be honest, I don’t feel that I’m very good at that sort of thing. I give my best performances when I’m coaching on stage. I also know, however, that being on the right podcast saying the right thing at the right time can be very beneficial for my brands. But given my introverted nature and the fact that giving speeches and interviews is not something I’m fond of, I can quite easily become overwhelmed by anxiety. I then find myself worrying about what to say next.
Over time, I’ve learned that staying in past-or future-based thinking often leads me into trouble, and my ability to perform in the moment begins to degrade. I start to lose my train of thought or stumble over my words. I’m sure you can imagine how damaging that can be. If I don’t sound like I know what I am talking about and do so with self-assurance, people listening will lose confidence in me and my brands.
The lesson I’ve learned from these experiences is that there’s a sort of paradox around performing at your best: developing your inner game means that in order to bring out your best performance, you must focus your mind, detach from the past, and remain unconcerned about the future. Let me say that again: I cannot stress enough the importance of not getting caught up in past-or future-based thinking that will actually distract you from performing at your best.
“See things in the present, even if they are in the future.” – Larry Ellison, Co-founder of Oracle
Learning To Be More Present
So, how do you make that happen?
First you must distinguish between observing your thought process rather than engaging with your thoughts. In other words, you need to develop the ability to notice your thoughts and not be run by them. For example, during an interview, I may notice that I’m becoming focused on the future (what to say next) or concerned with past mistakes (previous mess ups when answering the same question I’m being asked in that moment). In order to successfully ‘notice’ my thought process, I must first recognise that I’m projecting into the future or holding onto the past. Once I’m able to do that, I can then gently physically anchor myself back in the present moment, the only place where I know I can be fully present in the experience at hand.
“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.” ~Victoria Moran
An anchor, is a physical re-centering technique, that can be something as simple as squeezing your hand into a fist, or my personal favourite, and what I use all the time, to reach across with my one hand to grab my other hand’s thumb with a gentle squeeze. The purpose of anchoring is to connect a physical movement that can be performed during a crucial performance, like a speech, presentation etc., that enables you to get back to the present moment. In other words, it distracts you from your over thinking mind, and enables you to come back to the present.
Of course as noted earlier, first you have to know when you are drifting off into past or future thoughts. When you do notice, using a physical anchor as described earlier, is a great tool to use when a you are finding it hard to let go of past and future thinking. With enough practice, the process virtually becomes automatic.