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Radically trusting yourself

Whoa! What's that about? and How do I get me some? were a couple of my reactions when I first read about “radically trusting yourself.”

Then I started thinking of all the ways it can go bad, as news events regularly show. It seemed to me know-it-alls use it to do really stupid stuff. (Not mentioning any names, although surely you know some.)

But after reading the whole article in my college alumni magazine (nerdy, I know...) I learned Columbia University psychologists and biomedical engineers are studying the concept to investigate the secrets of athletic excellence, including the integration of mind and body.

I mention this because something like it recently happened to me. I always assumed I would never do a live TV interview (as recounted in my last blog, “Defying doubt”) or emcee an awards ceremony (see accompanying photo) because I stutter, often severely. But then I did... with a lot of preparation, focus, and terror control.

Turns out that's what Gene Larkin, a Minnesota Twins player (and 1984 Columbia College grad) put into play in the seventh game of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. It was the tenth inning, the score was 0-0, bases loaded. The Twins just had to bring the man on third base home to win the series.

Larkin was called to pinch hit. And he was ready. He had been doing stretches and swinging the bat since the fifth inning, but in fact he had been preparing since he was a kid playing sandlot baseball. He hit Alejandro Pena's pitch way beyond the outfielders. The Twins won!

Julia Colangelo, founder of Hello Flow, a consulting company based in Maui, was interviewed for the article and has a name for what happened to Larkin: flow.

Flow is a state of consciousness in which someone is so completely immersed in a task that nothing else seems to exist. During the flow state, the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with complex planning and decision-making – shuts down. By doing the prep work – the practice – required to do a certain task, they have made themselves “available for flow” if the opportunity presents itself.

“... when that happens you no longer have self-doubt, inhibition, or fear,” Colangelo explained. “You can perform at your highest level without being self-conscious or worried. You radically trust yourself.”

But how to get there?

“Confidence is built by being very selective in how you manage your memories (not dwelling on past failures), how you talk to yourself in the present, and how you think about your future,” Nate Zinsser, author of The Confident Mind, said in the same article.

Boy, for me that's the hardest thing of all. Even harder than all the practice required.

“In high-pressure situations you can't become preoccupied with the desired outcome, you have to be thinking about the process that will lead to that outcome. ...You have to practice your mindset as well as your movements.”

Being radicalized never sounded so good. Or so difficult.

Still, I'm in. You?

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