Anxiety, distraction, and dysfunction thrive in The Now
Everyone gets excited about tennis when the Australian Open comes to town. The same thing happens in the English summer when Wimbledon comes around. Watching the tennis is full of memorable moments and great performances. But, one thing is guaranteed – the commentators talking about ‘tightness’ when a player is serving for the match. Being able to ‘close-out’ a point or game to win is considered one of the hardest thing to do in the professional game, especially when the stakes increase deeper into the tournament.
Rod Laver, the Australian Tennis Legend once said, “The time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead..."
I think this is because the distractions start creeping in. The ‘what if’s’ rule the mind. The result can be a dramatic decrease in function – double faults, foot faults, and adrenaline filled misses. The player on the other side of the net is not immune as the scoreboard undermines their confidence. It can become a game of attrition and who can stuff up the least!
We see this in business also. No matter how much we invest in our sales teams and processes, our sales meetings convert at a very low rate (A Harvard Business Reviewstudy stated that only 9% of sales meetings end in a sale). As we approach the end of a sale or sales period, there is a host of distracting factors that pull back our ability to execute and increase the sense of worry.
The ability to focus on ‘what I need to do next’ is at the heart of Elite Performance in high pressure situations. Dr Mike Martin, a leading Psychologist in High Performance, states that the age of Positive Thinking is over, and a newer ‘Acceptance and Commitment’ Modelhas taken its place. Accept the negative thoughts, ignore them, and focus on the task at hand.
To do this we need to tap into a few key concepts:
1. Technical Competence – there is no point focusing on the next step when you don’t know how to do it. Know your processes, be disciplined with finding out the gaps in your knowledge and practice your trade at every opportunity. A confidence building exercise of itself.
2. Beyond the now – Daniel Coyle writes in his book The Culture Code, that Purpose is central to any high performing culture. Knowing your own purpose within your organisation, your team, and your career helps to put The Now in context. All of the sudden, the bigger game of building momentum, deepening relationship, or adding to your bank experience means that no matter what happens in the next few moments, it is small change compared to where you are going.
3. Cut the bull – With some confidence and a clear purpose, focus on the very next thing that needs to be done. Steven Kotler, the author of The Rise of Superman calls this ‘Flow’. In sporting circles, it is called ‘The Zone’. This becomes a near meditative state where bombs could be going off next door and you wouldn’t notice, such is the intense focus you have for the task at hand. Cut out the nonsense and deeply engage with each step of what needs to be done.
Close out more sales, critical conversations, and increase productivity by embracing the bigger game. When this becomes a habit, you are on your way to exceeding targets by playing beyond them.