In my previous posts in this series I have talked about fear, hope, and faith. I have explained why we need more than hope, and my conclusion that faith is the most powerful antidote to fear. Now it is time to peel off a few more layers of onion skin to understand where and how we can use faith.
Introducing you to ego
What we know and what we believe is faith. Faith can move mountains. Our problem is we think too much and know too little. Yet the truth is that we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Our problem is that we are blocking our universal knowledge, and making life a lot more difficult.
Within the conscious mind lies the ego. It is the least important part of our brain and yet believes just the opposite. Ego is vain, pompous, over-controlling, prejudiced, and unbelievably stupid.
Ego possesses the intellectual arrogance to take our pure abstract thoughts developed from our unconscious mind, corrupt their essence, and present them to the outside world as indisputable facts.
It is not surprising that these “facts” further reinforce the prejudices of the ego. These prejudices present the ego to the outside world as the subject matter expert on anything and everything. We all know people like this. One of them stares back at us from the mirror.
It is next to impossible to have no ego. Fortunately just turning down the ego volume a bit can make a huge difference to our life. Ego is our stumbling block, specially for anybody who desires to perform at a very high-level in their chosen field.
The reason is that when we allow our ego to dominate our brain we know we are being an imposter. We know things are nowhere near as clear as we pretend them to be. We are frightened of our deluded views being challenged. We suspect that people despise us, which encourages the ego to take even greater control of our thoughts.
The ego knows how to use fear to suppress other more positive thoughts. Ego is not our amigo. Therefore it cannot come as any surprise that almost all people fear performing in public, whether in the business, sport, creative, or social sphere. No wonder that performance anxiety is so common, and so difficult to treat. However fortunately it is not impossible.
My challenge today is a huge one. This message is for anybody who suffers from anxiety, particularly those people who have passion about their work, and who want nothing more than to share their passion with others, yet are so fearful of the consequences.
It is for those people who think they are not good enough. It is for those people who feel weighed down by guilt, and it is for those people who know there is a smarter way to live, and yet can’t put their finger on exactly what this smarter way might be.
It is not all about you, fortunately
A large part of my work with clients revolves around peak performance and the concept of flow. Many of these clients struggle with performance anxiety. They are typically world class in practice, and yet struggle in front of audiences, cameras, microphones, or displaying their books or works of art to others.
What they share in common is that they believe it is all about them. They have been conditioned by their coaches to think that they are responsible for their performance. When this does not meet their high expectations they beat themselves up, which eats away at their confidence until sooner or later they spiral into despair.
However many of my clients go on to massively exceed their expectations, but they do not know how or why. I try to find different metaphors to explain these results, and why they happen. I talk about being in the zone, about magic, about luck, about intuition, and even about quantum theory.
So what is the problem?
Yet I have never convinced myself that I have explained the unexplainable adequately. Part of me says “leave it there”. We do not need explanations for everything. As long as my clients are happy why should I worry?
The other part of me is not satisfied with this Zen approach. Because I want more of my clients to achieve this level of elite performance, and if I can explain the magic ingredient it will help them perform beyond their dreams. So here is my latest attempt to explain the unexplainable.
If we believe our performance is entirely up to us it is perfectly understandable why we should suffer from performance anxiety. It is because we know deep down that we are hardly in control of anything, let alone our performance under pressure.
If we believe it is all up to us life will get very lonely. What if we could believe that some other person or thing is totally in charge of our performance, and all we have to do is turn up on time with our head in the right place, and let things happen?
This revelation hit me about three years ago and has changed my life. In my previous career I had been rewarded handsomely for meticulous planning, analysis, and a dogged determination to get results, irrespective of the cost to me.
Not any more, and it is not surprising my life is a lot less stressful. What is surprising is that however you choose to measure success it has been a pretty good ride. An example of less is more.
Time for the big reveal, and I hope it is not an anti-climax. My conclusion is just one sentence.
Now you know
It is the critical importance of recognising the difference between thinking and knowing.
There is a world of difference between thinking and knowing. Grasping the difference between thinking and knowing will turn your world upside down. What you previously thought was difficult will now become easy, and natural.
Life choices that were previously confusing will now be obvious decisions which require no thought, because you know what is the right thing to do. Situations that previously filled you with anxiety you will now relish with excitement.
I have already described how and why the ego hijacks our abstract thoughts and destroys them. Fortunately for us the ego is not all-powerful, even though it believes itself to be. Because the enemy of the ego is the unconscious mind, which is far more powerful.
Follow your intuition
The unconscious mind can take these same creative abstract thoughts and rather than destroying them it processes them without distortion. These thoughts travel to our conscious mind bypassing ego. Then we start to know stuff, rather than think we do.
We all have gut feelings, we have epiphany moments, we have mind pops, call them what you will. What happens when we have these feelings is that we have connected to our intuition.
Intuition is our ever present GPS guiding us through life. All we have to do is know it is there, and follow its messages. These messages will be simple, and not complicated. We will not need to overthink situations, because we will know what we have to do.
When we know things there is no associated anxiety, because who would be nervous about the simple truth? When we watch athletes in the zone perform out of their skin and post personal bests we recognise that they are performing without inhibition and almost unaware of the rest of the world. They are performing inside a bubble that protects them, fills them with confidence, and does not allow the ego to enter.
Ready to take the first step?
The big question is how can we learn to live inside our bubble? If we see ourselves as the centre of the universe it will be impossible. However if we know that there are higher powers that we can draw upon then it becomes a lot easier.
So where do these higher powers come from? Unless there is a dimension that has not yet been described by science, and there almost certainly is, there can only be two possibilities. This will be the subject of my next blog. Please be patient for the next few days to allow me to get my thoughts together.