Go with the Flow

Wave crushing onto sandy beach under a clear blue sky with blue ocean stretching out into the horizon

The Beijing Olympic games were a mixed bag for the United States. There were many more failures than anticipated. Why do some competitors meet the moment and others fold?

In a recent NY Times article, Sian Beilock (President of Barnard College) states that humans are hard-wired to seek control and certainty. But this mental state can cause us to over-fixate on the details of our performance. More importantly, that focus can prevent us from doing our best.

Beilock states that dwelling on what can go wrong gets in the way of good preparation. This tendency is exacerbated by the recency effect; a cognitive bias that prioritizes our most recent experiences over the past.

Speakers, as well as athletes tend to recall negative more than positive experiences. How much time have you wasted worrying? What if the PowerPoint goes down? What if they don’t like my talk? What if I blank out? This focus on negative outcomes can be an endless loop.

The best actors, speakers and athletes practice their material and routines so they can rely on repetition and technique-- not conscious thinking. If the wall between the two is breached, they begin to self-monitor, fall out of the zone, and ultimately fail in their endeavor. Stay in the moment and trust your muscle memory. Should circumstances change, be present enough to pivot. Without fear and worry, you will excel. Simply go with the flow.

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