“Get your head in the game!”
I grew up as a successful competitive swimmer under a coach of supreme intensity. We never lost a meet, but I rarely enjoyed them. I was under relentless pressure to do better.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t find a way to force myself to do better.
My head was in the game. WAY TOO MUCH into the game, but not even supreme acts of will power did any good.
Because my HEART wasn’t in the game.
And why wasn’t my heart in the game? Because I was afraid almost all the time under my coach.
For a long time I wished that I could have been coached in a kinder, more supportive way. But then I would have missed out on a powerful discovery:
I could control my level of fear with the simple power of breath.
How is this possible? Try it for yourself.
As you read this, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, drawing the air all the way into the lowest parts of your lungs. Exhale slowly and repeat. Immediately you might feel a difference. A stronger presence of being here in the moment.
Can you feel the physiological response as well? Perhaps you might be able to feel, as I can right now, a loosening of the muscles needed for greater response and agility.
And now bring your attention to your heart. With deep relaxed breathing, your heart will feel more safe and willing to invest itself into whatever you have in front of you: an athletic challenge, a big solo, an intense competition, or an intimidating audition.
Unleash the power of your heart, and the head will follow.
Bring your love of the game or music into every moment.
Does it feel safe? Definitely not at first. But without having your heart in the game, there will be no passion. No emotional connection for the audience. No presence.
Focus the breath, invest your heart, and then bring in your mindful presence.
Will power, intuitive responses and flow cannot help but follow your resolve and do your bidding. That’s when you will shine.
I stood poised on the starting blocks at our High School Regional Championships, ready to swim the 50–yard freestyle. My teammates and coach were chanting “EE-BEE! EE-BEE!” My pulse was fast, but my breath was calm. I could feel success in my heart, and the next 23.14 seconds were the first of many bright moments to come. I swam not with a pride from winning that day, but with a primal joy of being present with all my heart.