We are frequently held back by unconscious habits that serve to undermine our performance and success. All too often we have no idea we are using such habits, let alone why we use them. Because they are so much part of us, they are actually invisible to us.
Habits – Shortcuts and Traumas
We develop some habits as shortcuts for getting on with our life. These include habits such as getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed and getting to work.
We develop habits in response to our environments, such as the chair we are sitting in, the car we are driving, the arrangement of our computer on our desk or lap.
And we develop habits as a result of a trauma. By trauma I mean any experience that was significantly serious for you. This could have been a serious injury, illness, a car crash, the unexpected loss of a loved one, especially at an early age, etc.
In the main, unless these habits are holding us back, we never experience them consciously, let alone even think of them.
Habits and Performance
How we use ourselves (habits) has an impact on how we function. For example, many professionals, such as musicians and sport stars, consciously practice for hours on end to create habits to make themselves successful.
Exceptionally, when we encounter injury, illnesses, bereavement and other traumas, we can go into patterns of protection, especially if there is a lot of pain associated with the event. These patterns can be deeply embedded at the time of the incident and result in unconscious patterns of behaviour in our life subsequently.
For example, you may recall spraining your ankle and limping for some time after, as the injury healed up. The limp was your way of keeping your full weight off the injured ankle and protecting yourself from further injury and pain. If the injury was bad enough, you may have limped for so long it became a permanent way in which you use yourself in walking or thinking about the strength of your ankle or leg.
These sort of habits and experiences often have a distorting effect on our natural alignment and coordination. In time, these distortions can have a detrimental effect on our performance. To overcome them, we may resort to ‘trying harder’.
Often, the harder we try to do something, or the more we strive for perfection, the more it seems to elude us. This is because we start focusing excessively on the outcome
If we have had a really bad, or traumatic experience, we may not even feel like beginning to start again.
I work with people who want to improve their performance in many aspects of their lives by:
- Creating conditions that allow them become aware of the habits that lead to under-performing.
- Developing understanding of how such habits restrict their performance;
- Co-designing and implementing effective and efficient changes.
David was the European Supply Chain Director of a blue-chip organization. He was responsible for a $600M budget. He was experiencing problems with his boss. His boss was unhappy with his level and style of communication. David spent almost all his time traveling throughout Europe with regular US trips for HQ reviews. David did not realize it, but all the rushing from meeting to meeting and incessant deadlines was causing him to contract into himself. When we started working together he was very tense and somewhat concerned for the future.
On one of his trips David came down with suspected pneumonia and had to attend the local hospital for tests. These over-ran and he was late for an appointment with me. He had been given the all clear, but looked very unwell. As he explained all this to me I noted his breathing rate was 23 breaths per minute; on the verge of hyper-ventilating. Rather than proceed with a regular coaching session I offered to work with his breathing. He soon reached a more normal rate of 14 bpm. He found this had a profoundly beneficial effect on his sleeping and we repeated the breath work the next session. While we were working he had very strong releases of muscle tension throughout his body. He suddenly exclaimed that he knew what the problem was and within minutes he designed a solution.
The learning for me was that as long as he was contracted in his body, he was similarly contracted in his mind and thinking. When he opened his body he was also able to open his mind and expand his thinking. He was soon promoted to senior vice-president of that company.
A further example involves Joan, a primary school teacher in her early 30s. She was experiencing increasing problems with her voice. Over the years she has developed a hoarseness that would sometimes rob her of her voice. Her doctor had referred her to a throat specialist who, in turn, referred her to a speech and language therapist. J has assiduously engaged in the exercises prescribed to eliminate the hoarseness, but without success.
She came to me and as we worked together I identified a habit she had of pulling excessive tension into her neck and throat muscles. As she became aware of this she was increasing able to reduce this tension, and as she did her voice improved somewhat. But it was not yet fully clear.
We discussed what was happening now, and the onset of the hoarseness. Joan recalled some minor hoarseness problems while she was in teacher training. Working further with her I found a very strong holding in her left ankle. It was very difficult to flex her left foot. When I drew this to her attention she began to tell me of an incident in which her foot had been caught in a car door slamming on it when she was 16. As we discussed this, Joan began to carefully release the unnecessary tensioning around her ankle. When she stood up she was amazed at the changes in her ankle and could not believe how smoothly it was working. As we both listened to her speaking it was clear her hoarseness had also cleared fully!
Joan had evidently been holding tension in her ankle for some 16 years without realizing it. This was what triggered her tensioning in her neck, which was originally intended to stifle the scream she wanted to make when the door slammed against her foot.
These are just two examples of how my work helps. If you feel you could benefit from working with me please contact me now.
When we experience pain we can become overly caught up in protecting ourselves and avoiding further pain. Think back pain or headache! This too, limits our performance.
The outcome of all this is increasing levels of stress and muscle tension as we try to push through; stabilise ourselves; or improve our accuracy.
When we are stressed, or under pressure, and have to get things done, we tend to ignore very important signals from within. These range from straightforward pain signals, to proprioceptive signals, to physiological signals.
In the absence of knowing what these signals are trying to tell us, we rely on habits and on what worked the last time we were faced with demands and challenges like these. The result is we sub-perform, or achieve our goals at too great a cost.
Many organisations address this by extensive pre-training. But it still doesnt always work. Many people do not realise they are being driven by fear as they barely engage with change.
- Catching Your Breath
- Protecting your Voice in the classroom
- Effortless Performance
- Alleviating Chronic Back Pain
- Presence in Public Speaking
- Dealing with stress and trauma. AT and telling your story
- Eliminating Performance Anxiety
Lessons: one to one. In person or via Skype/Zoom To book click here