Updated: Jul 7
Have you ever experienced brain freeze? Not the kind that comes from rapid ice cream consumption, the kind that prevents anything coherent coming out of your mouth when you really need it. You know when you're mid-argument and you want something clever to say but you just stare into space blankly. Or someone throws you a curve ball in a meeting and all brain cells seem to stop working simultaneously. Then you pull an Alan Partridge ah-ha and have the best comeback of all time. But unfortunately you're about two hours too late and your ex, or Heather from accounts wins yet another round.
I was working with one of my coaching clients the other day and we were discussing very important things, including the sound a quad bike makes when it's in mid air.
What has a quad bike got to do with reacting like a legend in the moment?
Imagine the scene. You're somewhere in the desert, it doesn't matter which one. You've got a big ass quad bike heading for the summit of a sand dune as fast as you can. Then you forget two critical things. The first is the sheer drop on the other side of the dune and the second, in true Maverick fashion your ego has been writing cheques your body can't cash and gravity is about to be a stark reminder of your strength and ability to control the damn thing.
The good news is the ego is about to be side-lined
My client described the sound the bike made as he shot off the top of the dune, with it being exactly like it sounds in the movies - the squeal of of high-revs punctuating the desert air. Then in that split second he remembered his son was on the back and they were both in mortal danger as the weight of the bike was sending them into a swan dive and risk of flipping at some 40mph. In that moment he was able to access the kind of innate wisdom we all have. This secret of evolution and power of eternal life. The kind of force that makes beautiful purple flowers emerge between the gaps in the concrete, where it has no right to but it's simply nature's way. Survival.
In that moment the only business at hand was the present moment. He used all his skill, guile and will to get control of the bike and ensure that he (and I'm sure more importantly his son) landed the bike without serious injury or worse). He wasn't thinking about what would happen if he crashed, what people thought of him or what if he'd taken a different route. In fact he probably wasn't thinking anything other than what was required to survive in that moment. So the ego shuts down. Thought stops and innate wisdom takes over.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us." Ralph Waldo Emerson
The wisdom that exists before thought
Perhaps the number one reason why our ability to react with our innate wisdom to curve balls, arguments and other challenging situations is that we are too much in our heads and not enough in the moment. Imminent quad bike crash propels us into the moment whether we like it or not and actually, as human beings we are pretty useful in the present. We are all useless tackling anything that's happened or that might happen except for Doc Brown, Bill and Ted and Doctor Who as they have the tech to make any moment in history the present moment. For the rest of us though it's the here and now all the way.
Ask Captain Smith how useful a plan is
It's good to have a plan. Run some scenarios. Be prepared and all that but when it comes to the point of engagement you need to present enough to know what to do. you could have the best plan in the world, for example an unsinkable ship (yeh I've had business plans like this) but in the event of an unexpected iceberg being fully present means you need to be on hand to react.
Clear your mind, be calm and how up in spirit as well as in body. So how do you clear your mind? What's working for me right now is to remember that any emotions I'm experiencing I'm creating myself. I'm better able to go about my business without the burden of emotion that the previous me would've been rattled by Heather in accounts. Come from a place of love and gratitude and trust that you'll know what to do as soon as your wheels lift off the sand.
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