NLP

Easy 4 Ingredient Recipe to Staying in the Zone of Peak Performance

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The flow state, sometimes known as the "zone," is a state of peak performance treasured by athletes, artists, and high performing businesspeople. Fields like Sports Psychology and NLP study this “peak performance” state in order to help people create it more consistently and utilize it for higher achievement.


Can you remember times when everything seemed to flow? When you were immersed in what you were doing and lifted by inspiration?


With our attention scattered by multiple devices and a steady stream of emails, learning and implementing the peak performance flow state has more relevance and strategic advantage than ever.

 

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If you'd like to know a simple recipe for peak performance, read on and let's consider a simple 4-step process for bringing more of it to your life, your team, company, or wherever else you'd like to apply it:


The 4 Steps are:


Define - Discover - Analyze - Implement


1. Define the state of peak performance


Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performance, defined that state with these 8 characteristics he calls "neurophysiological cues of peak performance feelings" which I here summarize and paraphrase-

  1. Mentally Relaxed - inner calm and peace
  2. Physically Relaxed - no undue muscle tension
  3. Confident/ Optimistic - expecting success
  4. Focused on the Present - attention on the here and now
  5. Highly Energized - feeling "charged" with energy, more than enough for the task at hand
  6. Extraordinary Awareness - acutely sensitive to the sensory environment
  7. In Control - directing mind and body to do what is needed
  8. In the Cocoon - In an envelope of power, undistracted by the irrelevant and extraneous

Garfield used these criteria to help both athletes and business people better recognize their personal peak experiences with exercises like rating them on a 1-10 scale.  Drills like that help to clearly "mark out" peak performances from lesser ones, clearing the path to having them more often.

 

2. Discover a set of peak experiences


Make an inventory of the best personal peak experiences you can remember. You can use Garfield's 8 characteristics above as criteria. Remember specific times when you were really in the zone and feeling extremely focused and successful about whatever it is you were doing. What you were actually doing and whether or not you succeeded in the eyes of the world isn't as important as your own feelings of success. Find at least 3 or 4 personal peak experiences and give each one a name and short description that will jog your memory.


Now, as we would say in NLP, "elicit the state" of peak performance to bring these experiences fully back to life. Relax and fully immerse into each one and relive it with all your senses engaged . . . see what you were seeing . . . hear what you were hearing . . . feel what you were feeling . Notice how your body position, posture, and facial expression shift with feelings like confidence, focus, and control reawakened.

 

3. Analyze your peak experiences

Once you have a few peak experiences closer at hand, analyzing them helps you learn they didn't just happen by chance. There are things you did and thought that helped create the climate that high performance thrives in.

Doing a "mind map" is a good way to better understand how you created these experiences and can create more in the future.

As you think about one, let your thinking flow as you use a mind mapping app or just doodle on a piece of paper, listing all the things that were going both physically and mentally before and during that time. Afterwards, as you review several, you will see things you did or thought that were consistent between them that can become your personal keys to peak experience.

 

4. Implement what you have learned.

Studying these mind maps of your personal peak experiences and inventorying the controllable factors that brought them about helps you arrange your life to be in "the zone" more consistently and consciously.

Design your environment and actions so peak experiences happen more often. For example, if you found that having a coach was a common to your past peak experiences, you know to build a coach into your current plan.

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By knowing the definition of peak performance, discovering such times in your own life, analyzing how they came about, and implementing what you learned, you can live at a higher level of inspiration and success.


How will your life be different, rallying and amplifying your highest state of peak performance and then consistently focusing it on the activities and outcomes important to you?


The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team

Introduction to The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team- Creating a Congruent Peak Performance Company


"Alignment is a necessary condition before empowering individuals..." Peter M. Senge


It's nice to be near the ocean, but Charleston is flat as a pancake so I have to escape to the mountains regularly. Looking down on vast misty valleys and shimmering lakes from a Pisgah National Forest trail awakens a certain feeling of inspiration. Maybe it's my Scottish Highlands blood.


It's more fun to get out of the comfort zone of the trails I know and explore the unfamiliar, so I might get a trail map from the outdoor shop in Brevard.


A hiking guide shows where to find good trails and the general nature of each hike, but it's nothing like smelling the trees, hearing the wind whistling through the trees and wondering if it's a bear with those heavy footsteps in the bushes.


Regardless, it helps create a great trip, whether for an overview of a general area to explore or to plan more specific point-to-point experiences.


A map can also help motivate a team to grow a company by leading customers to great experiences. The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team (6LAT) model is such a model. it isn't a substitute for direct experience any more than the hiking guide is but can similarly help create a great journey by charting a course.


“Experience by itself teaches nothing... Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.” ― W. Edwards Deming


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The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team model (6LAT) is a hierarchical model of creating congruent high level results in a business. The levels, from top to bottom, are

  1. Timeless Principles
  2. Mission
  3. Mental Models
  4. Capabilities
  5. Practices
  6. Results

Distinct strategies address each level to bring an organization into alignment . A misaligned level will affect all the levels beneath it. If the conductor of a symphony has a seizure, it doesn't matter whether or not the second seat violin is out of tune. And positive changes at a higher level can wash down the levels below like a waterfall after a heavy rain.


An aligned team in a business works together more congruently with a common mission and values that answer the "why" behind the goals. Energy that could have been wasted on internal friction like an engine running with no oil can be recovered and focused on serving customers at a higher level.


Tony Robbins speaks of how congruent people naturally radiate because they are living in accordance with their values and dreams. Similarly, companies that are congruent through alignment radiate specialness. An aligned team works together with not only shared goals, but also the deeper rapport and congruence that comes from shared mission, values, and beliefs.

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"Integrity is congruence between what you know, what you profess, and what you do." Nathaniel Branden


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To get an overview of the 6LAT map, let's take a brief journey through the levels, starting at the top:

 

Timeless Principles

Timeless principles are expressions of immutable archetypal forces. They can be variations on this set of nine:


            1)  Empathy
            2)  Innovation
            3)  Discipline
            4)  Abundance
            5)  Competitiveness
            6)  Leadership
            7)  Harmony
            8)  Communication
            9)  Imagination


Aligning an organization with values like these chosen collaboratively with the team helps the organization flow with the river of life instead of swimming upstream. Which principles are behind your ideal of excellent service to your customers? Do your people see how their highest internal values align with those of the company?


Mission


The mission tells how the organization distinctively expresses timeless principles through enriching the lives of its customers. Making money itself is not a compelling mission because it is inwardly directed as opposed to outwardly directed. Just focus on that and you'll make less money because people can smell they are being used for another's end. On the other hand, people are likely to willingly give the energy exchange of money to a business that is focused on helping them. What's the highest calling behind what your company does?


Mental Models- from Unexamined to Conscious


Mental Models can also be known as "belief systems" but in this context I prefer the more malleable connotations of the term "Mental Models". What are the assumptions, the presuppositions behind how your company does things? Shifting a mental model can be a powerful leverage point for breakthrough growth. The challenge is uprooting these and bringing them to light so you and your team can ask questions like "how else can we think about this?"


Capabilities


What skill sets do your people need to fulfill the mission? What digital resources does your company need to stretch the mission fulfillment? Should there not be ongoing training and education programs? Where will stretching capabilities in any of these areas enhance the special benefits offered to your customers? Is continuous improvement a guiding principle for your organization?


Practices


What are the processes that drive the business? Are they documented so they can serve as a baseline for ongoing improvement? How do shifts in principle orientation, mission, mental models, and capabilities suggest the need to evolve these practices or replace them with new ones entirely?


"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." W. Edwards Deming


Results


The natural outcome of getting alignment through these levels is measurably improved and more harmoniously obtained results. Instead of pulling and pushing people with the carrot and stick, this flow helps evolve performance driven by the intrinsic motivation stemming from your peoples' personal values and mission aligning with that of the company.


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A performance by a great jazz combo can illustrate the levels. Their common mission of deeply moving creative expression is guided by principles like creativity, excellence, and spontaneity. The musicians share common mental models like the 12 note scale and various rhythmic patterns. They have refined their capabilities of utilizing those models with dedicated practice on the instruments. They apply the capabilities in the process of creating great music in the moment. One result is likely to be an appreciative audience.


Peak performance in such a system comes from the harmony and collaboration between the high-performing players so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The music is enriched by how they listen and respond to each other.


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Defining these things sets up a roadmap that becomes alive with an ongoing implementation strategy. What feedback loops best reinforce the values and mission of the organization? How can leadership align with these visibly and how can people use them for decision making? How will feedback correct course if and when people stray from these principles? Is management brave enough to sacrifice an easy short term result to a principle?

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Sources/More Reading

Peter Senge, The 5th Discipline

Sue Knight, NLP at Work: The Essence of Excellence


In an interview, Charles Garfield, author of Peak Performance and Peak Performers, said " The mission of the individual needs to align with the mission of the team, which needs to align with the mission of the organization. In fact, I would take it further -- the mission of the organization needs to align with the mission of the society in which it is embedded and the mission of the planet to which we are all indebted. "


The Aligned Team model, a key component of the e-Merg program, is derived in part from the neurological levels model of Robert Dilts, who wrote in a Brief History of Neurological Levels, "Our brain structure, language, and social systems form natural hierarchies or levels of processes....The concept of logical levels of learning and change was initially formulated as a mechanism in the behavioral sciences by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, based on the work of Bertrand Russell in logic and mathematics."

 


Thought Experiment 6 - The Computer Simulation

The cyberpunk classic The Matrix  imagined a future where people live simulated lives projected by computers 

 
Elon Musk referenced the concept this past summer in an interview where he said we could be living in a computer simulation.


Absurd? Maybe... but it makes for an interesting "what if" thought experiment in shifting perception. You'll want to read the introduction 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation if you haven't already as it sets up this context of thought experiments as a tool for innovation.


Now, if you are intrigued by the concept, let's set up a framework to continue playing with the concept of the Computer Simulation Thought Experiment:


Can you imagine how things would be different if Musk is right and we are in a simulation? .... if you found you are living in a big video game and nothing you experience is real in the manner you thought it was?


How would the awareness of living in such a simulation affect your perspective on things you may have previously considered obstacles?


Now, to take things up a level, imagine that you discover you are actually the programmer of the reality game projecting your consciousness into the game to become the character you thought you were. As the programmer, you can leave the virtual reality and change the game in any way you like before reentering it.


Knowing this, how would you change it?


After doing so, how would things be different when you re-entered the identity of the game character you thought you were?

 

Let yourself slip into a daydream state (NOT while driving or operating heavy machinery!) and spend enough time with these questions for interesting new thoughts to emerge...

 

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Thoughts experiments like this one, The Model of Excellence, The Time Machine, or The Abstract Sculpture may not come easily at first. Most people aren't used to thinking in such out of the box ways. Then again, most people aren't experiencing the benefits of regularly generating  innovative ideas. So, if that's the case for you, maybe you can consider it like a first exercise session that wakes up a body that has been sedentary. With enough frequency and intensity, staying at it means you will make regular progress and, eventually, transformation.


In NLP , we call thought experiments like this "reframes" (link to NLP blog post). When you are in a rut, putting a different frame around the situation can bring the fresh perspectives, new soundtrack, and different feelings that facilitate the breakthroughs that take things to new levels.


Thought Experiment 2 - The Time Machine

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This is the second of the detailed thought experiments posts following the more general introduction 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation which is where you will want to start if you haven't read it yet.


Last time, we looked at the Model of Excellence method. Here, we are digging deeper into the Time Machine.


Have you seen the time travel comedy skit featuring identical twins?


What if time travel was a real thing in an alternate universe? After all, quantum mechanics says it is possible.

 
Here is a way to play with that concept to generate possibilities:


First, think of some ability or accomplishment you have now that 5 or 10 years ago, you wouldn't have even imagined.


In your imagination, travel back in time and share that information with the "past you". How does the "past you" react? Maybe deer-in-the-headlights? How would the reply sound as you shared this? How would he or she feel about learning of the future self's abilities or accomplishments?


Now, keeping this in mind, return fully to the present. Shake it off.


Imagine you are getting in your time machine again, but this time travelling to the future, looking back on your present self  - seeing and hearing your present self similarly to how you experienced your past self.


As your future self, imagine travelling back in time to the present (confusing, I know) telling your present (now, past) self about something you now do or have in this future time that your present self responds to in the same way.


What would that be?


6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. " Albert Einstein

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Young Einstein was riding his bicycle in Munich when he saw shafts of sunlight and wondered what it would be like to ride on a light beam. That thought experiment helped develop special relativity.


Thought experiments can be used for breakthrough innovation in many areas of life, including business. 


Do you sometimes feel like you are pushing against a wall and would rather find the door?


Would you like a fresh perspective on a business situation?


Could you be surprised at new solutions that seem to come from nowhere?


The right thought experiment is an exquisite tool for generating new possibilities. This post aims to set the stage for such a mental journey by sharing an overview of six suitable thoughts experiments.


The Stanford Encyclopedia says, " The primary philosophical challenge of thought experiments is simple: How can we learn about reality ... just by thinking?" These thought experiments are intended to expand one's reality by accessing hidden human reserves, untapped possibilities outside the boundaries of what we normally think we can do. Breaking the chains of  mental habits can unveil hidden resources and spur one to accomplish at higher levels.


"Change your thoughts and you change your world." Normal Vincent Peale


There is much outside of our perception. Peale's quote acknowledges that we don't respond to the world, but to our mental models of the world. If you ask 5 people who left a room together to describe their recollection, you'd get 5 different descriptions. Bees see ultraviolet shades invisible to humans to better find nectar. When my dog, Jefferson, sniffs a tree, I remember dogs have a sense of smell up to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans. People hear sound waves from 20 to 20,000 hertz yet dolphins and bats can hear up to 100,000 hertz. Instruments can measure frequencies yet further beyond our sensory perception. And that is far from all that is. 


Thought experiments are ladders over the mental walls of our thinking habits.  Once you have climbed up and are peeking over those walls, you may also hear the whispers of a new story. How would it make things different if you more regularly generated breakthrough ideas and inspiring new insights?


Two short tips before you start:


Sometimes a thought experiment can bring instant insight and other times there is an incubation period before an seemingly comes "out of the blue". Can you be surprised at what you are doing when an inspiring innovation comes to you? 


The right spirit to approach these with is taking a mental break from routine for an inner adventure in which you suspend your usual patterns of thinking and enter a trance-like, dreamy state. Enjoy taking the time out.


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Following are brief descriptions of 6 thought experiments. This may be enough to set you off on a fruitful mental journal and, if you need more, there will be subsequent posts that share more detailed step-by-step instructions.

 

 The Model of Excellence

Who represents excellence in handling issues like you are dealing with? Is it a famous author, consultant, or businessperson? Or is it a historical genius like Tesla or Einstein? What would be different if this person took your place in dealing with your business challenges? How might things turn out differently? More details on the Model of Excellence method here.


The Time Machine


How would it change your perspective if you could time travel years into the past and surprise the younger you with the knowledge of later accomplishments or skills that would have seemed unimaginable then? What extra resource might you give your younger self to achieve more in the coming years? What might you similarly learn from your future self if you traveled 10 or 20 years into the future to find out what you learned or accomplished later? More details on The Time Machine here.


The Olympic Athlete


How would things be different if you could borrow the focus, beliefs, and standards of an Olympic athlete in training and focus them on a goal you want to accomplish? Where do you notice the feelings that go with this drive and intensity?


The Abstract Art Form


If you could see your business achievements as an abstract art sculpture, what would it look like? How would it look different if it represented a higher level of achievement instead? Spend some time contemplating it in detail. What new perspective or inner dialogue emerge when you return to thinking about the issue? This can work with different sensory systems as well - try it with a piece of instrumental music or even a gourmet meal.


The Systems View


Systems thinking uses visual models to help us see how interrelationships and goal of a system drive performance in a way that transcends the individual parts. If you were to step out of your business challenge and see the dynamics of it instead as such a diagram, what would it look like? See it from a distance with detachment. What ideas emerge for optimizing the situation when you look at it this way?


The Computer Simulation


Elon Musk said in an interview that we could be living in a computer simulation . What if this was actually the case and we were living in a big video game so that nothing you experience is "real" in the sense you thought it was? What would you change if you were the programmer of this virtual reality that you previously mistook as real life?


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If your initial tries at these admittedly unusual ways of thinking don't immediately bear fruit, consider it like beginning a physical exercise program. The tentative first steps wake up a previously sedentary body to more activity and focusing on enough frequency and regular progress steps reap great benefits in the long run.


In NLP , we call thought experiments like this "reframes". When you feel you are in a mental rut, a reframe can brings fresh perspectives, a new, more invigorating soundtrack, or a pull into new directions previously unconsidered.  Enjoy the surprises.

 


5 Powerful Applications for NLP in Business

Do you value excellence in business? One definition of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is the study and replication of excellence. As such, it has many applications in the business arena.


NLP was originally developed in the 1970s by linguist John Grinder and programmer Richard Bandler. They created a language for decoding the communication skills of masters like Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy. Bandler and Grinder created a syntax to make the formerly mysterious abilities teachable. They and other early leaders of NLP also modeled peak performers in sports, business, therapy, and  science  to develop codified patterns of high performance that became NLP . The power and applications of what they created run deep and wide.


Here, we'll look at five skills from NLP that are especially useful in business. This is an overview to give a sense of how much there is to gain with their application in business. You can dig deeper with study and perhaps a certification course if you become intrigued enough to look into mastering these practices. Or you could hire an NLP  Certified Practitioner or Master Practitioner to assist with evolving your business as a sales or management trainer or organizational consultant with these skills:


1- Building Rapport


Great communicators develop rapport before they attempt to persuade. NLP defines rapport on several levels. Matching and pacing another's physical movements and speech gives the feeling "this person is like me." If it's just subtle enough, it can be very effective at creating comfort while going unnoticed on a conscious level. This can be as simple as holding the same posture while speaking in the same loudness and with the same rhythm as your counterpart.


A deeper level of rapport is "criterial rapport". You create this by feeding back another's desired outcome with precision. Find out his or her intended result and feed it back to get agreement and the sense of being aligned towards a common goal.


2- Eliciting and Anchoring Positive States


Wouldn't it be nice to be able to call upon your highest level of motivation and focus it exactly where you want it? NLP has processes for eliciting any positive state of mind you have experienced and putting it wherever you find helpful. For example, in NLP sales training, measurable improvements in phone sales have been gained by anchoring the expectation of success to answering the phone.


3- Belief Change


In Systems Thinking, brought to a wider audience by Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline, "mental models" are often levers for making positive change in companies. "Mental Models" is another name for "Belief Systems", or the assumptions we make that underpin our decisions. These are usually unconscious. Being able to uncover, examine, then change a belief system underlying an underperforming business system can be extremely powerful. An example might be finding a belief that "you should always purchase the lowest bid" is at the root of an unreliable product and can be changed to the more appropriate belief (mental model) that "it's better to choose vendors that add the most value to the end customer". NLP is rich in systems to discover and change disempowering beliefs.


4- Multiple Perspectives


In NLP, we talk about first, second, and third positions as three different ways to perceive a situation. For example, "first position" might be described as seeing things from the eyes of a service rep serving a customer. "Second position", conversely, would be seeing things from the customer's point of view in the same situation (as well as hearing things from the customer's ears). Things can feel quite a bit different from there! Feeling what a customer feels leads to more empathy, a key principle in customer oriented businesses. Third position is observing the situation as an uninvolved third party, watching from the distance . Different information is gathered from third position, where the interplay can be better observed with detachment.


Being able to see things from the customers’ point of view as well as from the detached observer perspective brings new information that helps gain rapport and understanding. Switching positions is a also a useful skill for negotiation and resolving conflict.


5- Reframing


The ability to put a new frame around a situation can add motivational "juice" and put problems in a new perspective. An example of a reframe that changed an entire industry is when certain restaurateurs realized they were in the entertainment business and not simply in the nourishment business. Personal Fitness Training flourished as more people saw helping people get fit through the frame of a coach rather than that of a teacher. Nearly any business situation can be reframed to gather new information from seeing it in a different context.


NLP has proven to be a powerful tool in sales and business leadership, enabling creating more aligned teams with higher motivation, uncovering the source of and solving business problems, and shedding light on new, innovative perspectives.