Why is it that sometimes it feels easy to perform well, and other times it’s an uphill battle? March Madness was a perfect opportunity to see huge swings in momentum. It is quite common to see a team losing by double digits in the first-half, only to somehow find their rhythm and make a huge come-back in the second-half.
Momentum is that wonderful experience of finding the zone. It makes competition more enjoyable and successful. The truth about momentum is that there are physiological components that make it easier to be successful in competition, and the great news is that those physiological components can be influenced.
Here’s how it works. When an individual recognizes the fact that he is starting to perform well, the brain releases endorphins into the bloodstream. The endorphin release significantly increases the potential for speed, strength, coordination and focus.
To add to this, the person who recognizes that he is NOT performing well is a whole lot less likely to be releasing his own endorphins. Performing without endorphins is like riding a bike without any grease on the chain. So the real question is, “Can individuals learn how to release endorphins into the bloodstream?” The answer is, “Yes,” but it takes a little work.
You can actually train your mind to release endorphins. One of the things we know is that the brain and the nervous system cannot tell the difference between reality and dream states. Using visualization to remember great past experiences can actually cause an endorphin release in the present.
The real key is to visualize great past success on a regular basis, and then replay the visualization prior to and during performances.
Follow these simple pointers to learn to control your endorphin release and more often experience momentum:
1. Identify your Single Greatest Moment (SGM): Think back to the time when you felt the greatest emotional rush from performing and succeeding in your sport or job. For example, a pitcher told me his SGM is one of his relief appearances from the 2006 World Series where he came into a tight game with runners on base and was able to get the final two outs of the inning to help the St. Louis Cardinals win the game and eventually go on to become world champions.
2. Turn your Single Greatest Moment (SGM) into a V-FLOOD: Once you have your SGM, then turn it into a 10-second visualization or mental video where you remember with as much detail as possible performing really well and then how great you felt when you succeeded. At the end of your 10-second mental video, at the moment when you can recall feeling your absolute greatest feeling from your performance, freeze frame your video into a photograph of yourself. Hold the picture of yourself in your mind’s eye and pretend there is a big black dial directly underneath the mental photograph of yourself. Turn the black intensity dial up as you continue to look at yourself in the photo. As you turn the dial, emphasize really feeling how great you felt in that moment. Your V-FLOOD is the 10-second mental highlight that finishes with the mental photograph of yourself where you are emphasizing your “on top of the world” feeling. For example, the pitcher from above remembers himself throwing the final pitches of the last two outs. He remembers how he felt pitching from the stretch and how the ball felt leaving his hand. He remembers both pitches going exactly where he intended, and he sees the hitters swinging foolishly at them. The freeze frame photograph he remembers is when he was celebrating with his team as the game came to an end.
3. Use your V-FLOOD anytime you feel flat: The next time you feel like your day isn’t going well, take a few seconds to replay your SGM V-FLOOD in your head. Realize that the V-FLOOD is a tool you can continually use to turn your performance around. The real trick is to keep using V-FLOOD when possible until you gain the momentum of a great performance.
Now when the pitcher from above finds himself not performing up to his potential, he takes a few seconds and uses his V-FLOOD until he gets back on track. Some days he may only have to use the V-FLOOD once or twice, while other days he may use it 10 to 15 times or even more until he starts to get back on track.
Committing to working through tough days is at times necessary for success. V-FLOOD will be a great help tool in turning some “off” performances into highlights, and it is a terrific method of keeping your attitude positive and displaying mental toughness. Good luck, and, remember, greatness is a choice you can make everyday.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.