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Will PowerWorking with clients to develop more self-control is one of the major goals of almost all coaching relationships. It is not only an extremely important virtue but also the most important skill someone can bring to bear on goal accomplishment or achievement. Another way to say this is that self-control, or will power, is one of the qualities that must be present if someone is going to succeed on any regular basis.

One of the statements that was instrumental in my choice to start coaching and go back to school was by W. Timothy Gallwey in his book The Inner Game of Tennis. It essentially suggested that knowing what to do was not the problem for most endeavors. You certainly need to have skills, experience, and knowledge to be successful, but the real and more common problem is getting yourself to do what you already know. In other words, you have to show up and keep at it for there to be a successful result. Repeatedly, I saw myself and others fail at goals and tasks by giving up or running out of steam…another way to say it is that I “lacked the will power to do the things I knew needed to be done.” I did not need to be told what to do; I just needed to do it. Seems simple enough, right?

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Cupid is often related to romantic happiness. That's overrated.Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it. You will be mistaken and disappointed if you buy the book imagining it to be a useful guide to finding happiness. It is not. The author describes the work as “what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy.”

Okay, we lost a few potential readers with that description, but this post’s purpose is not to suggest you buy the book. It is about another statement in the book I find useful for my clients and me. The statement is this, “The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real.” It appears that we are the only species who have imagination, and that unique capacity is the driving force behind most of our creative accomplishments.  We simply know how to dream things, situations and moments up, any time of day or night.

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One of the first things I noticed when I started coaching people for peak performance was how hard we are on ourselves. I am not talking about a simple “that was stupid” every once in awhile but a consistent pattern of self-condemnation and negative self-talk. It can be brutal.

I first thought the propensity to negate our self through self-condemnation was an occasional thing, but I have come to learn it is ubiquitous and affects almost all of us to some degree or another.

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In their book Quicksilver (2010), Michael O’Brien and Larry Shook reference a 2004 National Academy of Sciences paper entitled “Fear fosters flight: A mechanism for fear contagion when perceiving emotion expressed by a whole body“.  This paper is about kinesthetic awareness or body movements that precede emotional states, specifically how we recognize happiness and fear as others telegraph their emotional states.  Until this study, researchers focused mainly on processes associated with facial expressions; this study suggest that bodily movements are just as important for understanding emotional behavior.  One can only think of the archetypal poker player eyeing his opponent for signs of excitement or stress.  Just what is the player noticing that gives him an edge?

As with many research studies, the actual details are technical and sometimes overly complicated however I would suggest the time necessary to work your way through the work is well worth it.  O’Brien & Shook also make an interesting point concerning the permeations possible within our own neural networks:

This is where our emerging knowledge of the brain approaches the mystical.  When we consider that each of the neocortex’s hundred billion neurons has as many as twenty thousand connections to other brain cells, and that those cells connect with millions of other body cells, and that, as neuroscientists  helpfully point out, the potential permutations of these connections exceed the number of molecules in the known universe, we are only beginning to grasp the reality of our circumstances. (p. 83)

Exceed the number of molecules in the known universe?  That sounds like a lot if you ask me.  That is why when I read articles like “Mice Make Their Own Morphine” I am not surprised.

Rather, it makes it silly to assume that we know what is possible in any endeavor.

I was sitting quietly last night enjoying a moment of relative silence and started thinking about how rare silence has become for all of us.  Even as someone who truly appreciates silence,  I find it increasingly difficult to isolate myself, to turn off the constant bombardment of auditory and visual stimuli that pervades my world.

Why is it so difficult to do this, to turn off the onslaught of stimuli that has come to define our “Information Age”- you know the computers, cell phones, television, iPods, white noise, etc.?  Even text messages which I thought would be a great way to keep in touch with my kids, have over-run my ability to respond; and laughing, it has given my cell phone company another way to charge me.

Apparently I am not alone. The first Commercial text message was sent in December of 1992.  Today, the number of text messages sent and received every day, exceeds the total population of the planet.  That a lot of J and no ICBW.  YGTBKM but sadly I am not.  (You have to guess or check out the this link. 

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