The art of not-thinking. Bike racer’s lessons for the coaching process

“Very gently. Like there are eggshells on your pedals, and you don’t want to break them. That’s how you drive in the rain.” Balance, anticipation, patience. These are all vital. Peripheral vision, seeing things you’ve never seen before. Kinesthetic sensation, driving by the seat of the pants. It is about having no memory. No memory of things he’d done just a second before. Good or bad. Because memory is time folding back on itself. To remember is to disengage from the present. ln order to reach any kind of success in automobile racing, the driver must never remember. Which is why drivers compulsively record their every move, their every race, with cockpit cameras in-car-video, data mapping; a driver cannot be a witness to his own greatness. Racing is doing. lt is being a part of a moment and being aware of nothing else but that moment. Reflection must come at a later time. A champion says: “When l am racing, my mind and my body are working so quickly and so well together, I must be sure not to think; or else I will definitely make a mistake.”

Not-thinking sounds simple, but to get there is more difficult. It requires mental toughness and coaching. How can I bring my body-mind system to co-operating so perfectly that I can experience these flow-states also in my professional life? Where is coaching useful to achieve this flow state of pure doing, remaining fully absorbed in the present, gaining more power the more I am doing? In the first part of these blog article series I will emphasize the need for thorough training to be able of ‘doing’ in the state of not-thinking. Thereafter we take a look at inner brakes, brakes preventing from using one’s full performative potential. Why is it so important to remain fascinated by what we are doing? How can we sustain such attraction over time? The answer to these and more questions will be provided in the subsequent parts of this article.

 

 

A) Preparation

To get started an activity within a few minutes, while keeping calm and concentrated, is an everyday challenge of our professional life. While we act and do, the most important thing is to stay focussed, being part of the moment and to evaluate afterwards. The champions are well prepared. They know and control their engines. Requisite to such ability is not only technical finesse, but also physical muscular strength. Here we may find considerable differences between the racers. You may see some among them in the gym every day, building up their strength, endurance, sense of balance, or the driving skills. Others, however, are less disciplined and thus take a higher risk to lose control over the bike. As a rule of thumb the physical condition of a race driver should such that would allow him to compete in three races in a row at the same level of intensity. Given this level of endurance and strength he can then ensure full performance in the competitive run. Similar to the race driver any person required to perform in present day business needs a professional preparation for his tasks. Such preparation has to cover some of these areas:

The (private) environment of the athlete or the staff: Is it sound or could it cause insecurity or change and therefore be the source of stress?

Is the working time compensated for by sufficient and restorative recreation? What goes on apart of the demanding professional performance needs?

What kinds of specific developmental support and appreciation are necessary?  Is there a need for more physical strength, muscel training or body building? Such questions are discussed with a qualified coach, when people’s promotion is on your agenda. Qualified staff need to be supported within the frames of a structured development process. What professional skills need to be enhanced? What about adding to the social competence? The development process has to be planned and the plans be assessed and monitored continuously. Such on-going constructive evaluation processes ensure more motivation and resilience to stress.

 

B) Remove inner brakes

Presumed a racer is technically and physically well prepared, the support team works in perfect coordination and the right decisions are taken, what then, in the race, makes the difference to success? Obviously, the racer’s mental and emotional pre-dispositions play a crucial role. Foremost important is  the dealing with emotions. Taking into consideration the challenges of driving, emotions must stay irrelevant during the race. The wish to revenge, anger, or other similar emotional states suck up a lot of energy diverting attention from the driving tasks. Therefore such emotions have to be neutralised before the race. Similarly I cannot unfold all my competence in my work, while emotions continue to irritate me. As a qualified team member I am aware of this condition and therefore I try to suppress such emotion. Again, this is using up energy and reducing my impact. So with increasing work we achieve lesser and lesser.

These emotions are normally re-processed by our body-mind system during the night. Normally.  Unfortunately most of the high performers in business amass emotional stress remaining undigested over weeks and months. Often, to remove these build-ups the help of an external coach is required. By applying such methods as for example wingwave or hypnosis the accumulated stress can be re-processed.

Yours Claude Ribaux

1)From:  ‘The art of racing in the rain’ by Garth Stein