Those who watched the Super Bowl Sunday witnessed something absolutely extraordinary – a remarkable display of peak performance that became the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Now let’s see what we can learn from this…
I’ll be honest, I’m not a super fan of American Football. And however much you love or hate Tom Brady is irrelevant in regards to this subject matter. We should realize though that Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots, who by many is now considered the greatest quarterback in history has, in fact, often been derided for his far from exceptional physical skills.
But there is something extraordinary that he has: His mental ability.
The main reason I wanted to watch the game was to see what Brady, known for his peak performance skills, would do. How would he react in various situations?
So how did the game begin for Tom Brady and his New England Patriots?
After the first half they were down 3-21.
But the questions I’d like to ask you is this: If you were in that situation, how would YOU feel? How would YOU respond?
Now, we should realize that a “peak performer” is not someone who performs well all the time. The true essence of a peak performer is someone who is able to rise to the occasion, to be able to unleash the greatest capacity within when it matters the most, to be able to turn things around and find solutions when things aren’t going well.
Improving this skill (and it is a developed skill) is not just important for athletes and performers, it makes all the difference in every area of your life.
So the second half begins. Do things turn around for Brady and The Patriots? No, it gets even worse! Suddenly they are down 3-28!
How would you feel? How would you respond?
Now I’m in a room with about 100 people, and how do you think people react? Well, as usual, most people predict the future. Some leave, assuming it’s over. They may not realize this, but likely this is what they do in life too. That’s understandable.
However, peak performers, high achievers, innovators, creators, entrepreneurs, are always about doing what hasn’t been done before, are always exploring what others may deem impossible.
And then it began…
Tom Brady and his teammates staged the greatest comeback in the history of the Super Bowl and perhaps in American Football history… perhaps one of the greatest comebacks in sports overall in a final performance…
It was one of the greatest displays of peak performance I have ever seen… Brady and his team… intense, yet calm and poised… methodically moving forward… one play at a time…
Peak performance has little to do with “experience” as one commentator believed, or “pumping yourself up” and getting high on adrenaline, or “will power”. Nor is winning about “who wants it more” as some tend to think.
It’s about having the mental capacity to be calm, cool, poised, focused. It’s about getting into “flow state” or “the zone” where there is no rush of adrenaline (fight or flight), even though fear and anger can be powerful triggers. Your sensory experiences become heightened. You see possibilities in the toughest of situations. And you are able to unleash something remarkable from within.
So how can you train to become better at the art of peak performance?
Well, when you watched the game, were you jumping up and down from excitement, feeling nervous, becoming emotional, yelling at the umpire, looking at the clock, thinking about the future and what must happen, reflecting on the past and how different it could have been if this or that had happened?
Did those emotions increase the closer the Patriots came? Did you become more and more excited, more and more nervous as the game came to the final moments? Did you become more and more frustrated if you were rooting for the Falcons? Of course you did.
But what if you were a player and not a spectator? Would it be different?
For most people it would likely be marginally different. Increased anxiety with more pressure is common. That’s how most people react in life. Why wouldn’t we? It’s how the nervous system has been trained to operate. Reacting differently is a developed skill.
I would argue that far too often we live our lives being spectators. Most have trained their nervous system to react based on being spectators. We get excited, angry, frustrated, ecstatic, and miserable from watching sports. We get excited, scared, angry, and violent by watching and reading the news. This is the training we have had, to be reactionary.
I have often, from when I was young, played a mental game with myself to take on the role of a person in a specific situation. I want to live their lives in that moment, and I play out how would I want to be able to respond in that situation.
Not only does that train you to take on challenges in your life, to become a higher “performer”, but it also serves to become more empathetic and understanding of other people.
So as I watched the game, I play I’m in Tom Brady’s situation. I became cool, calm, poised, determined, feeling a deep sense of love and gratitude for being in that moment – the moment I love, the moment when I know I shine, the moment when I become one with my teammates, the moment I become unstoppable.
Try it next time. Instead of just reacting to news, sports, a crisis, or any tough situation, imagine how you would like to be able to respond.
What if you in that moment of “pressure” became calm, poised, bigger and stronger?
What if you in that moment feel a deep sense of love, you embrace fears, and start seeing amazing possibilities and opportunities, knowing that you are unstoppable?
This is what Brady is so good at. This is why he, like other peak performance masters, are always the best when the game is on the line. When it’s on the line, that is exactly the moment when he becomes the most calm, the most focused, the most poised, and why it rubs off on his teammates as we saw happen Sunday.
So here’s a suggestion:
Don’t just be a spectator. Practice mentally. Then do for real.
Imagine that people will ask you afterwards “How were you able to that that?” Whereupon you respond: “Because that is what I do”.
Please post your thoughts below.