A game winning focus is not something that comes naturally. For those that have it though it becomes a game winning difference. A cutting edge. Whether you are business person, professional poker player, an athlete or just a person who wants to improve your life, a game winning focus is an essential skill you must learn how to master.
All of us have experienced the discomfort of being in a pressure situation and finding our judgment impaired because of the circumstances. All of us have at some point, allowed the pressure of a situation to make us stand back and evaluate whether we’re making the right decision which in turn causes us to lose confidence.
Now just imagine if, in any circumstance that you’re faced with, you could remain calm, focused and centred in a way that guarantees your best chances of achieving the outcome you desire.
The benefits of remaining calm and focused
Being calm in a pressure situation is powerful. It helps you control, respond and manage the moment. This is something that high achievers, CEO’s, big deal salespeople, hostage negotiators and poker players all share in common. It is also something that fire walkers and those of us who train topics with the inherent risk face constantly. When someone is about to walk on burning red hot coals or fall backwards and trust that people will catch them, a disposition of complete calm helps the task get completed very easily.
The trick is to develop the ability to control the noise in your head. You know ‘the voice’. The voice that just said to you “what voice”. Our mind will run wild when faced with a pressure situation. The problem is that it will cloud your judgement and stop you from seeing what is really going on. Small reactions, movement, mistakes made, the tone of someone’s comment. The mind may even make up scenarios and outcomes that don’t even make sense. The calm and focused person will notice all this and be able to see past it. Will shut out these distractions and focus on what is actually happening. It is not a trick though or zen skill learnt through years of practice though.
The Thomas Gray Pokerstars experiment
UniLad and Pokerstars wanted to know if they could fasttrack their celebrity poker player, Thomas Gray, by giving him some tools and experiences that could help him in a very high profile and intense poker game that was played at the end of June in Spain. They came to us because they knew that firewalking is an incredibly intense experience. Therefore, my job was to train Thomas in controlling his state during a firewalk. Just so you know, if you have never firewalked at a legitimate event, with the wood we use and the kind of fire we provide, Thomas would be walking on a bed of coals that would be glowing red at a temperature between 1200 and 1300° Fahrenheit. To put that into context, that is hot enough to melt lead, tin and aluminium. In other words, that is hot enough to melt your car engine!!
Most of the people that come on our courses want to have more confidence or want to change their lives and many of them have already been on courses like the ones provided by Tony Robbins or T. Harv Eker. Not everybody thinks about the value of doing an empowerment course when they’re in stressful situations. But the fact of the matter is that if you can control your emotions and remain positive and focused in any stressful experiences you find yourself in, you will outperform your peers and you will achieve more than you can if you are fearful.
What you can achieve with a game winning focus
Poker players need to be able to keep their emotions in check so that they are able to avoid giving away what are called ‘tells’ but also to enable them to be completely congruent when trying to convince a fellow card player that they have an absolutely unbeatable winning hand.
But what the hell does that mean in the real world? Well, we are all faced with negotiation in our work and day to day lives. Controlling your state, managing the situation and getting the result you desire is a powerful skill. And with these skills you can easily:
- Get promoted
- Find a partner
- Get a pay rise
- Get better deals on houses
- Get better deals on cars
- Get money off in stores
- Get more money for things that you sell
- Win more sales
- Get a better job
How to create a game winning focus
So what can I tell you to help you win at poker? Clearly, everyone who plays poker understands the rules, the method and the techniques. However, the reason why the top one or two per cent of professional poker players are in the category of the elite is because of their mental abilities and their psychological inner game.
What I was able to teach Thomas in the day we spent together was to tune his focus so that he was able to have any emotion he chose while doing something of high intensity. I took him through several exercises which challenged him to perform them despite his misgivings, pressure and fear. After a few hours Thomas was doing a brilliant job of realizing that if he stayed focused on keeping his physiological state relaxed and comfortable he could perform any of the exercises and enjoy the process without getting distracted by thoughts of what may have happened or what might happen.
Managing your thoughts
The basic skills and knowledge required for staying calm and keeping focused, tackle the problems that we all occasionally have with things like self-doubt, negative self-talk and lack of confidence. All of us get distracted by things that never happen and that exist only in our imagination. How often do you spend time thinking the worst – that bad things are going to happen to you? How many times do you get yourself into a state because you’re worried? These are almost invariably in relation to things that haven’t occurred yet and for the most part never occur. Yet thinking that they might occur simply makes us feel even more stressed. These thoughts do not serve you at all. See them for what they are and let them pass on by. Don’t question or challenge them. Stay focused on the job at hand.
Creating powerful positive emotions
The edge that many focused and successful people have often comes when combining control with creation. The creation of positive and powerful emotions. These are characteristics such as positivity, determination, optimism and persistence. They give you the freedom to handle yourself with confident poise in times where you would previously have felt a good deal of stress. Think James Bond.
In all honesty, there is no greater skill and experience than firewalking to create this balance between controlling your emotions and operating in a clear, focused and positive mindset. This is why Unilad chose to work together with us.
Remember to breathe
As well as teaching Thomas these things and the ability to be calm under pressure, we also discussed how to breathe effectively and to do something that we call ‘holding your space’. In this technique you are only aware that you are the most confident person you can be, and your focus is on your immediate surroundings and your immediate objectives. This is a useful tool for job interviews when being asked tough questions.
The 5 steps to a game winning focus
Whether you are looking to get into a high pressure poker tournament, get noticed more at work, get a new job or simply have more confidence so that you negotiate better deals and achieve more of what is rightfully yours, here are 5 tips to help you keep cool under pressure. I’ve called them my…
5 Point Poise Protector
Physiology: If you keep your body calm and relax your muscles, you’re calm. It’s as simple as that. Especially the facial muscles. If you can relax the main muscle groups in the face, one with each exhale of breath, you’ll be facially relaxed in no time at all.
Internal dialogue (that inner voice in your head): If you have negative internal dialogue there are 3 or 4 techniques you can use to deal with it. Try making it into Mickey Mouse’s voice or Goofy’s. That will change how you feel about it. Or simply swamp it. Drown it out with your ‘fight song’ or favourite strength song. We use Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Sara Bereilles’ “Brave”.
Smile when you want to change your state: Force yourself to finish this sentence: “what is funny about this is…” When you smile, you change the chemical formulation in your body. Smiling causes the release of neuropeptides that work to fight off stress. These transmitters have fancy names like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, but in reality the effect is like a mini-morphine injection –a natural high.
See the good in everything that you have chosen to do: There is nothing good that happens when a sportsman starts to lose control over a bad shot! Unless they are an extremely rare person like John McEnroe, there is rarely any good done by dwelling on bad things that have happened. Learn to see some good in even the minor things. Today, take something that you don’t like to do and do a great job of it – make yourself proud! And if you screw up in the future, promise to only spend 30 seconds dwelling on it, shrug it off and get on with your day.
Breathe peacefully and evenly: I teach conscious breathing or ‘breathwork’ in my courses. Your breathing rate is 100% connected with your state and your mental calmness. If you breathe slowly and calmly, you’re calm – it’s as simple as that! My breathwork mentor, Dan Brule says, “if you want calm, breathe calm” and it’s true. Try this now: Make yourself have three consecutive huge yawns. If you were willing to do this, you will notice that you are now calmer, and if you are in company, you will see other people around you wanting to join in.
Anyone can achieve these 5 things. From your home today you can watch YouTube videos, buy books and audio programmes and build your mental strength. Only problem with that of course is that they were already there and you haven’t used them.
Another option is Firewalking UK’s Ignition course. In this amazing one day programme we show people how to determine which state to be in, to get the best results in their lives. You may be joined on the course by celebrities, princes, pop artists, businessmen and women, coaches, managers and every other type of regular person who just wants more in their lives. What we can guarantee you is that, after taking part in Ignition, you will no longer worry about firewalking – that IS guaranteed!