|Lessons from Olympiansí body language
“Over four billion people watched the Olympics.”
OK, that number is simply implausible, but a lot of people watched the 30th Olympiad from London, England. (A more accurate number is at least 1 billion watched the opening ceremonies.)
As I watched, a lesson came bubbling out of my mind as I observed the athletes’ faces and body language just before and immediately after their events. I’d like to share it with you.
First, the eyes are the only visible part of our nervous system. So when you are talking to someone, and he looks away for just a flash of a second, you immediately feel irritated…or even angry. Why is that? That is because as you are looking into his eyes, you are also looking into the windows of his soul – the inner part of his mind. And when he looks away, you feel hurt.
So watching the eyes of these amazing athletes can reveal what’s going on inside their heads. And did you notice what their eyes were doing just before they ran, or dived, or jumped? Their eyes were amazingly still. Why? Because they were focusing on what was going on inside their minds.
And what were their minds doing? They were visualizing their body’s every move when they threw that shot put, did that floor routine, or swam that lap. As so many of these wonderful athletes exclaimed, “It’s all in our minds.”
Enter Gestalt psychology, a school of psychology that arose in Germany in the first half of the last century. Gestalt psychology observes every human being works to create “order” in her universe. Did you ever say to yourself, “this just doesn’t taste right?” or “that doesn’t look right.” “Order” means you have an idea of what is right – the way your car should drive, your cake should taste, run that lap, or throw that javelin. Psychologists call this our “stored reality.”
Now, Gestalt psychology observes that when there is a gap between that stored reality and what is actually happening, it must close that gap.
For instance, do you see the triangle in the figure? Well…there is no triangle here; just three Pac men looking at each other. But your brain doesn’t like gaps…so it fills the gaps so you can see the triangle.
In the same way, at the Olympics, after a dive, his or her coach would often talk to a diver to encourage him, and gently draw his attention to the gap between what he did and what the dive should have looked like.
We do that to ourselves all the time. Have you ever walked into a room, and the picture on a wall was tilted? And what did you want to do? Fix it. Make it level again. That’s Gestalt. You have an idea of how it’s supposed to hang, and when it’s tilted, you can’t just sit there. You must straighten it.
In other words, when the inside and the outside don’t match, tension and mental energy arises to fix it. For instance, if you have convinced yourself you are a C student and you keep getting C grades, no energy arises except to get Cs. But if you have created in your mind a new way of seeing yourself as an A student and you keep getting C’s, the picture is tilted, “I have a problem here,” and this mental energy is released to fix the problem by studying more, studying differently or getting some help. It is as simple as that. Tension and energy is created when those two pictures don’t match.
For 16 days we watched these superb athletes match the goals they created in their minds with what they did with their bodies. In your own lives, this simply means goal setting that really works deliberately causes a conflict. For instance, if you create a goal that says, “I will lose that weight,” do you know what your mind says? “Well, hope you do. Sounds great. Think I’ll go take a nap.”
Why? Because placing a goal somewhere in the future gives your mind absolutely no reason to help you meet it. But when you declare, “I love being so thin because of the way I eat and exercise,” there will be a conflict if you keep eating and exercising the way you have been. In fact, your mind then becomes your closest mentor to close that gap, to lose that weight and begin exercising again.
When I wrote my book, its original title was “Making Your Mind Your Mentor,” but my publisher said no one knows what a mentor is, so we called it “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” However, I like my title better.
Do you know why? Because a mentor is simply someone who sees more in you than you see in yourself. And that is what your mind can become.
Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or email@example.com. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com.