The New Performance Paradigm

Ok, let's level with each other for a moment.

Observable measurable statistics are absolutely essential. If a football athlete is aiming to join an NFL roster, his 40 yard dash time, vertical jump height and broad jump distance are essential metrics. If he cannot demonstrate an adequate physiological benchmark, he simply cannot play at the next level. It is as simple as that. Or, as we are about to see in the coming weeks with the NFL draft, shaving off or adding on 3 tenths of a second on a linebacker's 40 time can be the difference of gaining or losing tens of millions of dollars.

These measures are what I like to call the tangibles, because they are more easily measured, grasped and observed.


In strength training we can measure tangibles such as starting power, progressive acceleration and total power output. These all provide measures to performance metrics relevant for just about every sport on the planet. Our above NFL aspirant is wise to grow these metrics as efficiently as possible if he is serious about that contract and the opportunity to play at the highest levels.

But we cannot stop at the tangible metrics, there are also what I like to refer to as intangibles.

Intangibles are subjective and intersubjective capacities that are not separate from the tangible dimensions of performance. These subjective facets of training and performance are also measurable capacities that are just as essential to performance assessment.

What is the complexity the self-system is capable of managing? What is your mental fortitude for pain tolerance? What is our NFL hopeful's level of emotional resiliency under stress? How efficient can a person's conceptual framework integrate coaching cues? These all point to subjective, yet measurable, dimensions to performance. Just like starting power, these are essential measures of capacities required for high level performance.

Strength to Awaken integrates the split between tangible and intangible, between what is objectively measurable and what is subjectively measurable.

We need both because the highest levels of performance are integrative in nature. 


Myopically focus upon one, either one at the exclusion of the other, and you will never see your highest performance capacities, period.

While Strength to Awaken is high-grade rocket fuel for developing the all to commonly neglected intangibles, I want you to consider carefully who is training, developing and refining your intangibles? Who has the requisite experience and skill? Who demonstrates the "inner" mastery and who can guide you toward your "outer" mastery?

If you're interested in an example, see one of the top athletes on the planet rigorously working both the tangibles and intangibles: Trevor Tierney. Carefully study what he does and says.

These are essential questions if performance is something you really want to devote yourself to.

Become curious about how intangibles integrate into the full spectrum of tangible performance metrics. Be careful though, many people who love tangibles (at the exclusion of the many intangibles) are not even seeing the whole picture of the tangibles clearly and thus leaving out essential parts.

Whatever you leave out ultimately stunts performance, regardless of whether it is tangible or intangible. 


When considering growing aptitudes for performance the following manual guides you into how to consider the full territory of the human being and its capacities.

One of the ways I like to frame strength training as is it can become a training ground for this integrative approach to refining your tangible and intangible abilities to perform. Learn it in the gym and apply it in any area of your life.

Anything less than this integrative embrace of your full complexity is bound to conceptual limitations (itself an intangible that can be measured) that itself closes down your greater possibilities.

Get curious. Keep your mind nimble and open as you refine the tangible and intangible dimensions of yourself. And, get suspicious of yourself and how you are approaching performance and training. You are practicing something, rehearsing something whether you are aware of it or not. There are likely hidden limitations to your methodologies and approaches. Curiosity can lead you toward greater performance capacities.

Rob McNamara
Author
The Elegant Self & Strength To Awaken
View Comments

Caution: Don't Train This Way!


Last week at the Integral Center I was fortunate enough to sit down with my Strength To Awaken small group plus a handful of people from around the world visiting Boulder for the Whats Next Conference. Again, motivation was a big topic. I think it is the major challenge for most people when it comes to training.

I'm going to share with you part of what we explored together because it is essential. If you don't get this there's a very good chance you are digging yourself into a ditch that quite honestly you probably don't want to dive into.

Whenever I speak about motivation I end up talking about discipline. They are interwoven in complex and important ways. For those of you who are already receiving my free 12 Training Tips, you'll hear more about this topic there and for those of you with my book Strength to Awaken in your hands already please see Chapter Nine for a deeper dive. Right now though, we are going to cut right to the heart of the problem.

Conventional discipline divides your mind.

Conventional approaches to training divide your mind.

Got those?
Good.

The common element I'd like you to que into is the divided mind.

Is your mind divided now?

Chances are it is. This is a problem. It is actually a very big one although it's probably familiar so you likely aren't that concerned. Having a mind that is divided is kind of like having your kitchen roaring in flames. Go on, picture that. You're in the living room going on as usual simply because you're used to that fire.

A divided mind is in many ways similar to your kitchen engulfed in flames because:
- both block you from nourishment you need.
and …
- both keep you out of places in your life you need to go.

The divided mind can be defined as two or more oppositional drives inside of you with divergent agendas. Part of you is going this way and part is headed that way. Most of the time these discordant drives are in a struggle with precisely what is happening in the present moment.

Strength training, or any kind of training, from this divided mind is a tremendous waste of energy. It is inefficient. It wastes time. It steals your enjoyment and pleasure.

The divided mind is what most adults live in. They haven't grown their mind to become strong enough to unify and cohere a drive that brings the mind into a synergy. Don't get all hard on yourself here, research suggests that less than 1% of adults do… this is our potential not where you "should be already."

So, training with divisions in your mind is the common climate of most people in the gym. And it also shows up in bed, in the office and in cars on the drive home. The problem is that training is supposed to be an activity that you do for a short period of time that carries you forward. Do this and it will take you FORWARD. Training a divided mind may give you some relative physical benefit when compared to a sedentary lifestyle; however, it often fails to draw you forward in any legitimate fashion. Instead, conventional training results in more division within yourself. Mentally you are not training, you're simply rehearsing or repeating. You're getting better at something that you already know how to do.

If you're like most adults you are not in any need on developing the ability to waste time and energy, be inefficient and erode your own joy and pleasure in or out of the gym. I think these come built in, they are not our future but our current predicament.

Stop repeating the habit of dividing your mind when you train. See what happens when you draw your mind into a greater coherence. Divide your mind and will likely find yourself saying that you are "struggling with not having enough motivation" as I hear often. Bring your mind into its larger resonance and direct it completely into the activity of your training and you will discover the heart of discipline. Become your mind's larger coherence and you will save time and energy, you will become more efficient and proficient. You will discover more joy and pleasure. And if you do this in your training you'll be shocked at how simply a unified and coherent mind shows up in other facets of your life.
View Comments

The Lie You Believe about Motivation


Most people struggle with motivation in one way or another and when it comes to embodiment, motivation is one of the perennial obstacles.

Most approaches to dealing with the obstacle of motivation, whether it's related to embodiment or something else, lack the architecture to take you from where you are to where you need and want to be. Most approaches are obligatory in nature, coercive by design and pretend that hype or excitement is sufficient. Take a look around and you will see "experts" rousing excitement and energy, manipulating people with the best of intentions (sometimes) and reinforcing obligations.

The problem is 99% of all of these fail and the reason why that 1% does work has little to do with the "expert's" conventions and everything to do with a simple yet profound shift in you.  You and I both know this.

What you might not be aware of is this:
Most people are colluding with the fantasy that you do not have enough motivation, and by getting more (somehow), you can actually get to where you want and need to be.

This is largely wrong.


Your motivation, right now, is sufficient to change the world. The power you possess is immense.  Quite honestly I don't think any of us truly understand, appreciate nor access the strength, elegance and capacity that resides within the human vehicle… right now.

You likely do not lack motivation. There is often something more complex and underlying at work in the human being, which is why so often mainstream approaches to 'change' fall short of being able to bring us to our larger potential as people. So if the amount of motivation is not the real problem, what is?

Meaning-making.


Meaning-making is the essential nutrient for the mind. It's like what oxygen is for the body. Furthermore, meaning-making manifests into each of your cells, the expression of your DNA and literally permeates every facet of your being.

You are doing meaning-making all the time and issues around so-called motivation are just about always rooted in the meaning-making system.

One of the fundamental patterns within human meaning-making is the movement toward significance. When I use this word, I am talking about what matters most, what captures your attention and engagement and what ultimately brings structure to how and what you perceive. Significance is ultimately what draws humanity towards greater and greater degrees of 'progress.' Whatever your meaning-making system holds as significant, take note, you will not have a problem with motivation. It's hardwired in you. You will methodically - sometimes obsessively - pursue that which is significant to you, whether conscious or unconscious.

To be clear I am not talking about what you "think" should be significant in your life. That's one step removed from what you at a fundamental level presume to be significant. Instead, I'm asking you to consider deeper levels of how you engage your world, your relationships, your inspirations and intentions.

Consider this: the vast majority of the elements we hold as significant at a fundamental level are not your's. They belong to the fabric of your culture(s) and have more or less chosen you. It's not the other way around.

For those of you who are more developmentally privileged you know that you can "out grow" your unconscious loyalties to your cultural presumptions as to what holds significance and what does not. By doing so, you can actually start to choose, author and create your central significances that will drive your motivation in life.

But this requires a series of major transformations in developmental complexity to get to this "self-authoring" stage. So when struggling with motivation, one of the short hand assumptions to explore that I use with my clients is that in this particular area of their life, they are perhaps functioning out of socially defined loyalties, or earlier more self-centered modes of complexity that are largely unconscious.

Motivation that is tied up in earlier stages of developmental complexity help fuel the feeling of not having enough motivation. You want to do this, but in a series of unconscious moves you are expending your resources towards maintaining habituations in many other areas of your life. How do we uncover whether this is true for us? We must begin to pay attention to our habits, our inner dialogue, our thoughts and particularly what drives 'motivation.'

Which leads me to embodiment and motivation. We in the West, as far as I can tell, are by and large developmentally stunted around embodiment. This is largely a cultural construct that most of us participate in. It isn't that we aren't capable of being more fully embodied human beings, it means we live within systems that fail to support our emergent embodiment as our larger potential. Embodiment is mis-perceived to mean the "body" as we tend to think about it in the Western medical model. The body is then presumed to be "fundamentally" important - not "significantly" important. When this perspective is inhabited, motivation naturally moves towards other objects, investments, and loyalties in your life and embodiment holds a less significant place.

It is here in the inner architecture of meaning-making that we find the root of "motivation" issues around embodiment. Even in the face of death, human beings all too often fail to un-couple their attention, energy and genuine commitment from their habituated ways of living. That's how strong meaning-making is, it can change the world and it can put you 6 feet under.

So what now?

1. Free your unconscious loyalties and habituations from your historical conditioning. This frees up your motivation to be conducted into your larger significance in life.

2. Closely inspect your meaning-making. This is hard to do on your own. Find someone with greater clarity, elegance, more experience and more flexibility than you possess. Get their help. This is very hard to do on your own because it is precisely your own meaning-making that is often holding you back.

3. Discover what has already chosen you, that is also liberated from cultural conventions, and participate with embodying this greatest significance… Right Now!

For those of you wanting an overhaul on your meaning-making system around embodiment, I want to recommend my book Strength to Awaken. It is "psycho-active" meaning that simply reading it rewires and evolves your own complexity around embodiment. Check it out, you are likely to find yourself inhabiting a different landscape when you think of strength training, embodiment and/or any other movement discipline.

Finally, help me kill the presumption that human beings are lacking motivation. Let's stop colluding with the premise that we lack motivation and start participating with the immense power that is the future of our co-creative evolution.

I'm co-evolving embodiment, right now.

What are you participating in that unfolds your greater elegance as a human being?

Enjoy,
~Rob

View Comments

Why You Can't Learn Your Way Out of Limiting Habits


Habits are a challenging obstacle for everyone. Whether you are trying to get to the gym more consistently, attempting to change how you show up in an intimate relationship, growing out of some old patterns that are holding you back at work or simply trying to attune to your child that's challenging your preferences, habits hold you back.

My book Strength To Awaken is an in depth exploration of how to work with habituation for precisely this reason. If you want to change in any area of life, you must confront the habits that hold you. In many challenges learning new strategies, applying new techniques to some area of your life or training yourself to behave differently largely fail. To put this into the words of Robert Kegan, Harvard's professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, you don't need "technical change" but instead you require "adaptive change." Strength To Awaken is an adaptive approach to working with limiting habits.


If you needed technical change you wouldn't still be struggling with trying to change. Learning a new technique or appling a different strategy would have already worked. The persistent challenges, the type of change that bumps up against your more entrenched habits, requires adaptive changes. This means you must qualitatively grow the complexity and size of your psyche. If you don't grow, that is undergo adaptive change, the habits of your life have you, possess you and thereby govern you. Instead of being captured by your habits you need to possess your habits.

This all important shift is the process of growth and development. One psyche is smaller than the habituations thereby allowing limiting habits to have, hold and govern you. The psyche that has undergone adaptive change is larger, more complex and thus capable of holding, governing and mediating habits. Instead of struggling with limiting habits adaptive change allows you to set limits on your habits which is a remarkable transformation.

When ever you are working toward changes that require adaptive growth, consider a these points:

1. What would you have to experience if you actually did change?

Typically your habits are organized around you NOT experiencing facets of yourself and your history. Deep change work (whether that's losing 20 pounds of fat and gaining 10 lbs of muscle, taking responsibility for creating intimacy in your relationship and self-regulating yourself in the face of contact that creates anxiety or establishing new leadership capacities in your organization that require you to hand off greater responsibility and freedom to your team) almost always places you face to face with facets of experience that you are equally if not even more so committed to not experiencing.

Identify what you are likely to experience, physically, emotionally and mentally as well as socially and perhaps economically. Moving this commitment into your awareness shifts essential dimensions of your limiting habits from subject (that which holds you) to object (that which you hold).

2. Make an explicit commitment to yourself to metabolize these unseen and guarded facets of your experience.

If you don't feel through and welcome these facets of your experience you will likely not change. Move neglected, guarded and strategically avoided facets of experience into awareness. Clarify these objects and make commitments to experience these parts of your life without manipulation.

3. Live into the decisions that most serve your life (not necessarily the ones that most serve your habituated sense of comfort).

Move habits from subject to object. Learning new strategies, approaches and or techniques will not result in the change you desire if the change requires adaptive growth. Learning adds tools but often fails to bring underlying habits into the light of your attention. This movement from subject to object frees you up to live into the decisions that support your well-being, excellence and elegance as a human being.

Enjoy,
~Rob
View Comments

The Future of Spiritual Praxis


Spiritual Praxis is, by and large, a progressive exploration of more and more subtle and transcendental states of awareness leading up to the simple, direct, unmoving dynamic that is your unmediated and obvious liberation. The vast spectrum of paths, practices and discourses around the world are an investigation into ever more expansive states of consciousness. Throw away the many labels and the differing value systems that rest upon divergent states of consciousness and you have one massive tradition, one broad lineage of human beings that are yoking their awareness from their habituated identities that consolidate limitations where liberations belong.

Let us all give a huge, wide open bow to the billions of human beings that have carved forth these groves of wakefulness. Both those who are here, alive in practice today and the many that are no longer animating their known and unknown forms. Whether you're alive, died 5000, 2000, 100 years ago or if the great Cessation raptured you yesterday - there is a Silent Space beyond all habituated movement that shines a calm simple gratitude. That's for all of us :-)


There is a new form of spiritual praxis that is emerging. By new, I mean an explicit supra-developmentally-organized-practice picked up with an explicit developmental aim. Implicitly we have been participating with this since our origins, but it is only very recently that we have begun to pick up these novel forms of spirituality to explicitly participate with our evolving developmental complexity.

This new praxis is not the investigation, stabilization and realization of greater states of consciousness, rather it stems from the investigation of structure stages of consciousness. This has largely been born through modern Western psychological research methodologies, but more specifically it stems from an even more rarified specialization into studying the highest known levels of developmental maturity. So while childhood developmental psychology might not be disclosing these novel spiritual practices, the study of the highest levels of complexity of adult development is disclosing something profoundly new for spiritual practice.

Why?

These maps of our most privileged stages of maturity (development is a privilege, one of the central ones) can be used as a type of pointing out instruction. They point to novel ways of relating to everything. These maps disclose new subjective world spaces of self-organization with greater functional capacities for engaging life. They can tell most of us about our own developmental future and our larger ability to respond to the complexities of life. It takes what is called the "emergent unconscious" and points the spot light of wakeful attention into this area of the unconscious. What happens is stunning.

What I have been doing is inviting people to participate with their larger complexity by providing developmental injunctions that yokes them out of their embedded structure stages and invites them into their larger aliveness, elegance and authenticity.

Something powerful often happens when this occurs and it is very different than the more known and practiced explorations of states of consciousness. I brought some of this teaching to my instruction at the Integral Spiritual Experience a couple of years ago and I had a number of people telling me that my sessions were the most significant of their experience of the entire event. I've been leveraging this technology with coaching and psychotherapy clients, in my classrooms with my students and in my own practice life and my sense is there is something deeply vital, cutting edge and pragmatic about this approach.

Translating our highest known levels of maturity into practice injunctions appears to facilitate development dramatically and from my vantage point is a different form of spirituality.

So what does this mean? I've got a few thoughts for us here.

1. Spiritual teachers are wise to pick up developmental injunctions to shape and refine their own teaching methodologies and to refine the complexity with which they interpret the states of consciousness their traditions explore.

2. Spiritual practitioners (who has more or less stabilized conventional adult stages of development) are served by picking up injunctions in both state training and structure-stage training.

3. Integral spiritual teachers should be required to rigorously study these developmental maps with an expert who has access to at least some of the highest known forms of meaning-making. Reading about these maps on your own is a great start, but it is not sufficient just as reading about states is no substitute for actual state-refining practices. Teachers need developmental structure stage transmission and the continual re-organizing of experience into their larger complexity. Without this spiritual teachers are extremely susceptible to consolidating their meaning making, teaching and practice injections around levels of complexity that lack the larger elegance that evolution is demanding.

4. Spiritual teaching, instruction and practice is most effective and efficient when the rigorous state-training methodologies are being translated through some of the most privileged stages of maturity. We need novel systems, new traditions, and a larger methodology for holding the most privileged developmental stages as a new requisite for spiritual instruction.

Finally, we need ongoing open inquiries and a full, unmediated participation with the mystery of developmental complexity amongst our genuine leading edge. What does this practice community look like? How do we support one another? How do we challenge one another? There is no terminus to development, and one of our most important responsibilities that is co-creating us moment to moment is our unknowable evolutionary possibility. We must Submit to this participatory-immediacy.

The practice injunctions I speak of are to follow. I'm developing a course to teach at The Integral Center here in Boulder CO. I just met on this last week so I'll be sharing some of this with you in the coming weeks. If you're hungry for some of it now, tear into my book Strength to Awaken as it's littered with developmental injunctions to yoke you into your greater embodiment.

Enjoy,
~Rob

View Comments