The use and misuse of optimal performance

Written by Stuart Haden on November 7, 2018

Even though more and more people are recognising the benefits of incorporating non-ordinary states into their lives and work this doesn’t mean it won’t have its problems. Historically any time this has shown up it’s lead to upheaval and misuse. Whilst the insights from psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and technology give us better means to practice optimal performance there will always be those who use and abuse.

We have seen it in sport even though elite athletes submit ‘biological passports’ confirming their

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Putting altered states at the heart of business success

Written by Stuart Haden on October 24, 2018

Summit began in 2008 when five entrepreneurs came together to solve a problem. The problem was they didn’t know any successful entrepreneurs and they couldn’t turn to anyone for advice. So they came up with a novel idea – they cold called business leaders to invite them to go skiing.

This one off idea soon became the Summit Series, ‘non-conferences’ sometimes referred to as ‘TED crossed with Burning Man.’ They also wanted a permanent home, Summit cofounder Jeff Rosenthal described “We

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The science behind music & improved performance

Written by Stuart Haden on October 10, 2018

This quick hack to improve your performance can happen at a flip of a switch. When we listen to music our brainwaves move from the high-beta of normal waking consciousness down into a more meditative state. Alpha and theta, which are sometimes even trance inducing. 

When you plug into some of your favourite tunes levels of stress hormones (norepinephrine and cortisol) can drop. Meanwhile social bonding and reward chemicals (dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin) can spike. A recent study by Apple

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Start making sense

Written by Stuart Haden on September 26, 2018

I order to perform at our very best we have to make sense of the world around us. Sense making and making sense.

To hone our senses it’s helpful to have an activity that allows just that. For me it’s running. Scanning and questioning the body, heart and mind. When and why is it going well? Where and how can I improve? What and who can help me?

Strange as it may seem knowing what does and doesn’t make sense allows us to do nothing

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It’s Not About The Coach – emotions

Written by Stuart Haden on September 12, 2018

Thinking is likely to dominate your coaching conversations. We humans have excelled in this area, sometimes too much so.

In coaching we must also listen to our emotions. Wherever the source of emotions lies for you, as coachee you must find it.

As this short reading illustrates Daniel Goleman brought emotional intelligence to our attention. Inquiry as to how we know, manage and develop our emotions brings great reward in any coaching arrangement.


The animal instinct to get out of our heads

Written by Stuart Haden on August 8, 2018

Over the past few years psycho-pharmacologists (the study of the use of medications in treating mental disorders) have noted the consciousness altering techniques of animals. Kotler and Wheal document, “Dogs lick toads for the buzz, horses go crazy for locoweed, goats gobble magic mushrooms, birds chew marijuana seeds.” Even elephants have been known to raid breweries instead of getting drunk on fermented fruit.

This intoxication plays an important role in ‘de-patterning’. It can help promote lateral thinking, problem solving, intuition and

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Gravity games – take the weight off your feet

Written by Stuart Haden on July 25, 2018

Action and adventure sports offer an on ramp to flow states. They embrace gravity as their secret weapon. Look up and look down. A game changer, a state shifter.

“Weightlessness, weightedness and rotation are the nectar of gravity games,” explains professional climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin. “They provide easy access to flow, and that’s what keeps us coming back for more.”

No mountains on the doorstep? Run down hill, freewheel and fly. Join the kids on the trampoline, play in the playground.

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Cultivating exceptional performance

Written by Stuart Haden on July 11, 2018

Martin Seligman has been an avid promoter within the scientific community for the field of positive psychology. He is quick to remind us that psychology needn’t only focus on the negative – trauma, damage and weakness. It can also embrace strength, authenticity and virtue. Treatment can centre on what is broken as well as nurturing the very best version of ourselves. 

Perhaps ‘post traumatic growth’ straddles both approaches. But evidence suggests that experiencing a flow state can help to mend what’s

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Flow states and nation states

Written by Stuart Haden on June 27, 2018

Peak experiences often creep up on us, when we discover them were are lost. How did we get here? Where have we been? How can I locate this position in the future? The road ahead isn’t clear and this can lead to discomfort. We can respond with embrace or rejection.

When we are out of our heads, being out isn’t always pleasant. We loose our usual reference points, destabilised and wonky. We’ve experienced happy and sad endings in equal measure. Sometimes

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What’s the point of performing optimally?

Written by Stuart Haden on June 13, 2018

The question behind this question can be one of two things – it can represent a genuine need to establish an end game for being at one’s very best. Or it’s the root of resistance and a get out clause for not entering ‘the zone’.

In a recent study (University of Sydney) subjects were given the classic test of creativity and problem solving – the nine dot problem. Under normal circumstances fewer than 5% of the population can crack it. In

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