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 Mental/Emotional Fitness & Peak Performance: The Power of Awareness 

The Margaret Analogy
At Oberlin College, I once had the pleasure of coaching a dedicated diver named Margaret. Her progressive growth of awareness in learning a particular dive parallels the stages we all go through in training in daily life.

After her first diving attempt, she had no awareness of what she had done wrong and had to rely entirely on my feedback.

After several attempts, she could tell me what she had done incorrectly after the dive was finished and the errors had been made.

Before long she was becoming aware of her errors during the dive.

Finally, in one attempt, her awareness was integrated with body, mind, and emotions before the dive, and the errors were corrected before they were made. The dive was beautiful.

This example has profound implications for daily life, because we go through the same process in all kinds of learning situations.

There is a great difference between recognizing an error, which comes after a simple explanation, and accepting an error as an error acceptance that implies full responsibility for correcting that error. Full awareness implies willingness to change, and we may not be ready to do that. An example is a young woman on a gymnastics team who was overweight. She recognized that she needed to lose her extra fat. She could see it in a mirror. Yet it took her one full year to become fully aware of this weakness as an error. For a long time she had resisted recognizing what was obvious to her friends in the same way alcoholics may go for years without recognizing the obvious.

In athletics or daily life, then, a habitual error must be felt, not merely acknowledged verbally, before the person making that error will generate the motivational impulse to change.

I had a friend named Roger who never stopped talking; maybe he even talked in his sleep. He knew that he was a marathon talker - in fact, it was one of his favorite topics of conversation. Yet Roger did not see his habit as an error that was driving his friends away.

Most of Roger's acquaintances, wanting to be tolerant, never told him that he was an outright bore. One day at a party, in the middle of one of his favorite monologues, a young woman told him he was "deadly boring." She told him that it was impossible to have a dialogue with him and pointed out how people walked away as he approached.

At first Roger was very upset. He had lost face. Before long he began to notice his talking sprees as an error - after they had ended. within a few weeks he had begun to notice his compulsive verbalizing as he was talking. (In fact, it began to seem that his endless talk was getting worse than ever.) Eventually, Roger remembered to quell his talks before he got going. He became a good listener - and, just as in fiction, he ended up marrying the candid young woman.

As Roger learned to control his mouth, we can all learn to control our bodies. Awareness is the key, the ability to hear the lessons all around us.

Teachers who understand the progressive growth of awareness need never be impatient with their students, because a wise teacher realizes that telling students of their errors is a limited form of communication, addressed only to their minds. It takes longer for full awareness to pervade all three centers, thus giving us the emotional impulse, mental clarity, and physical ability to change.

That is how awareness grows in the diver, skier, cellist, pool shooter, golfer, potter . . . and you. Realizing the natural growth of awareness allows you to be your own gentle teacher. Give yourself sufficient time in which to learn.

(Excerpted from The Inner Athlete ISBN: 0913299979)
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 About The Author
Dan Millman Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan's teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior's......more
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