On PT. 1 of the Neurobiology of High Performance, you learned the concept of closed loop information processing. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest you read it before reading this.
The polar opposite from closed loop information processing is open loop information processing (olip). OLIP happens when your inner critic, conscious thought kicks in. Once the cerebral cortex is activated, the system begins to look a lot like a spaghetti junction in Los Angeles during rush hour—millions of neurons releasing multiple kinds of neurotransmitters into hundreds of synaptic junctions all at the same time and converging at the same pattern generator, or worse, simultaneously at conflicting pattern generators. It is up to the brain to figure out where all the signals should go. When the cerebral cortex gets very active—all the reasoning and evaluating that goes with the Training Mindset—the brain's pattern generators get overloaded and thus the system gets bogged down, producing less efficient, less successful action, with a greater number of mistakes. In other words, you don't perform with your "A" game. There is a positive correlation between the number of mistakes and the number of neurons involved in the performance.
When the consequences of a performance are minimal, we don't bother using our cerebral cortex. We just act, and thus the thalamus produces whatever pattern it has stored via closed loop.
Let me give you an example. Lets assume you and I are in the same room 6- feet apart. And I ask you to toss your keys at me—you'd be able to handle that right? In fact, I bet that if I ask you to do it six times in a row without any other instruction, you'd toss those keys at me, chest-high, every time. You might be wondering what is so amazing about throwing a set of keys to someone six feet away? Since the consequences of you failing to toss the keys at me are none, you'll toss them "as if it doesn't matter".
Now let's suppose that I give fifteen people including you a chance to toss your keys at me, and whoever tosses them on my chest perfectly under the exact same physical conditions, will win ten-thousand dollars. Now it would matter to you right? I bet most of the 15 key-tossing participants would spend hours practicing their key tossing skill, some would even record themselves in slow motion to perfect the perfect toss, your cerebral cortex would kick in and guess what, you would start second guessing yourself, what was before a closed-loop process now became an open-loop process. Some would choke under the pressure, some might sneak into the same room and practice their key tossing skills for hours on end. The trusting attitude has been replaced by an analytical, critical, evaluative mindset. That is called "The Training Mindset"
Superstars do not think that way. When it's go time. when it really counts, technique is not on their minds. Like a child playing tag or kicking a soccer ball against a backboard, they give their skills free reign and do not focus on anything but the target of that particular moment. Can you imagine a heart surgeon trying to recall textbook information while performing an open-heart surgery?
When the job is on the line, great thinkers resist the urge to be smart, cautious or scientific. They manage to keep their cerebral cortex off the playing field or off of the boardroom. For them performance is simply "child's play," which suggests a useful definition of the superstar's edge
"THE HIGH PERFORMANCE MINDSET IS WHAT YOU WERE IN BEFORE YOU KNEW ANY BETTER"
Anyone whos actually been in the high performance mindset oftentimes describes it as
"And then my skills kicked in"
"I was in the present"
"I stayed in the moment"
Some performers have described it as an almost out-of-body experience in which the performance comes so easily that they have the feeling of hovering over their own performance, watching themselves like an external observer.
I'm quite sure you have experienced this in your own life. You have the ability to command your brain into this state of mind. I like to think of it as mental gymnastics, or thought control. Most of us have a voice in the background of our heads incessantly speaking to us. Do you control that voice or does it control you?
Come back tomorrow and I will teach you why the feeling of butterflies in your stomach is a good thing.
In good health,
Efren Guerrero Rodriguez
High Performance Personal Training
The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine (3 ed.)
Principles of Neurobiology (2 ed.)
Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance John Eliot, Ph.D.