Find your distraction when you need it
I’m excited to teach you how to use a visualized Muse character as a mind hack. I use this tool whenever I need to help someone quit feeling sorry for themselves. It’s a quick way to shift your focus by using an intentional distraction.
The Muse is one of several key tools you can use to shut down your Inner Critic. It’s also a very effective tool at helping you bust out of any negative spiral that leads to obsessing about the conditions you may find yourself in. Check out the first article in this series for more insights into how I teach Inner Critic and Awareness training.
Hacking Release into Flow
The Muse hack also supports the Release stage of the Flow cycle (Struggle-Release-Flow-Recovery). This is especially useful to encourage Play. Yes, Play!
Here’s an example: to unlock the release phase and just to add spice to life, I’ve stopped mid-run to swing on playground toys, hop from log to log in the forest, splash through streams, and play fetch with a friendly dog. I’ve even carried musical instruments on runs and paused for a few minutes here and there to play them. And no excuses with this one, the instrument I like to carry on mountain runs is a 10 foot / 3.3-meter-long Swiss Alphorn! But remember, the size of your instrument is not what’s important, it’s that you recognize the value of play in triggering a shift in brain wave activity and as a trigger into flow. You can always just howl at the moon, high five a race volunteer or complete stranger, skip a rock, hurdle over some kids playing in the creek, or do whatever your primal mind yearns for to create a moment when you Release and forget about your running.
Training your Inner Coach
Your Inner Coach has five important roles and areas of responsibility: Bouncer, Teacher, Guide, Muse, and Motivator. If you want to take the helm of your mind-coaching journey, your mission is to build a strong inner voice for each role and to integrate each voice into your sports and life pursuits as needed. This article covers an important one of the 5 roles. It teaches you to use the Muse role as your Inner Coach.
The Muse has a simple and fun role: to remind you to play. Play is critical as a release trigger to enable flow experiences. The Muse reminds you not to take yourself too seriously and to occasionally snap out of structure and rigor. Feeling self-conscious when practicing drills? The Muse helps you forget about what others think. The Muse prompts you to skip, run backwards, take a quick session on playground equipment, race a kid up a hill, splash through a stream or puddle, balance on a log, roll down a grass hill, smile at someone and more. Listen to the Muse and be spontaneous — you can always blame any looney actions on the Muse as well!
The Muse is well-suited to join you on long runs and ultra marathons, moments of alone time with only your Inner Coach — moments that receive a huge boost with humorous, light reminders to smile, play and actually enjoy the experience, rather than charge through it only thinking of pacing, time and numbers.
Awakening the Muse as a Mind Hack
Here are some tips for setting up the Muse mind hack to work for you:
- Visualize an image of a person or character who is successful at getting you to not take things too seriously, to let go. Feel free to use fictional images if that resonates with you. Practice seeing your Muse in great detail, so that you can call upon this image whenever needed. See the image exactly as you’ve created it, not in some generic, random way. This is the important part of visualization training that many athletes lazily skip. And when it’s skipped, it undermines the power of the tool when adversity strikes.
- Once you’ve got a detailed Muse image locked into your mind, float this image as your spirited playmate over your shoulder. See your Muse there to encourage you to laugh at the madness of bad weather by running through a stream, making a huge splash in a puddle, or just looking up at the sky at howling at the dark rain clouds. When you are training, practice visualizing a sudden appearance of your Muse — at the ready over your shoulder — encouraging you to do something a little crazy, off-script and fun. And then, act on that encouragement and be nuts for a moment.
- Whenever you feel too serious or to whiny in a situation, redirect your focus to Inner Coach and send in the Muse immediately. Give the Muse freedom to distract you, especially from any tendencies you may have to focus on the negativity in a challenging situation. Note: this is a tendency we all have and positive distraction is a strong tool to deal with this tendency.
When to engage Inner Coach as the Muse — all moments when you:
- are working through a Struggle activity (intentional or organic)
- experience stress and overload due to terrain, weather, fatigue, inner dialogue, and other adversities
- are seeking creativity, or a change in state or routine
- catch yourself feeling sorry for yourself or the conditions you find yourself in
Want to dive deeper? Check out Flow State Runner for an immersion into my full mind training model. My book includes many more mind hacks to improve your sports performance.
— Coach Jeff