Set Your Internal Flame For Greater Productivity and Motivation

November 29, 2019


At the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, Kathy Freeman became of symbol of reconciliation for a country. Although of Aborigine decent, Kathy saw herself no different from any other Australian athlete who was racing for her country. But she was much more-Kathy was uniting a country to look beyond race and to help overcome the difficulties of the past.

As a runner, Kathy is propelled by the moment and has mentioned that she wins her races when she masters her emotions. On the flip side, Kathy has discovered that she lose races when she becomes too aggressive at the start. If she starts too quickly, she will peak too early and burn out by the end of the race-losing in the last 100m.

But on this day in Australia, she controlled her internal flame, running a beautiful 400m race with an amazing kick in the last 50m to win the Olympic gold. As she ran around the track in her victory lap, she held both flags for her county, the Aborigine and the Australian, something she always dreamed she would do in front of her country.

Great performers know their internal flame. They know what level it has to be set in order to perform at their best. The internal flame is also known as your intensity level. A useful analogy is the flame on the stove when you are heating soup. When the flame is set too low, the soup will take a long time to warm up. If the flame is set too high, the soup will come to boil too quick and perhaps burn or spill over the sides. To heat the soup most effectively, you need to set the flame at the appropriate level.

To be able to cook in business, you need to be able to adjust your flame to the correct living temperature. Sometimes you may need to turn up the heat while other times, lower it. The following drills will help you set your internal flame.

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Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of his generation, has mentioned that he tries to keep his flame set in the middle, not too high and not too low-this allows him to keep his emotions under control and play his best basketball under extreme pressure.

The first step to discovering your most effective internal flame setting is through awareness. To accomplish this step, first recall an event in which you performed brilliantly, a perfect close or a great presentation during an important meeting. Next rank your intensity level, from 0 to 100 in ten point increments, with 0 being totally flat and 100 being too high. For instance, 20 could represent “somewhat flat”, 50 being “somewhat energized”, and the score of 80 being “very energized”. You may find that you perform your best with an intensity level of 40 while Kobe Bryant is best at a setting of 60.

Repeat the procedure, but this time, recall an event in which you totally choked, such as an error filled close or presentation. Rank your intensity level. You may find that you were at a 90. Everyone is different however. Someone in your office may find that she performs her best at 80 and her worst when her intensity was set at 20.

This awareness experience allows you to gain a better understanding as to what level to set your flame under pressure.

Get cooking with your blue bike

If you are a slow starter, then perhaps your flame is set too low. Indications of low intensity level are feelings of not being ready, not warmed up enough, and a feeling of not being with “it”. Being a slow starter can lead to a variety of problems such as a loss of focus and making too many errors at the start of your presentation or a negotiation.

If you are a notoriously slow starter, then get a mental tool to get pumped up quickly. It could be an image or a story from your past. Muhammad Ali used such a story to find the right intensity in the ring:

As a young boy, he loved his blue bike. One day he parked it in front of the grocery store, only to find that someone had clipped the lock and rode off with his pride possession. He never found the bike again or who had stolen it. But Ali used this story to his advantage. Every time he entered the ring, he would point at his opponent and say, “You are the guy who stole my blue bike.” That got him fired up in a hurry.

Do you have a story or image such as Ali’s which could get the juices flowing and quickly? If so, punch up the volume quickly and use it to your advantage.

Be careful with anger.

Sometimes, athletes use anger to kick start a bad outing or to remedy a slide in performance. John McEnroe, the hall of fame tennis player, was notorious for this process. When things on the court were not going as planned and usually when he was losing, he would throw his famous fits, screaming at ball boys or his favorite target, chair umpires.

These tirades were part of McEnroe’s arsenal. These emotional outbursts were a method for John to help elevate his intensity level and channel his focus. They were also a mechanism to throw off an opponent’s mental game. Sometimes John would go on a tirade for five minutes, icing an opponent. John won many matches by throwing a fit and swinging the momentum in his favor. McEnroe mastered the ability to harness anger into victory.