Jump Thinking

It happened again.  There I am, in the middle of a 19 second, six ball pass through the ski course, and at the 4th ball, my intensity went down.  Letting up was not a conscious decision – it’s such an old habit, that it’s almost “natural”.  Too natural.  This time, the coach watching in the boat could see it on my face and called me on it. Pretty quickly, I understood the cause and was able to correct it on the next pass.

The cause of my lapse is very common and much harder to correct than it appears to be at first glance.  What is it?

                               Jump Thinking

No, I’m not talking about me physically jumping anywhere.  It’s my brain that makes the leap.  In this case, my brain made the leap from 4 ball to the end of the lake. 

I was already doing the post game analysis DURING the game.

Oops.  Lost intensity and almost didn’t finish the pass. My mind jumped ahead said “I’ve got this.”

Jumping ahead is not the only place my mind jumps. More often than I care to admit, my mind will jump from what I’m doing to what you are thinking.  Here’s an example: I was facilitating a leadership session for a new client and asked a very open-ended question to the group. Although I had been warned that the room would be full of introverts, my question was tailored for the talkers.  It fell completely flat. 

My thought-provoking, brainstorming, letsnoteveryonetalkatonce question was met with silent stares. 

Then my mind jumped.  This time the jump was not ahead, but “into their heads.” Not really into their heads – that’s impossible – but my fear of what was going on in their heads provoked these thoughts “What is happening?  What do they think of me?  They are not liking this. They hate me.”  You can imagine how ineffective I was while those thoughts were running me. My client later said it looked like I had “left my body.”  Yes, I had jumped!

After a few minutes, I gathered myself and we had a very good dialogue – when my brain stayed put in the present moment with my full attention on the group.

So what is “jump thinking?”  Jump Thinking happens whenever the brain takes you ahead, behind, outside or into the deep (and currently non-relevant) recesses of your own mind. It is anytime your thinking has leapt to the future, the past or onto what you think someone else is thinking.

Ahead:  “I’ve got this.”
Behind:  “Why do I always (or never) do x?”
Outside:  “Why are they looking at me like that?  What do they think of me?  How do I get them to [like me,] [think I’m smart], [think I’m valuable?]”
Deep Recesses: “Look how my hand just moved.”

This does not mean that you cannot think about the future or plan – of course you can.  

However, in order to unleash your best performance, it’s best to keep your attention on the moment at hand.

We have incredibly distractible minds – more so now than ever with smart phones and other media temptations – so Jump Thinking is actually the norm. Staying present – keeping your attention on the thing at hand – has become a powerful, yet mostly absent skill.

Train your attention and watch your performance leap to another level.

What kind of “jump thinking” do you do?  Do you jump back to the past, wondering “what if?” Do you jump to the future, doing the post game while the real game is happening right now?  Do you jump to conclusions, taking things personally even when no ill was intended?  What does it take for you to focus your attention on what is happening now?

As always, I would love to hear any tips, tricks or challenges that you have!

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Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers. She loves to hear about how your experiments with these ideas turn out. To contact her or share your experiences email lcarnes@carnesassociates.com.