Author: Deveau, Bruce
Date published: February 25, 2011
Look deeply into the great performances in drag racing history, and you'll see inspiration. Inspiration is the stimulation of the mind and emotions, triggered by a remarkable event or encounter, leading to a burst of positive and creative energy. Artists, poets, and mystics have long found inspiration in the heavens, in nature, and in love. Performers of all types have found that inspiration has driven them to new heights. That, of course, includes drag racers. Here are two examples of very inspired performances:
* A Pro Stock driver was standing next to his car waiting for traffic to move so he could get back to the pits after making his final qualifying shot. It was a good pass, one that pushed him into the No. 1 qualifying spot. While standing there waiting, a woman he had never met approached him and congratulated him on the stellar pass. She said she had enjoyed watching him race over the years when they came to town but that this would be the last time she would watch him race. She said she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and would not live to see the next year. Further, she said she wanted him to win the race for her. The driver was taken aback. Moved to tears, they shared a hug, and the woman walked away. The driver was shaken by what had just occurred, but he also felt inspired by this woman's courage. He went on to win the race with stellar driving in a day packed with very high emotion. The driver felt in his zone like he had never felt before, and to this day, he says it was his greatest day of racing.
* A young Super Comp racer was driving to a national event when the call came telling that his close friend and racing mentor had passed away. The friend had long battled a serious illness but had been on the racer's side the whole time. The racer considered turning around and heading home but knew for certain that his mentor would never want that. He decided to press on. As he drove to the track, the young driver was filled with emotion and positive memories of his friend. He recognized that he was energized by this emotion and dedicated all of his efforts to this friend. He won the race with the best driving of his young life, his first national event victory.
Each of these stories involves deep human connection. Connection, whether it be with people, nature, or spirit, is what gives deep meaning to our lives. Combine that with the exciting sport of drag racing, and you've got something very powerful, but power alone does not guarantee a successful outcome. As with any form of power, what matters most is control. Each of these drivers could have gotten distracted in grief or overwhelmed with emotion, and no one would have blamed them. But they both saw the power of the situation, claimed the energy as their own, and used it in the most positive way they could.
What can be learned from these compelling human stories? First, they must each be respected as once-in-a-lifetime events. That level of emotion and energy cannot be summoned at will. Trying to do so would be an empty experience.
At the same time, we can view these stories as lessons on what goes into a great performance. What drove these racers to career-best performances? Inspiration contains key elements that can be incorporated into your mental game every time you race. You don't have to wait for some compelling human drama to bring these key elements into your program. Here are some lessons to be learned from these inspirational stories:
Inspired performances transcend fear. I talk a lot about fear in this column because fear ruins performance. Inspired by courage, these drivers rose above their own concerns or worries. They engaged in something beyond themselves and let nothing stand in their way.
Inspired performances contain a high level of emotion. In each of these examples, emotion ran high but did not fly out of control. The lesson here is that we can maintain lots of emotion as long as it stays positive. The key to managing high emotion is accepting that all emotion is energy. If you can accept this principle, you can begin to gain a sense of control over emotion. You can then build the skills of converting any emotion into something useful that works for you instead of against you. For example, fear can be converted into excitement; anger can be converted into determination.
Inspired performances have a solid direction.With controlled energy and intention comes direction. Your mind needs a solid and clear direction if that energy is to be put to use. Each of these drivers decided on their intention and channeled all their energy into winning. Without a clear direction, that energy would have bounced all over the place, leading to mistakes. With a clear, positive direction, energy gets concentrated and becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Inspired performances involve complete absorption. Ask any driver who has been through a truly inspired performance, and you'll hear similar themes: "It was like nothing else existed" or "I was in this focused tunnel all day." Complete absorption is the natural outcome of high energy, control, and direction. This state cannot be forced, but it can be promoted. All you can do is put the pieces in place, trust in your ability, and get out of the way. Obviously, it can't always be your day, but you must always put the pieces in place.
There is much to be taken from inspiration. When you witness acts of greatness, when you are stirred by acts of courage and determination, you are not just a spectator; you are a participant. When you view greatness with an open mind and heart, you are being shown, by example, the way to your own greatness. Pay attention.
Bruce Deveau, MSW, is a psychotherapist, mental-skills coach, and author of The Racer's Mind, a workbook and CD for driver concentration. For information, log on to www.theracersmind.com. Send correspondence regarding this column to The Racer's Mind, P.O. Box 392, Amesbury, MA 01913 or call 978-388- 4331; e-mail, email@example.com.