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the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance on an event as well as a precise organisation of forms which give that event it’s proper expression

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Decisive Moment

In the preface for his seminal piece of work The Decisive Moment , Henri Cartier-Bresson, the godfather of photojournalism and co-founder of the famous Magnum photo agency describes the idea behind the book’s title as; ‘the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance on an event as well as a precise organisation of forms which give that event it’s proper expression’ 

Monsieur Cartier-Bresson’s intentions with his work and desired outcomes were very different to my intentions in our my personal practice, however this moment of awareness; ‘the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance on an event’ resonates deeply to the core of the mission of The Ironmind Institute, alongside Cartier-Bresson’s creativity.
The Decisive Moment describes a specific moment of choice during a convergence of mind, body and spirit. 

Let me explain, with a little caveat; The Decisive Moment only happens when the trainee has some modicum of drive within their physical practice; be that an individual pursuit or team sport and the actions, training, performance and competition of both. 

With that in mind, let’s continue.

Why do we program like this?

During any physical endeavour you will arrive at a specific moment within the physical act where you will experience a negative mental state induced by the physical stress. We know this physical stress as physical fatigue, exhaustion, hyperventilation, lactic acid build up and a broad spectrum of perceived discomforts, even pain. 

The mental state this physical stress induces is subjective and truly only you know what this feels like to you. In an effort to make an association to this moment for you the reader, some common words used to describe it are; negative, destructive, chaotic, dark, uncomfortable, weak, heavy, panicked, doubt, dread, shocking, overwhelming, fearful, confusion, disorientating……. the list goes on. 

One’s default wiring when first experiencing this state is to do anything within its power to make it stop, go away, be no more. We call this, ‘1st level thinking’ at The Ironmind Institute. This is when you feel you are at the edge of your perceived physical limits, but you are not. There is more. There is always more. This discovery will be empowering and as you explore and expand your mind-body connection capacities, over time it will become equally terrifying as you realise the line of confronting reality about oneself that has to be threaded to continue to improve and grow.

These specific moments of physical stress hold extraordinary opportunity for personal evolution. This is much bigger than your performance, although that is a fulfilling reward. It is here, in this lived moment of stress, doubt, weakness that we can re-engineer the hardware of our brain, through the software of experience. We do this by learning to control the moment, despite the debilitating effects of the physical stress we are experiencing, using a two-step process led by self-awareness and followed by concentration. 

The extraordinary opportunity for all of us to profit from, in these moments, is a choice, albeit a partly hidden one. The disturbing properties of our mental state can veil this choice to us, but it is always there. That choice is in how we choose to respond to the stimulus we are experiencing. Austrian holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl  said, ‘between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose’. 

People mediate and practice mindfulness for decades to widen this ‘gap’ between stimulus and response, to give them more control over how they act and react. Both worthy and beneficial practices but both lacking a somatic element which is deeply important to building true mental fortitude, resilience and self belief. To hardwire our brains we need physical action. Committing to and practicing to make ‘better’ choices while fighting the effects of self-induced physical stress is one of the greatest journeys you can bring your mind (& spirit) on. 

Our revolutionary 4 Controllables Method guides you to make (what we deem) the right choice in this specific situation; that is to continue rather than quit, to endure rather than stop, to persevere rather than submit to your inner resistance. It does that by preparing your awareness using rehearsal visualisation to upcoming stress points within your physical practice, making your ability to control your mind more available to access using mental anchors (mental resets) to redirect your attention to something within your control and concentrating on the details of the action of that controllable. That redirection of focus to concentrating on something within your control, neutralises the effects of the physical stress on your mental state, so you experience the present moment, a state of ‘no mind’. A great way to think of this is, a mental depressurisation. One moment you have this overwhelming negative haze clouding your mind, a feeling of negativity (if mild) to panic or chaos (if extreme), you become aware of this state through an internal flag and once aware, you can change it by redirecting your (default) focus to concentrating on a specific action of one the 4 Controllables. We do this using Step 2: Mental Anchors in the process; a pre-prepared cue or question which functions as an anchor to a controllable action in the maelstrom of the mind, leading you to the present moment, the state of ‘no mind’, although you don’t know this as you are in a state of ‘no mind’. In a strange dichotomy you will only become aware you accessed this state when you feel the negative effects of the physical stress again in your mind. In others words when you have come out of it.

Here’s why we say this is transformational: Nothing has changed in your output. In fact it may well have increased, however your experience of the physical stress has totally changed. The effects have gone from a varying degree of negative (minor, mild,extreme) to neutralised, just by choosing to respond to the stimulus in a certain way; that is, concentrating upon something that is in your control (a specific action of 1 of the 4 Controllables)

This choice creates a paradigm shift in your reality. If we step that out simply it looks like this; you believed you were going to quit, continuing was out of the question, the doubt overwhelmed your resolve, you had begun to give up in the spiritual fight, but you found a way to transform your state and its effect over you while continuing with the stressful movement, action, with no loss in performance, just through what you focused your thoughts on (psychological organisation).

SISU Crucible

Put another way, you had an overwhelming urge to stop, the internal experience was absolute chaos, you were filled with thoughts that induced negative emotion, debilitating and disempowering in their nature because you felt weak, vulnerable, saw parts of your character you didn’t like, maybe even were shameful of, but through a simple choice of what you deliberately concentrated on you controlled the experience of that moment and redirected a state of nothingness (in terms of effects). 

 I describe this new found state as neutralised because the effect of time and physical duress over your mind has gone. By deeply concentrating on a specific part of a controllable you access an almost mental nothingness. Hence why I like to think of this as “meditation through pain”. By experiencing this moment of destruction, chaos, quit, and overcoming it internally, you have disturbed some deep fundamental beliefs you held about yourself and your potential. This peak experience is liberating and the importance of these private victories cannot be overstated in a spiritual sense. 

These moments are character deepening because it was just you versus you. You are in a fight with a side of yourself that is weak, cowardly and pitiful yet powerful, sinisterly powerful. The reality is we all possess a shadow, as the great psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung coined it, but few dare to shed light on and happily keep hidden away in the deepest recess of our mind. The thing is it might be hidden but it’s still having profound effects on you, your behaviours and your relationship with yourself. By facing it down in these moments of choice you empower yourself and start to build yourself up through genuine self-respect for what you endured through your own power. By continually putting yourself in a position to make a positive choice in these Decisive Moments and living that experience through the actions of your nervous system you will raise your levels of self-belief and self-worth, overtime accumulating in self-mastery. 

All from a simple choice.

Keep striving for more from yourselves,