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Every one of us has one or more activities or experiences that can lead us toward serenity. To create your own catalyst for peak performance, first identify the one key activity that is most relaxing for you. Then shape a simple routine comprising this and four to five additional personal relaxation methods you know work for you. Practice this routine daily for one month during down time to entrench a calm state of mind.

If you can only identify a single activity that leads you to serenity, shape a routine of simple activities to practice before or after your known relaxation producer. After a month of practice, the soothing psychological benefits of your key activity will have suffused the routine; you will be able to use the routine to produce a state of calmness even when the key activity is not a part of it.

In both cases, the routine should be of your choosing but could, for instance, include a few minutes each of jogging, bathing, showering, walking, eating a snack, snuggling with a loved one, listening to a song, smelling something pleasing, or meditating. By the end of the month, you will have internalized a deeper sense of peace and reaped many physiological benefits. You can then use your routine as a prelude to a high-stress activity in order to enhance your psychological state and build a solid foundation for excelling—before critical moments at work, school and on the playing field. Gradually and incrementally condense the routine. In short order, you will be able to produce all its benefits by merely thinking about it or practicing a few seconds of it.

In Josh’s Words:


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To have success in crunch time, you need to integrate certain healthy patterns into your day-to-day life so that they are completely natural to you when the pressure is on. The real power of incremental growth comes to bear when we truly are like water, steadily carving stone. We just keep on flowing when everything is on the line.
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The point to this system of creating your own trigger is that a physiological connection is formed between the routine and the activity it precedes. Dennis was always present when playing with his son, so all we had to do was set up a routine that became linked to that state of mind. Once the routine is internalized, it can be used before any activity and a similar state of mind will emerge.
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Further reading: Chapter 17: Building Your Trigger

From THE ART OF LEARNING by Josh Waitzkin. Copyright © 2007 by Josh Waitzkin LLC.
Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


  1. Dewald says:

    Hi, I’m sure this comes up a lot, but I’m having a lot of trouble identifying any activity that brings me this serenity consistently, mostly it is inconsistent or I don’t do that activity enough to know if it bring me the most relaxation. Should my first month then be experimenting and identifying what activity brings me this relaxation, or should I simply start with one? Do you have any suggestions of what I could test?

    • Katy says:

      Hi Dewald. This is a great question and you’re right, it comes up a lot! One suggestion Josh makes is to condense the entire Building Your Trigger process through the use of HRV training. By training to breathe at your resonant frequency you will learn to quickly access a peak performance state.

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