The Parallel Mode Process Model asks this one simple question: what are the underlying system dynamics of the human peak performance state? What are the underlying system dynamics of the zone?
As a performance model, I think we are the only model that asks and answers that extremely important question. More importantly, the answer to that question brings up other questions that are not asked in psychological models or total performance models.
For instance – if the underlying system dynamics of the human peak performance state are the system dynamics of a parallel mode/parallel interface, then what are the underlying system dynamics of the behavioral state known as “flow”?
Not what are the component characteristics of the flow state, but what are the system dynamics of a flow state?
When you are in a flow state, your visual/cognitive/motor (VCM) operating system is still operating, so what is the difference in your mode of operation when you are in a flow state versus when you are in a your normal state? If your behavioral state is that much different then you must be doing something causative with your underlying operating system. You must be doing something very different with the fundamental interface between your VCM operating system and the environment in which it is operating and with which it is interfacing. The question is: what are you doing differently? More exactly, what is your VCM operating system doing differently that could cause you to perform at a noticeably higher level as well as cause you to enter into a flow state?
The PMP model answers those questions with a very basic answer. What you are doing differently is that your operating system is functioning in its most efficient and accurate operational interface – a parallel interface – and it is this higher-order parallel interface with the environment that is causal to both your higher level of performance and your higher-order behavioral state (flow state.)
Your flow state does not cause your higher level of performance, nor does your higher level of performance cause your flow state. They are both by-products of something far deeper in the performance equation, something that lies beneath and affects both your level of performance as well as your behavioral/conscious state. And what lies beneath and affects both performance and consciousness is the direct connection between your operating system and the environment in which it is operating.
The by-product of a serial mode/serial interface is your normal performance state – i.e. your normal level of performance and your normal state of consciousness. The by-product of a parallel mode/parallel interface is your peak performance state – i.e. a higher level of performance and a higher-order state of consciousness.
Performance and consciousness are not seen as separate parts of the total package in the PMP. Nor is one responsible for the creation of the other. You don’t perform better because you are in a flow state, nor does better performance create a flow state. Performance and consciousness are not causative, rather they are the effects of the underlying causative agent, which is the operating system itself and its mode of connecting to and interfacing with the environment.
Both modes of operation (serial and parallel) exist as “potentials” that can be chosen by the human being who is in charge of his/her operating system. In other words, you can choose to operate in your serial mode or you can choose to operate in your parallel mode. You can pick one or the other. You cannot, however, pick both at the same time. As operational interfaces they are mutually exclusive. Which means you cannot operate in a serial mode and expect parallel performance. Nor can you operate in a parallel mode and expect serial mode consciousness.
That’s where the biggest challenge comes in for me when I teach people how to play tennis in the zone. People can easily switch to a parallel mode of operation and get into the zone almost immediately, but when they try to combine their parallel mode of operation with their normal state of consciousness, their normal state of consciousness overrides their parallel mode of operation and switches them right back into their serial mode of operation.
There is no crossing over. You are either operating in a parallel mode or you are operating in a serial mode. And whichever of these operating modes you choose, you are also choosing its coincident state of consciousness.
Our normal mode of operation is a serial mode and with our serial mode of operation comes our normal state of consciousness. This is the operational interface in which we spend most of our time. It is also the operational interface in which we normally play our games – including tennis. Our day-in/day-out serial mode of operation is also our default operating mode for performing on the tennis court. Thus we get our normal performance state and it all feels right because we are also in our normal state of consciousness.
Until one day, for no apparent reason, we suddenly start performing at a noticeably higher level where everything about the game seems easier; we feel more in control, our strokes are smoother and more fluid, our contact better timed and more solid, and we feel a different sense of rightness about the game. This is the way it should be. This is the way I should play the game. This is the way I can play the game when all the pieces come together.
And there is something else present on these rare days when we enter into this exclusive territory known as the zone. There is also present a different state of consciousness; one in which we sense a total absorption in the game, a total focus, a sense of oneness with the game itself, a sense of fulfillment and completeness. We might even call it a spiritual experience with the game.
So – what the heck happened? What caused everything to switch around from our normal experience with the game? What caused this higher-order, full-potential experience between the same operating system and the same game we always play?
What caused us to go into the zone and not only perform at a much higher level but also experience this higher-order state of consciousness knows as flow?
The Parallel Mode Process has answers to these questions.