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Breathe Your Way to Neutral

The best advice for saving yourself in the Moment

Neutral, as it relates to performance, is a serious settle-down when you need it most. The concept comes to us from Performance Coach Trevor Moawad and his star client, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Together, they have demonstrated that with a massive amount of devotion you can pause in the face of a serious challenge – breathe – avoid the temptation to be distracted­ – and save yourself. That’s the ability to focus in the moment.

For me, the “breath” of choice would be a strong nasal inhale combined with an equally strong exhale out of my mouth powered by a forceful contraction of my abdomen, core muscles and diaphragm.

The neutral pause allows the awareness of what you want to have happen to merge with the ability to get the job done; to focus under extreme pressure and feel the sensations needed to perform with the skills and techniques required. Moments like the pass that Russell threw to his favor target DK Metcalf to win a recent game against the Minnesota Vikings in the final seconds.

Prior to this game winning play, Russell and his teammates had several opportunities to be upset and distracted by the fact that they were being outplayed. In addition, the officials made some questionable calls that added to the drama of the game. Instead, they stayed neutral and were able to focus on the task at hand.

The effectiveness of the “Neutral Attitude” is in part made possible by the fact that Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf have practiced that play hundreds of times in preparation for the season. And they both have over-learned physical sensations associated with the proper techniques used by both players on this play since the beginning of their competitive careers.

The “Neutral Attitude,” when combined with proper breathing overrides the temptation to be distracted and creates the calm needed to focus on what needs to happen next and execute to gain the intended results in the heat of the moment.


The following training tips are for you when an extreme challenge hits you at work, in competition, at play or in your relationships.

The way to save yourself in one these moments is to breathe – access the “neutral mindset” – be aware of how you expect yourself to respond and then execute that response.

At work: When your boss or teammate presents a challenge, allow your breath and the “Neutral Attitude” to provide the pause needed to listen, be present and respond with acceptance.

The power of effective leadership is the function of the trust needed to believe in each other. As Steven Covey proposed in the concept of being proactive, “to hold on to an image of each team member performing at their very best.”

In Competition: When the person on the other side of the net (so to speak) presents a challenge, allow your breath and the “Neutral Attitude” to keep the focus on your side of the net.

I refer to the ability to focus at this extreme level as being able to “battle!” The harder the competition, the more the energy expended comes back as feelings of joy and accomplishment associated with the “flow.” Roger Federer in tennis stands out as someone that exemplifies the process of being able to battle. Win, lose or draw he handles the competition with ease and grace and continues to love to compete.

At play: When the Universe presents a challenge with a rogue wave, allow your breath and the “Neutral Attitude” to provide the clarity and confidence to make the right decision and paddle safely into or around the wave in question.

For each form of play, even though the stated intention is to have fun, the work to maintain and incorporate the breathing and the “Neutral Attitude” comes with a price: the fitness, the endurance, the discipline, the coaching and the processes required to deal with the frustration, the possible injuries, the aging and the success.

In a relationship: When a close friend, your significant other or a family member presents a challenge, allow your breath and the “Neutral Attitude” to provide the wisdom and compassion to hold space and respond in a manner that nurtures the other person and the relationship.

I’m thinking of the people that have cooperative and loving relationships that are suddenly confronted with personal conflicts, issues or negative situations. The demands on these relationships require that you learn to breathe and achieve the “Neutral Mindset” to save yourself in these new and stressful moments.

In life, learn to save yourself in the moment.

Practice and incorporate the breathing and “Neutral mindset” that sets you free:

  • Go Deep and settle ­down. To reflect on the awareness of what you expect of yourself.
  • Go Big and express the fire and passion for what you love to do. To reflect on the work required to get the job done.
  • Go Right and find the lens that allows you to learn and grow from your experience. Namely, to reflect on your ability to make good decisions.

For more information on essential breathing and the importance of being Neutral check out:

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor.

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown

Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo

The Way of the ICEMAN: How the Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant and Longterm Health

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Foundation Training: Personal Training with Kahea Hart of the North Shore Surf Clinic

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