Tag Archives: self improvement

What we can learn from children about achieving our goals

Ever think about what goes through a baby’s mind when it is learning to crawl?

Do you think the baby goes “I want to place my weight on my knees, then I want to place my hands slightly ahead of where I am and shift my center of gravity to my left. I also need to remember to make sure my spine is pointed slightly right of the target so that when I move forward, I don’t go too much to the left. That way I can average it out with the shift during my right movement so I am always roughly facing my target.”

Doesn’t really sound like something a baby would think does it?

How about “If I can only start crawling I will get stronger and healthier. People will start praising me and respect me for my crawling skills?” Does that sound like something a baby would think?

If babies tried to learn the way human adults do, they would grow up never learning to walk instinctively, and for the rest of their lives need to keep a post-it on their arm with acronyms and rules reminding them how to crawl or walk. The rules would probably be painful and cryptic (PCLSF – point, center, lean, step, fall) and only a few “talented genius adults” would be able to walk without struggling. They would never be able to walk using instinct, and everyone would go around justifying this by saying two legged walking requires so much of muscular coordination, it is an extremely rare talent that one needs to be born with. There would be e-books and courses and self study guides on the internet about faster and better ways of learning to walk, and how to be almost “natural” at walking. Luckily for us, almost every child learns to crawl and walk without needing any of this nonsense.

But how do you think they really do it in a seemingly effortless manner?

As far as I can tell, they just look at a place and say to themselves “There. I want to go there” and then they try to do it. And when they fail, there isn’t a “I’ll never be able to do this. I am such a disappointment. I have failed at every attempt. I should just give up.”. Nope. Just two seconds of confusion later, they try again. And again.

Each time they make subtle variations to what they are doing compared to what they tried before. I don’t think they even consciously realize what they tried before. They don’t even realize what they just changed. All they know is “Again. I want to go there.”, and then with that feeling or thought inside them, they try.

Little by little something inside them figures out how their center of gravity needs to shift, which muscles need to be fired in tandem and how visual and touch information needs to be used to adjust which muscles groups to fire. At the same time, another magical part of them tracks which muscles need growing because they aren’t strong enough, and marks them so that when they sleep that night, the muscles grow and get bigger and stronger.

Do you honestly think babies plan any of this?

Oddly enough, despite all that is required, they achieve their goal.

Is it effortless? When we look at it, we admire their persistence despite all the effort required. When they look at it, they don’t look at it as effort or persistence. All they see is “Goal. Try. Goal. Try. Tired. Goal, Try. Yay!! Again.”. That’s all it was to them. No effort. Just try something they wanted to do until they got it.

All the adult motivation and learning coaches talk about the HOW – the steps and the plan, and the WHY – the motivation and the desire. How you can never achieve your goals without clearly answering the HOW and the WHY questions.

Ask a child who is thinking “I want”, “But why?” and the reply would just be “I want?” . What else is there? Why would it need another reason? Why would it need to justify why it wants something? Isn’t the fact that it wants something enough? Ask it “How?” and the reply again would be something like “I want. I try.”. Ask it “But the steps?” “I don’t know. I want. I try.”. And just with that brilliant set of plans and blueprint a child sets out and achieves its goals.

Imagine that. No plan. No motivation. Goal achieved. All the while, adults who love to spend hours, days, weeks and months in plotting and planning and self-motivating and visualizing never get anywhere with their goals. I wonder why.

Now a common thought might be “But we can’t use this children’s approach. Our goals are much more complex. Children use it for easy stuff, like crawling, walking, controlling their body, learning multiple languages or any of the rare skills that we like to say they are gifted at. Oh wait.”

Realize that this simpler method of learning apparently allows us to master anything, effortlessly. No need for how. No need for why. No need for detailed plans. Act or try first, and modify based on feedback and information later. As adults capable of reading and learning as well as searching for coaches or videos of people doing it so we can model their behavior, we can accelerate the process even further once we get started.

This is the middle ground between learning as a child and learning as an adult. A way of achieving goals that combines the best of a child’s simple way, and an adult’s research based way. A way that cuts through all the procrastination, confusion, fear, and excuses and lets us achieve our goals with the focus and intensity and speed that we were designed to achieve them.

So how do you get to the point where you learn everything in your life effortlessly and instinctively like this again?

I can’t give you any magic steps or an algorithm to follow, because that would defeat the purpose. But here is a hint – If you just make instinctive learning your goal, something you want, something you keep trying to achieve without even necessarily knowing how, guess what will happen?

A Perfect World

Imagine a world where every living being was connected to each other, and thanks to this connection each being would always try to work towards the greater good.

Every time you needed something, those closest to you would sense your need and selflessly come to your aid, knowing that whenever they had the need for anything, someone else would always be there for them.

Imagine that this world had a simple way of communicating with feelings, and these feelings were enough to keep all the beings in harmony, always taking care of each other and trusting that they would be taken care of.

In this world, there would never be a reason to worry.

But then something happened…

Fear crept in.

Suddenly the beings were too distracted to listen to their feelings and were focused on their own needs. They didn’t realize that if they just focused on their feelings, the little signals that told them what to do, everything would continue to work out. They started focusing on their own needs, driven by the fear that if they didn’t, they would be left without anything.

And as the fear started spreading, more and more of the beings stopped listening, and tried to do things alone in a world where they were meant to do everything together.

And with each day, the fear and the loneliness got worse. The beings forgot about the connection that they once had. They still felt something missing somewhere deep inside and constantly kept searching for this missing thing, and this pain made them feel worse.

But the connection wasn’t gone. It was still right there waiting for them to start listening again.

And in this world, a miracle happened.

A few people started rediscovering the connection in little bits and pieces.

Some just reconnected to their own feelings and trusting their heart more. Some started listening for the needs of others and trying to selflessly help them. Some started caring more about others than themselves and trusting that the universe would take care of them.

And each of them realized that they had discovered something amazing. The world could be a beautiful place if they let it be. So they started trying to find out more and do more.

And with each action, they inspired more and more people to also start connecting with each other. To slowly go back to the amazing world they had once left behind.

And this is where our story begins.

What if there was no right or wrong?

How would you live your life differently if you could do no wrong?

If you somehow knew that whatever you did was the exact right thing to be doing, so you didn’t have to worry that you might be doing something wrong?

For example, say, a time traveler came to you and showed you how events are supposed to play out and you already knew what you were going to say or do was best for you in the long run, so you didn’t have to worry about it?

Or, say, you trusted that the Universe or a higher power was guiding you so everything you did was the exact perfect thing towards a bigger plan,  and you didn’t have to worry about anything?

Suddenly you wouldn’t have the fear of doing the wrong thing. There would be less hesitation and more anticipation in your steps. You would look forward with wonder and anticipation at what would come next instead of holding back trying to control what happened, trying to do the “right” thing while feeling extremely stifled, nervous and confused.

And what is the right thing anyway? Have you forgotten all the countless times in your life that you didn’t know what to do, didn’t know if things would work out and then they magically did? At what point in time did you manage to suddenly do the right thing, when you had no idea what you were doing?

And then there were all the times you tried to control your life and guide it in a specific way with all the plans that you tried your level best to stick to by doing the “right” things. But for some reason, life decided you were meant for other things and none of your plans ever led you where you wanted them to.

It’s just something to think about. Somewhere inside, you’ve always had uncertainty about the right thing to do because you never knew what the right thing was, and you have a lifetime of experiences to remind you of this fact.

So maybe it’s time to do things differently now and see if something changes.

I have no idea where you are in your life right now. You may be happy that everything in your life is going perfectly. You might be wishing for more in your life. Or you might be devastated because everything in your life seems upside down at the moment.

All I ask is that just as a thought experiment, for the next week or so, let go of right and wrong. Assume that everything that you say is right, assume that everything you do is right, and assume everything that is happening is right.

See what happens.

Thank you – Expressing your feelings so others can feel them too

I was still in school. I think it was 7th grade.

I was just another shy school kid who brought his teacher a card for teacher’s day. I didn’t really put much effort into the card. She wasn’t even my favorite teacher. But she was a good teacher who loved her job and taught like it meant a lot to her. I just gave her the card because lots of other students were giving cards in class and I thought even I should.

When I gave her the card, she looked me in the eyes and said “Thank you”. Nothing more.

But that moment changed my life in a way that I can never really explain. Because what really shocked me, was the fact that I didn’t just hear that Thank you. I felt it !!!

Maybe it was the way she looked at me like I was the only person in the room. Maybe it was the way her eyes were glistening, almost with tears, when she said it. The way that she seemed to really, really mean it.

I knew she meant it, and I knew she was trying to convey what she was feeling. At that moment she was sharing everything that she felt – the joy, the gratitude, everything. And as I looked at her, I felt every bit of it, almost radiating from her.

And all she had said were the two words – “Thank you”.

Until that day, in my mind, “Thank You” was just something you automatically said when people gave you something, whether you cared about it or not. It was something you said because your parents taught you that you were supposed to say it.

It was never said like this!!! Words weren’t supposed to have so much feeling and emotion in them. Words were just words. How was she doing this?

But that day she changed my life. Because from that day, I kept wondering how someone could say something with so much emotion. Wondering what I had been missing because I didn’t even know it was possible.

It was the day I realized that I too wanted to be able to say and express what I felt. To be able to communicate not just with words, but with emotions and feelings. And I wanted to be around more people who could talk to me the same way. People who could connect with more than just words.

That day, as much as any other, has made me who I am today. And for that I am truly grateful.

Projection as a Mirror – How to eliminate anger, jealousy and resentment from your life

Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud talked about the concept of projection and the shadow self – All of us tend to project or see in others, qualities that we ourselves possess.

The things we admire and respect most in others are usually our own strengths. Sometimes these are strengths that we don’t even realize we have, or qualities that we have that aren’t developed fully. When we see these qualities we sometimes say things like “He is so amazing. I wish I could be like him”. What we don’t realize is that we have within ourselves the same ability or potential for it, otherwise we wouldn’t even notice it in the other person. Excitement, happiness, or admiration are usually signs that our subconscious mind realizes that we can learn a lot from this person and develop our abilities.

Similarly what we dislike the most about others are usually our own weaknesses. Often these are weaknesses that we are afraid to admit to ourselves or don’t even realize we have. We tend to get angry and resentful at others when we see these qualities. Sometimes the person we project them on may not even have the qualities we attribute to them. For example, a selfish person believes that any person he talks to is selfish too. Often the anger we express at this person is usually resentment at ourselves (sometimes without our being aware of it).

Whenever we are exposed to qualities that remind our subconscious mind of our own, it usually pushes buttons and triggers strong emotions. Any time we feel strong emotions like anger, it is usually a sign that projection is at work.

When I first learned about projection, it was through a simple exercise. Take some time to try it out.

Think about any person (it can be more than one) that you really admire and write down five qualities that you like the most about them.
Now think about someone you really dislike, and write down five qualities that you hate the most about them.
Done? Now take a look at these qualities carefully.
I’d like you to open your mind and consider the possibility, that these good qualities are your own strengths that you have not yet developed fully, and the bad ones are your own weaknesses that you deny or still haven’t admitted to yourself. Even if it seems a little hard to accept, take some time to think about what it would mean if it were true.
I found the results of the exercise incredibly enlightening. I decided to modify it slightly and apply the concept to my own personal growth.

Since then, anytime I find strong emotions being triggered, I try to figure out what strength or weakness of my own I am projecting. For example, if I get angry at someone for being pushy, I consider the possibility that I can be pushy and subconsciously resent it about myself. If I admire someone for being extremely talented at something, I realize that I too have the potential to be that good if I give myself time and learn from that person.

The best thing about the exercise is once you become aware of the quality and acknowledge it, you no longer have to do anything else. Just becoming aware of it helps it auto correct.

Over the last few years, I spent time for introspection after any argument to try and discover why it happened and what it taught me about myself. I learned to be grateful for people who pushed my buttons because they helped me to learn more about myself and help me grow. I realized that as I discovered these buttons and became aware of them, they stopped becoming buttons and no longer affected me. I found myself getting angry less often and stayed calm and happy more of the time.

This one idea has helped me in my personal and emotional development more than anything else I know. If you find that you have a lot of anger and resentment and would like to bring more peace and happiness into your life, I believe you should give this a shot. It may change your life.

So why do you play pool? The power of motivation

Pleasures of Small MotionsI recently read the book Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards by Bob Fancher. In the very first few chapters he talks about our motivation behind playing pool – Some people play because they like to win, others because they like to hang out with their friends and have a little fun. However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.

These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. They enjoy drills and practice because they appreciate the beauty in each shot and the practice is a pleasure in itself. During games, they admire a good shot played by an opponent and cheer them on instead of hoping that the other person misses. All they care about is learning and improving and enjoying the game.

The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.
Martina Navratilova

It is impossible to motivate yourself to practice drills by yourself if you don’t love billiards and all you care about is winning. Practice becomes a painful chore that you have to finish before you can reach your wins. How can you learn and enjoy the game itself if you have to wait till the end of the game to decide whether or not you are allowed to be happy?

However when the beauty of the game itself motivates you, you can enjoy even watching a good shot. You realize that a single game means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and your motivation becomes to enjoy each moment and each shot. You can enjoy shooting well, and be happy whether you win or lose.

Recently I had started caring too much about winning and was extra hard on myself whenever I lost. After a recent losing streak, I started getting sick of pool and stopped wanting to even play. Reading this book made me remember why I started playing pool in the first place. How I used to spend hours at the table by myself just shooting. How much I loved playing “that perfect shot” and watching the ball slowly roll into the pocket.

I’ve realized it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. Anytime an opponent makes an unbelievable shot, I usually ask them to teach me the shot after the game. Each time I see or learn something new, I have to go try it myself. Suddenly each game is no longer a win/lose situation but an opportunity to learn, improve and enjoy the game of billiards again.

Since then, I’ve started enjoying pool again. I’ve also got a whole lot better.

Having a bad night? Why bad nights are good for you

There is a tendency in all of us to desire to be our best selves all the time. We hate it when we are not doing as well as we know we can. “I am a little off today – I am usually much better”.

I love nights when I am confident and feel like I can do anything – “the good nights”. These are the nights that I am completely in the present moment and not inside my head. I am “in the zone”; doing things better than I have ever done before.

But not every night is like this. All of us also have nights when nothing seems to be going right. You can either call these nights “bad nights” and hate them, or call them “learning nights” and use them to grow.

All of us also have nights when nothing seems to be going right. You can either call these nights “bad nights” and hate them, or call them “learning nights” and use them to grow.

A few days ago I had a really “off night”. A night when I was missing even straight in shots. Where I was second guessing everything I did. Where I didn’t have the confidence to run more than two balls, even with ball in hand.

I never realized how important these nights are and how much they help improve my game…

I love nights when I am in dead stroke. Every shot seems so effortless and I am aiming without aiming. I don’t have to care about position play – If I can see the ball, I know I will make the shot. I don’t care whether I have three balls in front of me or seven. All I need is a turn at the table. I know that I can run all of them. On nights like this, I win lots of games by intimidation alone. Opponents start over thinking after watching me shoot and end up choking just because they know that if they miss, it might be their last chance on the table.

Next come the nights when I am not in “dead stroke” but I am still in stroke. I still have to think about position play because I don’t have the same confidence to make any shot. I have to think about what I am going to play before each shot, plan the english, wait till my mind is settled and make it. However I can reasonably execute anything that I decide I want to. Days like these are when I have to consciously remember to play one ball at a time and not rush it by thinking too far ahead. I have to concentrate on each shot or I might miss it.

This is how it was last night. I was winning several games, but the amount of concentration it took was almost exhausting, and I had to stop after a few games and take a break. Its definitely not as easy as being in dead stroke, but I can still do it. If I never had a night like this, I would never be able to build the stamina to concentrate for several games, one shot at a time, while being out of stroke. If I ever had an important match and was not in “dead stroke”, I would end up losing because I wasn’t prepared for it.

But the most important nights are the ones when I am completely out of stroke. Where every cut shot seems to miss the pocket by a few inches and even the straight in shots rattle out.

But the most important nights are the ones when I am completely out of stroke. Where every cut shot seems to miss the pocket by a few inches and even the straight in shots rattle out. Where I have to stop thinking about position because just making a ball seems like a miracle. Its as if I just started playing pool for the first time. As if I am not the same person who gets “rackless night” patches and can run tables. These nights usually happen when I am really exhausted from a long day or have a lot on my mind.

I had a night like this a few days ago. I had no confidence in my ability to make more than one shot with ball in hand. I just could not make cut shots. My opponent was on the hill because I kept missing shots and giving him the turn with a reasonably easy leave.

This is when I realized that I could either cry about not being in stroke and blame the entire situation on fate, or I could use all the knowledge I had, consciously focus on playing with a good stroke and play within my abilities.

I started shooting one or two balls and then playing strong safeties. There were times when I thought to myself, “if I had been in stroke, I could have easily run all five of these balls, yet I’m playing a safety”. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and focused on playing the perfect safety. I think my opponent gave me at least 10 ball in hands during that time. I won all the remaining games and the match without ever being able to run more than two balls at a time.

So why do I like these bad nights?

Nights when I am out of stroke force me to improve my game consciously so I can play better on the nights that I am not playing with subconscious competence. I was forced to learn by observing flaws in my own game, asking people for help and looking for good reference material. I did things like making a checklist of things to focus on for a good pool stroke. I discovered and started practicing the bottle drill to improve my stroke.

The mark of great sportsmen is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are at their worst.
Martina Navratilova

The thing I discovered is that as you learn to push yourself on these “off nights”, your off nights start getting better and better. With each “bad night”, you get closer and closer to playing like your best self.

Use the nights you are your best self to inspire you. Use the nights you are not playing well to improve, by discovering your weaknesses and working on them. Aspire to be your best self, and work towards it consciously every day. That way, every day you are working towards becoming the best that you can be.

You also start winning on your bad days.

One shot at a time – How outcome independence and being in the now can change your game

Sometimes one little concept can be the missing piece in your game.

Pleasures of Small Motions

I recently read the book Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards by Bob Fancher.  In the very first few chapters he talks about the motivation behind playing pool –  Some people play because they like to win,  others because they like to hang out with their friends and have a little fun.  However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.  These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. These are the people who  enjoy drills and practice because they can appreciate the beauty in each shot, and the practice is a pleasure in itself.  During games, they admire a good shot played by an opponent and cheer them on instead of  hoping that the other person misses.  All they care about is learning and improving and enjoying the game.

However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.  These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. These are the people who  enjoy drills and practice because they can appreciate the beauty in each shot, and the practice is a pleasure in itself.

Reading the book made me remember why I started playing pool in the first place. Since then, I’ve started enjoying pool a lot more. I’ve also got a whole lot better.  I’ve realized I don’t care whether I win or lose. Anytime an opponent makes an unbelievable shot, I usually ask them to teach me the shot after the game.  Each time I see or learn something new, I have to go try it myself. Suddenly each game  is no longer a win/lose situation but an opportunity to learn, improve and enjoy the game of billiards.

The Power of NowAnother profound book that has helped change my life is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  For a book that has nothing to do with pool, it is amazing how much the ideas from this book have helped improve my game.

The book talks about being in the present moment instead of the past or the future; about doing things for the pleasure of doing them, and not for the result. The path to enlightenment is very simple – Do one thing at a time.  Don’t think about why you started the task. Don’t think about what will happen once you complete the task. When doing the task, focus on only the task and nothing else.

The path to enlightenment is very simple – Do one thing at a time.  Don’t think about why you started the task. Don’t think about what will happen once you complete the task. When doing the task, focus on only the task and nothing else.

Eckhart Tolle convinced me that even washing dishes can be a path to enlightenment, as long as I focus on the task and learn to enjoy it  instead of considering it a chore. A couple of months after I read the book, I had this amazing experience of happiness, joy and peace. This is one book I would recommend to anyone who is not happy and satisfied with their life and wants to learn to live at peace with himself.

Putting these two books together, I discovered the missing piece in my pool game – The art of running a table isn’t just about planning ahead. It is also focusing on one shot at a time and taking pleasure in each shot.  Shooting the shot because we enjoy it, and not as if it were a painful thing that we have to get over with before we can get to the end of the match.

The fact is, even when we have a whole table to run, once we decide what order to run the balls in we have only one shot in front of us at a time. Nothing else. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. It doesn’t matter what the race is. It doesn’t matter if this is a tournament or a fun match.  It doesn’t matter how many more balls we need to make. All we have right now, is that one shot.

I try to focus on that one shot as if it were the last shot I have to play.

I look at the ball I have to make and where I am shooting.  I relax and let the subconscious mind do the aiming for me as I get down on the shot. I shoot with a straight stroke and smooth follow through. I watch as the cue hits the ball and listen to the sound of the cue ball strike the object ball. I stay down on the shot and watch as the object ball slowly rolls into the pocket and the cue ball moves towards where I intended. And then I slowly get up to see what I have to face next.  Once I make the shot, I can focus on the next shot. If I miss, it won’t matter anyway.

With so much amazing stuff going on, why would I even want to be thinking about the next shot or the previous shot? It would be like sitting at a movie theater and day dreaming about the movie sequel instead of watching the movie right in front of me. Why would I do that and ruin the amazing movie I have in front of me right now?

With so much amazing stuff going on, why would I even want to be thinking about the next shot or the previous shot? It would be like sitting at a movie theater and day dreaming about the movie sequel instead of watching the movie right in front of me. Why would I do that and ruin the amazing movie I have in front of me right now?

Over the last few weeks, especially since I started working on the bottle drill to improve my pool stroke, I have been running 6-7 balls effortlessly. And each of the times I ran a table, there was one thing in common – I was only thinking about one shot at a time.

Each of the times I ran a table, there was one thing in common – I was only thinking about one shot at a time.

The Kaizen Way – How to get past hesitation, fear and laziness to achieve your goals

A few days ago, I read a book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.  I can honestly say this book has changed my life.

The Kaizen WayThe book has a very simple message – if you find large changes difficult to implement, take steps so ridiculously small that you have no problems achieving them. An example that he gives is – if you find it hard to maintain the habit of flossing, just floss one tooth a day.

But what is the point of doing something so small?

The reason the subconscious mind fears large tasks is because it doesn’t like to break a habit or allow sudden change. What you have been doing so far in your life has worked to keep you alive, so your subconscious mind is programmed to avoid any activity that might cause big change. Anytime it senses that something you do might cause it to change, it manipulates your feelings so you lose your motivation for the task.

When the task is so small that it seems almost meaningless, the subconscious mind offers almost no resistance to it, since it doesn’t consider it a threat,  and you find it easy to do.

After a few days of achieving little successes, the subconscious mind starts enjoying the task so much, it automatically starts wanting more. While before one minute of the task seemed like enough, you now find yourself doing the task for longer periods of time – first five minutes, then ten minutes and then eventually hours.

I applied this idea to my life by making a list of several very small one-minute activities for my life based on things I wanted to do but had been putting off for too long –
1. Washing dishes or cleaning the apartment for one minute
2. Practicing the piano for one minute
3. Practicing billiards for one minute
4. Learning about website development for one minute
5. One minute of drawing practice
6. Putting on my shoes and just walking up to my gym (no exercise necessary).

My expectations and criteria for success were incredibly low, making it easy to succeed. For example, as long as I showed up at the gym, I was allowed to go back without exercising. Which meant, even on days when I was too tired to exercise, I didn’t mind showing up at the gym. And as long as I showed up at the gym, or washed two dishes, I was happy that I had achieved my goal.

What I wasn’t expecting was how startling the results would be.

In the last two weeks since I started this experiment, my apartment is super clean and stays that way, I have gone out to practice pool for several long four hour sessions, I created this website, have run over 20 miles in the gym and started playing the Fur Elise. Big tasks for me? Yes. Easy and Effortless? Yes.

Now days, I never get bored. Anytime I have a few minutes free, I can always find something to do from my list of one minute activities. What usually happens once I start is that I start enjoying myself and keep going on past the minute without even realizing it. On any day I don’t feel like doing much, I can always stop after the minute, feel successful,  and continue to maintain the habit.

An other side effect of having started this  is that I now feel happy and excited  all day long because I know that I am moving towards all my goals (one step at a time).

Playing under pressure – Using your emotions to get more focus

Ever had a lot of “pressure” during a match? Knowing that everyone in your team was watching with their hopes on you? Or maybe playing for slightly more money than you feel comfortable? Did it make you shoot differently than you would ordinarily have? Did it feel different than, say, a casual game with a friend after a few drinks?

Did you start feeling strong emotions, maybe a little jittery, maybe a little excited?

Now the real question – Would you call these strong emotions a bad thing? Do you associate them with choking and wish that you could be rid of them?

I don’t – at least, not any more.

What is the difference between fear and excitement? To me, both are the exact same feeling inside my chest, my breathing changing, my heart beating faster, adrenaline and blood pumping, and a strong sense of anticipation. The only difference between fear and excitement is how we decide to label them – If we decide the situation is bad or unwanted, we call it fear, if not, we call the same feeling excitement. But there is no real difference between the two.

All it really is, is the subconscious mind saying “this is something new that I haven’t prepared for or experienced before. I need to focus more, so I am going to pump some adrenaline and increase the body’s focus so it can do everything that it needs to”.

It is not a bad thing. It is what your subconscious mind believes you need at the moment. Even in extreme situations like car accidents, the subconscious mind gives the body exactly what it needs, an extra surge of focus and strength to get out of the situation safely.

So if this is such a good thing, why is it so distracting? Why do we choke when we have these strong feelings? Why do people freeze up during moments of extreme pressure?

Well. Simply put, instead of using that period of intense focus to complete the task at hand, a lot of us tend to waste it in fighting our selves with thoughts like -“Crap!! I’m feeling scared. Now I am definitely going to choke. I have to push away these feelings and become confident again”.

The fact is whatever feelings your body experiences at any time are exactly what it needs to feel at that moment. Instead of fighting the feelings, the simplest thing to do is accept them, and understand the message they are sending. It is so much more constructive to think “Yes. My body is in adrenaline mode. My subconscious mind knows I want to win and is helping me. I am now going to be able to use my super focus. All I have to do is take my time, and win.”

A friend of mine came up with an interesting concept. He defines a whole new emotion (like happiness and sadness) called resistance. People have this emotion when they believe that something is wrong with their current situation and complain about it instead of accepting the present moment as it is – “I should have won”, “The equipment is crappy”, “That noise is distracting”, “Why do I always have all the bad luck?”

And this emotion of resistance stops us from appreciating and enjoying the current moment and gets us inside our head arguing with reality instead of accepting it. It is this resistance which has us complaining about the bad roll we got on the previous shot or a shot we missed. It is this resistance which tells us “I shouldn’t be feeling scared and tense right now. I need to do something to FIX MYSELF so that I can play my normal game”. It stops us from using the boost that our subconscious is providing us to help us. We start complaining about or resisting the situation when we should be thanking our subconscious for the extra help.

Over the last few weeks I have been winning a very high percentage of my matches, even with very skilled higher handicapped players. One thing common about all of these tough matches was the state my body was going through at the time – Extreme adrenaline and focus. My team mates kept trying to calm me down because they didn’t realize that I was actually playing better because of it. The fact is, ever since I stopped labeling them as bad, I look forward to these moments because of how well I play during them.

People say that the only way to learn to handle pressure is a lot of experience in high pressure situations. The reason this works is because after experiencing it a few times we begin to accept and appreciate the heightened emotions as a natural part of our body and are no longer distracted by them. People who continue to fight their emotions instead of learning to accept them continue to “choke under pressure”. But the few gifted ones who learn to work in-spite of stress, pressure and emotion, reach new levels of success and inspire everyone around them. In times of crisis, these people become the heroes.

Would you like to be in the first group or the second? It is completely your choice.