Internal Chatter IV

I think of time off, like weekends, as sacred time. A time that is just for me. By not planning many engagements I’ll have more time to myself and the more ‘me time’ the better, right?

But maybe this isn’t so. The more I engage the more I am fulfilled. On the contrary, vacant slots of free time are indeterminate. The only thing that defines the start from the end is have-to-do’s like work.

The solution is not as simple as cramming free time with things to do. There must be a balance – alone time is valuable – and when I decide to engage in something I have to commit to it and see the innate value. And not just the value for me but the value for others. I’m not always going to get a pearl of wisdom when spending time with my grandmother though I’m told she feels a sense of pride when visited by her grandson. For me, that is value.

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Internal Chatter III

We deliberately construct our own stereotypes.

I want glasses because I think it will make me look smarter. I tuck my shirt in because I want to appear professional. I wear a beard to convey ruggedness.

Others do the same and it doesn’t just apply to how we dress or groom ourselves but how we carry ourselves. Two-metre Peter strides into a room, chest and chin up with a firm look on his face. He’s showing not only is he tall but powerful and confident too. Just as easily, people can convey indecisiveness, anger and fear.

I have gotten to the stage where, when I want to buy something I ask myself, ‘What do I think this will do for me? What stereotype am I trying to create?’ I’ve been yearning to buy a four-wheel drive and initially, I tried to justify the purpose, telling myself I’d explore the outback and drive off-road often. Though as I dug deeper, I realised the true purpose of the vehicle was to build an image of adventure, exploration and fearlessness. I want people to see me this way, even though my actions (four-wheel drive purchase aside) indicate that’s not the case.

Will a purchase change the way I act? I don’t know. Will I become adventurous if I did buy a car that typified adventure? It could. But I think the change needs to be internal. I can still be a bold explorer without a hulking four-wheel drive. I must focus on my actions, not things.

Internal Chatter II

Doubt.

Is this person right for me? Am I wasting my time in this relationship? Should I leave my job?

I doubt others and other things but should I doubt myself? I’m constantly asking: whether I’m capable, whether I have the capacity and whether I’m good enough.

But even if I’m not good enough, what’s the worst that could happen? I could fail. Yes, it will sting a little. Sure, I might feel a little embarrassed. And there’s every chance I could disappoint others too.

But so what?

Are you putting in your best effort? Yes. Have you asked for help? Yes. Have you given it ample time? Yes.

Then what’s the problem?

The problem is you’re too critical of yourself. You see another person living a life you think you would desire and you wonder why your life doesn’t look like theirs.

Be patient. Yes, life is short and you must move quickly and take chances but remember chances arise everyday in everyday life. That challenging colleague who doesn’t respect you provides an opportunity to prove him wrong. That manager who fails to support you – tell him your concerns, make him listen.

You don’t have to travel or be constantly moving for doors to open just keep your eyes open.

As for that weird feeling of discomfort and doubt that seems to sit in your throat. Laugh it away. Surprisingly, it works.

Internal Chatter I

A good life is one that gives me the freedom to build upon meaningful relationships, improve myself and create a positive difference in the world around me.

I want to feel content rather than regretting mistakes or worrying about what could happen in the future.

At the moment, I’m a little off. I’m too judgemental and critical of others. I take situations seriously when a light-hearted approach would work best. I struggle to see how fortunate I am. I’m blessed with good health, a support network and the opportunity to thrive.

While it’s important to seek improvement and not to settle for mediocrity, I need to understand the value that each moment offers. Stop thinking you’re expected a to do certain things. There is no pressure; not external pressure anyway. My discomfort is because I feel I don’t match up; I’m not doing the best possible job every single moment.

But this is not possible nor is it sustainable. Not for anyone. It leaves no room for error and humans are prone to making mistakes. Remember that, you’re human. An animal, not a machine that can be programmed to run at an optimum efficiency. You have flaws and that’s OK. So you like to watch TV from time to time, that’s no reason to feel guilty. Unwind and relax.

And when you make mistakes do you acknowledge it or make a mental note: next time I’m in a similar situation I’ll behave differently? There is no right answer; do what feels right.

As for the flaws of others, the annoying habits, the funky quirks and the things that rub you the wrong way. Laugh them off. Get used to them. They are cues to lighten up. Habits, by nature, happen often and by letting them dampen your spirits, you’ll be in for a wretched time.

With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham

Rifle shooting is a mental game. But Lanny Bassham, author of With Winning in Mind, argues all sports are dominated by the mind.

The gold medallist’s book covers ‘mental management’. Though his practices have been developed as a player and coach, Bassham insists his principles will produce results in all areas of life.

If you put your mind to it…

Lessons

Focus on the process

Bassham uses sporting analogies to teach us to control our performance and not waste energy on external factors outside our control. He stresses putting in a ‘winning performance’ – your best effort – and forget about winning the gold medal. Bassham argues, if you’ve done the work in training, your best performance will mean winning.

By having the intent to control what’s within our grasp also takes away the pressure of winning and that further sharpens our focus. We may walk away from competitions empty handed but focus on the process will ensure contentment regardless of the outcome, knowing we’ve achieved a personal best.

Self-image

What expectations do you hold for yourself?

We’ve all experienced times when we’re overperforming. Upon recognising our performance is ‘unlike us’, we begin to fall away to our expected level.

My brother and I played table tennis often in our younger years and Bassham’s section on self-image got me reflecting on our sweaty battles. I was regularly on the losing end of my brother’s paddle. But at times I found myself ahead only for my game to fall into a steaming heap. I still have nightmares of him standing with arms aloft in victory.

If we hold higher expectations of our abilities (combined with practice) then improved performance will soon follow.

Mental program

Rafael Nadal has a serving routine:

He stutters around the court until making it to the service line. He picks at his underwear then gracefully strokes the hair from his forehead. After bouncing the ball a precise number of times he glares at his opponent and tosses the ball in the air…

Rafa’s superstitious set-up is in place for good reason. He uses these movements in sequence to trigger his mind into a state of focus. You’ll see examples in all sports from weightlifting to cricket.

To create a mental program Bassham points out it should be simple and repeatable. Usually, it involves both physical and mental cues. An example for a powerlifter’s squat routine might look like this:

  • Put on belt
  • Check the weight on the barbell is correct – left side first then right
  • Grip the bar outside shoulder width
  • Bring chest to bar three times
  • Get in position under the bar
  • Verbal cue – “hips out”
  • Unrack the bar with two steps
  • Squat

Strength

With Winning in Mind is a practical book. Bassham describes ways to apply the key principles and offers personal examples – his own and those of his athletes.

You’ll walk away from this book with more than theoretical knowledge on what a ‘mental program’ is but also how to make your own effective program.

Weakness

I’d recommend With Winning in Mind for people involved in a sport, particularly sports involving repetition like shooting and swimming. But for the rest of us, I found the concepts less useful as many  were based on competition.

Rating

7.5 hammed bass