Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why pep talks don't work...

I came in second in a tournament this weekend, after missing an easy 8-ball hill-hill. It was the classic scenario. The seven ball was the tough one. Make it, and the 8 & 9 were easy shots with natural shape. I just got down on that 8-ball and thought a second too long, took an extra practice stroke....lordy, I have no idea what kind of stroke came from my arm, it was some kind of twisty-exorcist kind of craziness!

I just laughed, as I've been in one of those awkward periods where nothing feels quite right--not my cue, not my stance, not my stroke, not my bridge...I'm just off. I've come to accept this as a "refinement" phase, so I was surprised and happy just to be in the finals.

A fellow competitor who I've gotten to know a little bit decided to stay to root me on. Once I made it to the semi-finals he said that he was going to stay to watch me win this. He kept saying things like "You can do it." " I know you can win this thing." "All the way." Sometimes he sat next to me during the match, and when my opponent missed he'd say, "There you go!"

It was really awkward for me because he's a really nice guy and meant well. I know that I wasn't exuding confidence (refinement phase and all, you know), but I was comfortable where I was. Despite all his positivity, his comments made me feel less confident. They were meant to build me up, but they actually made me feel small.

Here is my translation of the pep talk:
"I'm not sure you're going to win this match. Its possible you could win this match, but I think you need some help. I'm going to try to encourage you to by being really positive, because I'm not confident you will do it on your own."

I feel a little bad even writing this because I know that he really wanted to see me win, and maybe for some people those words would have been really encouraging and helpful. If he had said, "That's a really tough match, you don't have a chance," it would have been much less distracting.I didn't ask him to stop, and perhaps I should have. I tend to believe that I need to develop the skills to block out anything that is unhelpful. Maybe I just need to work on how I internally translate those type of comments. Its not the first time that I've been felt undermined by them.

The mental game is so personal...what works for one person doesn't work for the next. Hell, what works in one moment, doesn't always work in the next. I think one place where people misstep is they forget to start with the present....accepting whatever mental state you (or the person you're coaching is) are in. Good mental coaching doesn't build confidence....it uncovers it. The pep talk, if not done right, is trying to cover up whatever is wrong with something pretty. It tries to compensate for doubt, which for me, makes it harder to let doubt fade away.

Confidence is an unconditional state in which you simply possess an unwavering state of mind that needs no reference point. There is no room for doubt; even the question of doubt does not occur. --- Venerable Chogyam Trungpa from Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

(This post needs some serious editing, but I haven't posted in awhile, so I'm just going to let her ride...Happy New Year!)