Superstitions, Insights, and Playing Better Tennis!

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Don't walk under ladders. Always maintain eye contact when you 'cheers' someone. See a magpie, salute it. 

Wikipedia describes superstitious thinking as "any belief or practice that is considered irrational: for example, if it arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality."

So what helps us to 'see through' superstitious thinking? The answer is - insights. 

In the coaching work that I do, I often ask people about insights; what insights have you had since our last conversation? (And no I'm not referring to how many ladders have you confidently walked under this week or magpies have you blissfully ignored!)

Insights (aka. lightbulb, penny drop, or aha moments) the Cambridge English Dictionary describes as "a clear, deep, and sometimes sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation." 

As human beings, each of us has the capacity to have insights, in fact, you've been having them all your life. I had an insight just this week. 

Early on Monday morning, I was driving to where I play tennis to join a group of people for some coaching and matchplay; this was the first time I'd been in as many months due to an injury. As I pulled up to the traffic lights, I became aware of some physical feelings that if I were giving it a label, I'd call anxiety. 

My first response was what's that about then, where's that coming from? - as my mind went into automatic detective mode, delivering me a list of possible options. 

Is it the coffee I've been drinking on the way over here? Or the tennis I'm about to play?

You see as humans, we feel all sorts of emotions on a daily basis - happy, sad, excited, anxious (all quite normal) much of it goes unnoticed, but the minute we become aware of what we're feeling, we immediately put our detective hat on and try to find the reason, invariably opting for something 'outside' of us.

Have you noticed that? We *think* we're on to something following those clever lines of enquiry, but actually, the reality is - it's all one big misunderstanding - albeit an almost invisible one. 

And for the first time in six years (since I've been playing the game) I saw the misunderstanding. I found myself replying to my inquiring mind in a way that pleasantly surprised me: 

Well, it can't be the tennis. That's impossible.

Wow! When did I realise that?

Because it wasn't always like that; up to that point, I had a 'thing' about getting nervous on the court. I'd even made up rules, which looked real to me. 

  • I'm fine doing a few rallies with someone, but as soon as we go into a match situation, I get nervous. 
  • When I'm playing in a competition, it takes me a whole set to 'get into it' (by which time the first set has probably been won by the opponent). 
  • As soon as I have to serve, I go to pieces. I even gave it a name 'the serves' (nerves/serves - get it?).

I know I use a silly example such as tennis here, but we really could be talking about anything, couldn't we?

All these made up rules. The thing is, they absolutely look tried, tested, and true...until the moment they don't. Until the moment, you see right through it, and you call it out for what it is: superstitious thinking. 

Back at the traffic lights, I realised I'd had an insight. I knew instinctively, that the anxiety I was feeling was not coming from the tennis court, or the people in my tennis group, or the coach, or the balls, or the serving I was going to be doing or the matches I'd be playing. Our feelings can only ever come from thought taking form in the moment. Previously, I'd known that logically, now I knew it insightfully. Deep within my bones. 

A wave of calm washed over me. All the deep breathing, the futile attempts to remember techniques or strategies in the moment (whoever does, really?), none of that was necessary now. Because when you realise something insightfully, the behaviour naturally falls into line - towards something much more appropriate for the task in hand. We can call that the 'happy side effect!' 

Just like Santa Claus, once you see the truth, you can't 'unsee' it. 

One of my lovely clients, Vicky Westmore, Founder of The Little Creative Workshop said this, following a few weeks of us working together over the summer. 

“It's like the most obvious thing in the world is right in front of you, but you can't see it, and then suddenly it becomes clear and you wonder how on earth you didn't see it before."

That's an insight. As human beings, we have insights often. The thing is, we never know when one is coming, but when it does, you know about it. Nothing has changed on the outside, but on the inside, you feel pleasantly different. Things feel a little lighter, and you have a quiet, joyful knowing that things will feel a little easier from here on in. 

It's when something shifts quite naturally in your mind from:

I know it's ridiculous but... to I know, it's ridiculous. Full stop.

I wonder, what insights you've had recently, or indeed will have in the coming days and weeks? Do leave a comment and let me know, I'd really love to hear from you.  

A word on private 1:1 coaching...

If you're curious to know what it would be like for us to do some coaching together, then I invite you to experience it - first hand. Think of something you've been preoccupied with in your mind recently; that's what I suggest you bring to the session. We might as well make it count, right?

I offer a complimentary one-hour coaching conversation, via video/audio call that you can use for any area you like: work, life, health, wellbeing, or relationships. Then, if you like what we do together and we agree there's a good connection, we can then create a coaching programme that suits you. 

Just go to the coaching page on my website, and book yourself in from there.

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