‘Keeping Your Eye on the Ball’ Turns out to Be Terrible Advice

‘Keeping Your Eye on the Ball’ Turns out to Be Terrible Advice

Those of you who know me well will know that I’m a big Wimbledon fan. So, of course, a news item about tennis was bound to catch my eye…

“Tennis players are told to ‘keep their eye on the ball’, but it’s actually terrible advice.”

… went the story.

Hmm. I’ve been told that too when I’ve played ball sports over the years. I was curious to learn more so I read on…

 

Ball, What Ball?

 

This new research reported that the tennis ball, if hit at an average of 110 mph, moves at a speed that is too fast for our eye-brain connection to process.

The player loses sight of the ball when it’s around 15 feet (or 5 metres) away — meaning they stop being able to see it while it’s still on their opponent’s side of the net.

If we can’t see the ball, then how can we respond?

 

Act; Don’t Think

 

Tennis players, like many athletes, operate from instinct. They know where the ball is going to be and they move there on autopilot. Their subconscious is so well-trained they don’t need to think.

“I tell all my coaches this,” said Andy Murray. “I play better when I’m not trying to over-think what the ball’s going to do.”

I nodded along as I read; it seems obvious to me from my experience with clients who come to me for all manner of professional performance challenges and dreams. I may not use the word ‘over-thinking’ but it’s often present in the underlying sub-text of our conversations.

Turns out it’s as true for those Wimbledon champions (and wannabe champs) as it is for you and me: too much ‘thinking’ doesn’t help our performance.

But that’s not all…

 

We Sometimes Get in Our Own Way

 

What can happen, however, if we succumb to the thinking, is that we get in our own way.

The tennis player who thinks he or she knows best, and tries to ‘figure out’ where the ball’s going to be, is simply getting in the way of his or her carefully honed instinct. The brain gets confused, and the potential to hit a bad shot goes way up.

I know it’s counter-intuitive to all us smart people, but our conscious brain really isn’t our friend most of the time.

 

Second Guess; Second Place

 

In a tennis match, there are only two places: you win or you lose.

All that second-guessing about the ball is likely to put you in the latter.

But, what about in life? How do we get to the place of having a carefully honed instinct? And where do we look if we’re not looking at the ball?

The first question is easy. We do, we learn, we explore, we practice. (Keep your eye out for next week’s email because I’m going to talk more about this topic.)

The second question is easy too…

 

Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

 

“Uhhhh??? But, I thought you said don’t look at the ball??”

Nope, I didn’t exactly say that… I said that your conscious brain is giving you poor information, so don’t believe what it’s telling you. Trust your instinct, trust the practice, trust your body to know best…

…and still follow the ball.

The tennis study concluded by sharing that, even though players aren’t seeing the ball, the cameras that followed their eye movements showed that they still look at the ball.

This is partly training, all those years of coaching advice. It’s also partly about removing distraction and finding focus. If they were to look elsewhere, that could give their brain too much information to process; leading to confusion.

 

Look in the Direction You Want to Move

 

The tennis players look at the ball, not to see it, but because that’s where they want to move.

It’s the same for us. Look in the direction of what you want to create. Just know that you’re not looking to see, you’re looking to stay focused. You’re looking to build momentum, and to stay out of distraction.

Interesting stuff this tennis! There’s so much in sport that relates to life and business. (which gives me, as if I needed it, an excuse to watch more tennis.)

If you’re a fan, then enjoy the tennis, or otherwise enjoy your sport of choice. And remember, even when the players look as if they’re watching the ball, they’re really letting their intuition and instincts about what they already know take over.

That sounds like a recipe for success in tennis and in life!

With love,

Cathy

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What’s Beyond Identity (Shattering the ‘Millennials’ Thesis)

What’s Beyond Identity (Shattering the ‘Millennials’ Thesis)

A couple of months ago I went to see Simon Sinek speak.

“Everyone always asks me the millennials question,” he said, “so let me start there.”

I was slightly puzzled because I thought he was the ‘start with why’ guy, but I sat back and listened; maybe I’m just behind the times?

He went on to give us a detailed description of the characteristics of the ‘millennial’ generation, what a tough life they lead, and what a ‘bad thing’ it is for the workplace.

[A millennial, in case you’re wondering (I was), is someone born around 1984, give or take a few years. By my calculation that’s people aged 33, +/- 5 years.]

 

The Thesis, Simply Put, Is:

 

Millennials are basically lazy, good-for-nothings with an attitude of entitlement, are unable to form deep and lasting relationships, and expect everything delivered on a plate. Yesterday.

Simon Sinek’s reasoning went like this:

1. Parents are primarily to blame for treating their kids as special.

[Phew, I escape the blame there then because my oldest child is (only) 22.]

2. Technology is to blame because their dopamine is being triggered every time they go on Facebook (it’s that ‘instant reward’ thesis that leads to social media — and other — addictions). Oh yes, technology’s also to blame for bypassing IRL (that’s in real life for us oldies) connections. Meaning that millennials are incapable of forming deep and meaningful relationships with other people.

[Oh-oh — this one could put me firmly in the danger zone! What about my friends? And goodness knows what untold damage I’m doing to my kids!]

3. Amazon (other instant delivery services are available) is to blame for a ‘no waiting’ culture. ‘Stuff’ is too accessible, and therefore these pesky millennials have no staying power; they aren’t capable of climbing mountains, they want a helicopter to get to the top and they want it now now now.

[Phew, that’s a relief then, all the more room for me on the mountain, whether it’s a literal mountain on a walking holiday, or a metaphorical one in my professional work.]

4. Big business is to blame because profit is prioritised over people. Oh, and 1980s business writers are also to blame because their theories of wringing every last drop of sweat out of people until they fall down exhausted doesn’t seem to be working. (Wow, who knew!?)

[Phew, good job I never bought into that philosophy then!]

Sinek went on to say that the first three of these have created a generation with low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations and the lack of a coping mechanism. Combine this with an unfavourable corporate culture and we have a problem. A big problem.

 

Seriously??

 

At one level we can look at the thesis, nod our heads sagely, and say, “yes, this looks like a problem. Hmm, maybe we need to ‘do’ something.”

At another, I want to shout, “Seriously??!!”

Who hasn’t ever been distracted on social media or become irrationally irritated because the internet momentarily lost connection?

We live in the world we live in, and our behaviours respond to our expectations of whatever’s familiar to us. That doesn’t mean we’re bad people.

 

My Reality

 

Sure, some people exhibit some of this behaviour some of the time. And, sure, the explanations put forward to ‘explain’ that behaviour can sound reasonable at face value.

I get a dopamine hit, I go in search of another one…

…until I realise I’ve got something more important to do.

I still manage to get work done, to cook and care for my family. My children still manage to do their school work without me resorting to draconian no-technology rules (although sometimes I’m very tempted by that one!)

And the bright, young(-ish) ‘Millennials’ I meet still manage to impress me with their spirit, motivation and commitment to making the world a better place.

Hmm, my reality looks very different to Simon’s.

 

I Generalise, and Yet…

 

Now, I accept that I’m generalising and describing something that looks true to me, so let’s have a look at what’s behind that rather than debate at the level of our separate realities.

Here it is:

What’s true for all of us is that we are human, and humans all work the same way. If something looks real to us, then we will react to it.

But this is only part of the story; an incomplete whole.

 

The Missing Piece

 

The point that’s being missed, and missed big time, is that behaving in a certain way in certain situations does not define us. It does not define me, my family members, my colleagues, clients, nor anyone I come into contact with.

We all have a deeper potential, and we all have the ability to rise above our day-to-day experience and get a perspective on what’s important and what isn’t.

This is as true for any of those maligned Millennials, as it is for you and me.

Without a problem, there’s nothing to solve

If we see a problem, we rush to find a solution.

If we don’t see a problem, then there is nothing to do.

When we create an identity for someone, as we’re doing with this ‘Millennials’ debate, we run the risk of creating behaviour, or absolving behaviour that doesn’t serve someone.

This ‘identity’ does not define us; it’s simply a way of being that we’re playing with in the moment, possibly it goes as far as being a preferred, or an habitual behaviour, but it’s something that we can leave behind in an instant.

Because it’s not who we are.

 

We Have Unlimited Potential

 

I saw this very clearly with my youngest son who faced a health challenge last year. Something changed in his reality and, therefore, he started to behave differently.

He had deep and meaningful conversations with his friends (so much for lack of coping mechanisms and shallow relationships), he was patient about the many weeks’ wait for results and the years we have to wait for anything definitive (so much for instant gratification), he doesn’t ‘blame’ anyone or anything for what happened (and yes, I admit, I do sometimes treat my children as if they are special).

And, although this isn’t a business environment, we had to navigate the large, frequently unwieldy bureaucracy of the National Health Service. And, you know what, there are talented, loving and caring people behind the face of every institution.

We’re all human, which means we’re all having a human experience, and yet, we can all touch something greater than ourselves in any moment.

Maybe, just maybe, if we looked at the world through that lens, the world might look a little different to us?

With love,

Cathy

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Dementia: Talking About Our Experience

Dementia: Talking About Our Experience

Dementia: Still a Taboo?

 

In a departure from the regular work-focused content, this conversation takes us into the domain of caring for elderly relatives, especially those with dementia or limiting mental health conditions. Listen in below as I talk to my colleague Tony Arribas who is the main carer for his mum, and also volunteers in support of other carers…

I chose this topic because I see Tony’s posts on Facebook and it looks to me as if he’s having a very different experience caring for his mum than many of my friends and connections.

Now, I know Facebook can distort reality (!) but, nevertheless, Tony has a different perspective than many people and therefore his caring responsibilities seem to come with more joy and levity than one might expect — and society would have us believe.

I was very curious about this, so I asked Tony if he’d talk with me about what’s going on for him, and what he thinks is going on for his mum, as far as he can tell.

 

The Magic is in the Meaning

 

You’ll hear us talking about how we all have our ups and downs, but we don’t need to put meaning on them, and therefore we don’t need to respond from a place that could lead us to a downward spiral.

As Tony says in the call, there isn’t anything he can do on the outside that’s going to make him feel better (or worse). Our experience is an inside job and therefore we feel better or worse depending on how fast the thought we’re experiencing flows through us. We’re never a victim of our circumstances; no matter how much it can look that way at the time.

I know this can be a counter-intuitive concept until we remember the times when we’ve seen it for ourselves. We’re not trying to convince you of something you don’t yet see, we simply want to raise a question and perhaps encourage you to be open to a new perspective.

Enjoy the interview!

 

 

 

Do You Resonate?

 

Have you had an experience where you’ve noticed your mood passes and you’re back to a more even state of mind? What if this was ‘normal’ and there was no need to ‘do’ anything? And, if you’re seeing your elderly relatives in deteriorating mental health, what if that was true for them too?

None of us wants a loved one to suffer, and so the better we understand where our (and their) experience is coming from, the more deeply we can connect, love and care for those people close to us. Which leads us to a more beautiful experience of the time we still have to spend with them.

With love,

Cathy

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‘Success’ Doesn’t Look Like This

‘Success’ Doesn’t Look Like This

After a talk I gave last week, one of the participants came up to me – Adam, a few years out of university, on the leadership track in a large public sector organisation.

“Cathy,” he said, “I’m really interested in what you said about success. It sounds totally different to what I’ve been told by other people. Can we talk about it?”

 

‘Traditional’ Success

 

Adam had already been through quite a bit of traditional leadership training, and he had the expectation that he needed to know exactly where he was going. That he should have his destination firmly in his sights, never wavering from it. That he should be stepping boldly and consistently to the place in the future that his colleagues and mentors were defining as ‘success’.

I’d introduced an alternative perspective, and he was curious.

 

The Alternative Timeline

 

“What if there is no timeline?” I’d asked. “What if we don’t know, and have no control over what’s ahead of us? Would we act differently? Would we put our focus elsewhere? Choose other actions? Make different decisions?”

I’d talked to the room about how I could make up, as I stood with them that day, that I’d still be doing the same work in a year’s time. That I’d have clients, I’d be teaching seminars, perhaps I’d create more online training. That life would look like a version of what I was doing today. I could even create plans and strategies, make up targets and start to monitor results.

Whereas most people would see this as real and a good place to aim (or at least a reasonable place to expect to arrive), I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my world could change in an instant.

 

Mum’s Crazy Ideas

 

I told Adam that I’d been in the car with my youngest son a couple of days previously, as my son had been musing about his university plans.

“Mum, I’m thinking of taking a year out before I go to university. What do you think?”

He then started to list the places he might go, what he might do, whom he might travel with.

As he talked, I found my mind wandering. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ I found myself thinking, ‘to go with him? To have some mum-and-son time, to spend a few weeks or even a few months in each of those places he’s listing?’

Now, if I voiced that idea I expect my son would have been horrified. Or maybe not? I didn’t tell him what I was thinking in that moment but I tell you because it illustrates that ideas come to us all the time — whether we go looking for them or not.

 

We Don’t Need to Act

 

I probably won’t go travelling with my son but, now that my imagination has started to see something that feels like a good idea, who knows where it will go. Maybe I will do something with that year. Maybe I’ll travel, maybe we’ll move house, who knows. I can play with the ideas as they arrive; I can choose which ones to let go immediately and which ones to try on to see whether I like the fit.

While this may look like ‘daydreaming’ to you, thinking up mad ideas I’ll never act on, I know that this is actually how life works.

 

Perpetual Motion

 

Everything comes from (seemingly) nowhere. Whether it’s the unexpected job offer, the unwelcome redundancy or the random new idea, our circumstances are in perpetual motion.

We can choose to plan for a future that doesn’t exist, but planning doesn’t make that future real.

This was the conversation I had with Adam.

 

What’s in Your Future?

 

I’ll ask you what I asked him…

How do you know what ideas you’ll have in the next weeks, months or years? How do you know what opportunities will pass in front of you, and which of those you’ll feel inspired to take?

It seems to me there’s a lot of fun to be had in imagining a future, but there’s very little point acting as if it were a final destination because life has a way of moving us the way it wants, not the way we want.

In the words of John Lennon,

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Sometimes I think of this like being on a river. We can choose to set our own direction and to battle against the current. Or, we can take advantage of the flow, we can take the forks and backwaters of ideas and opportunities that are put in front of us. We can see life as a game, as something that happens to us, where we are part of a larger whole.

 

The More I Look at Life This Way,
the Easier It Gets

 

The more I look to success as being about how I live now, rather than something to aim for, the more I seem to achieve.

The future is always uncertain; the best we can do is to respond in the moment. Perhaps we’ll like the destination, perhaps we won’t, but we can be certain it’s the one that was intended for us, even if it wasn’t the one we aimed for.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. I’m curious how you see success? Are you aiming for something in the future? Does it feel as if you’ll ever get there? Can you imagine a different definition of success based on the conversation I’ve talked about here? I’d love you to let me know.

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Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

I’m recently back from LA, the home of bulletproof coffee and the location of the first bulletproof coffee shop (Santa Monica in case you were wondering!).

If you don’t know the bulletproof coffee concept, then it’s the brainchild of Dave Asprey and basically it’s great quality coffee blended with butter and an extract of the medium chain fats found in coconut oil. This high-fat drink helps your body release energy slowly and keeps you going until lunchtime.

OK, less about the coffee and more about the concept of ‘bulletproof’…

 

Are You ‘Bulletproof’?

 

The word bulletproof reminded me about resilience; not so much the way I define and experience it, but the way that some people think of it — that idea that you have to let all the bad stuff bounce off you. Like wearing the emotional equivalent of a bulletproof vest.

That’s so crazy. How is it possible not to be affected by things that happen to us? In fact, there’s research that suppressing our emotions is harmful to our physical health.

What resilience, true resilience, looks like to me, is the ability to experience deeply whatever is happening to us, and, at the same time, to know that our experience is transient.

 

Where Does Our Experience Come From?

 

Something I work with my clients on is an understanding of where their experience is coming from and therefore an understanding of what’s real and what isn’t.

We all live in a thought-created reality, which means that none of us experiences exactly the same thing, nor do we see the world in the same way.

You’ll know this to be true if your partner or a work colleague has a serious reaction to something that, to you, looks unimportant. Or you see some people having a serious overreaction to traffic while others see it as an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a podcast or two. Same circumstances, different experience.

And, no matter how bad that experience, it’s all transient. It only looks as if it isn’t when we continue to focus on something from the past, or we continue to create a false picture about the future.

Even the deepest grief is transient. It returns to us from time to time and it can be supplanted by joy and laughter at other times.

 

So, Resilience…?

 

Understanding this is the essential nature of resilience. All our experiences pass, which means we all have a natural resilience.

I think of it like a PlayStation game (comes from living with teenage boys!); every game comes with a reset button. The boys play all out to win but, if they meet an opponent unexpectedly and lose the battle, they simply reset and start over.

It’s the same in life.

Our natural resilience is a reset button; it isn’t a layer of bulletproof emotional kevlar.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What’s your experience here? Have you tried to ‘tough it out’? Maybe tried to convince yourself that you need to ‘be strong’ when the going gets sticky?

How about you forget that approach and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are coming up for you. Know that — no matter how bad — your experience at this moment is going to pass.

You have the exact same natural resilience as everyone around you because that’s how the system works.

You are resilient because you are human.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you have questions or thoughts about this post or you’re curious about understanding your innate resilience, please message me – I’d be happy to help.

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