Why are we always on the look-out for the next shiny thing? It’s the new phone, car, trainers, clothes, game etc, etc. There is actually a name for it ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ In short, once you have your ‘shiny’ object then you soon lose interest and are then looking for the next ‘shiny thing’ We are constantly living in a state that is looking to the future while forgetting to live in the present. We have turned this adventurous, awe-inspiring, beautiful life into one that feels like we are chasing the proverbial hare that will never be caught.
So what is the station we are hoping to reach on our journey? For many of us, this will lie in possessions as we seek to get that car we always dreamed about or the watch, jewellery, house that we have aspired to for years. For others it will be the dream job or that perfect partner. No matter what, it will be some kind of goal that has been set in our mind. But who is driving the train to the station? I would like to suggest that it is our ego who is driving and the bad news is that there is no brake on the train! Our lives are getting faster and faster as we look at accumulate as many of these ‘shiny things’ as we go. Unfortunately it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.
Just as our game mirrors life in general, as coaches and players with ego’s then we are no different. We are chasing our own ‘shiny things’ It might be the striker who you are desperate for or that ‘experienced midfield general’ at under 9’s! Or that one player who will just make your team complete and bring lots of more’ shiny things’ in terms of league titles, cups and admiration from the footballing Gods. As we look to the future and plan how we achieve this immortality. Maybe it’s a scouting mission to spy on the opposition or paying our top striker for every goal he scores or dropping that player from the squad that won’t help you get those precious three points. Whatever it is, the ego is shouting at you to do it.
Bring yourself back to the present. What are you actually trying to achieve? Take a deep breath and pause. Sloooooooooow down! Instead of thinking ahead to all the good things which will happen as a result of you getting your new ‘shiny thing’ I want you to take a big step back and concentrate in putting yourself in the NOW. What does that even mean?
Let’s explore it.
As a coach, are you always trying to get somewhere? Is what you are doing always a means to an end? Is your fulfilment always just outwith your grasp? Are you running round that track chasing the hare? Do you believe if you win that Cup then you will become more fulfilled? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you will not be more fulfilled because your own ego won’t let you. Now that sounds strange as I have just said it is your ego which is driving this behaviour. Your ego is fickle and the bigger yours is, then the more it is a problem for you. Here’s why. Ok, I’ve won that cup and it feels great but then that little voice says “I want more” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and an unhealthy one at that. Your ego will drive fear, worry, tension, stress and anxiety as it constantly looks to the future (getting more shiny things) and tricks you into all these emotional states to get what it wants. In addition to the future is also looks back with all your regrets, guilt, bitterness at things which didn’t go to plan. So, your ego is constantly beating you up by looking both forward and back!
The best antidote is living in the present. As a coach or player wanting to give their best the greatest approach is to clear your mind and concentrate on what you are doing at this exact point in time. I remember Jonny Wilkinson talking about his kicking and how he had to have a clear mind by thinking in the NOW. If he was worrying about the outcome of the kick or the consequences of missing then this would have a direct affect on the accuracy of what he was aiming for. All the ifs, buts and maybe’s would have a detrimental affect on his kick. The work of Tim Gallwey in his Inner Game series also backs this up.
So why not give it a try! Go into your next game as a player or coach with a clear, relaxed mind. Where you are only thinking of what you are doing at that exact point in time. Many people refer to this as the ‘Flow’ state and many peak performer’s work hard to achieve it as it undoubtedly produces their own best performance. It is really just mindfulness but it only works as Jack Black would say. Just concentrate and take in everything that is happening in the NOW. Any other thinking is just disturbing you from being your best self. Surely, being your ‘best self’ is what it is all about? You will feel free, liberated and living in the moment and just see the results you get!
My final word to coaches and others in our game. I believe there is far too much ego in our sport. You really need to work hard to reduce Egoic Coaching. The first step is being aware that your ego is running the show. Try my suggestion of letting go of outcomes and just concentrate on what is going on NOW. If that is your next coaching session then don’t think about anything else but making it the best session you have ever given that will help your players improve by just a tiny bit. If you do that every time then just think how much development they will get and how good it will feel not to coach with the Egoic Mind.
Be present, mindful and in the NOW and the ego has nowhere to live.