I have decided it is time to go to war with the EGO. Both mines and yours. The ego has, without doubt, a detrimental effect on performance and wellbeing. So let’s start to diminish its influence on each and every one of us. Remember the ego is not you but rather a self-image you have created to seek approval from other people. It feeds on power and lives in a state of fear.
If we are to perform at our optimum level then we need to remove all thoughts, doubts and that little voice in our head that says “you’re not good enough” We need to be in the present to have any chance of reaching a state of ‘flow’ If you can be present and be in ‘flow’ then you have effectively silenced the egoic voice in your head. You are in the moment and your complete attention is on the task at hand. Flow and ego cannot exist in the same space.
I have achieved the ‘flow’ state state a few times while playing but nowhere near enough. In the vast majority of games I played with ‘fear’ and my egoic voice kept telling me ‘I wasn’t fast enough’ or ‘I wasn’t skillful enough’ or ‘that centre forward is way better than you’ There is no doubt in my mind that this thinking had a deleterious effect on my performance. The fear was never far away and that voice stoked the fire. I know this fear based thinking must have been the vast majority of the time as I can remember only a handful of games where I seemed to silence the voice and achieve the ‘flow’ state. I can still remember the games when it all came very easy. I read the game with ease. I seemed to have a 6th sense of where the ball was going before everyone else did. My passes never missed a team-mate. Tackles were made and headers won with no real effort.
Even 30 years later, I can remember particular games where I achieved this state. A midweek game against Maryhill when I wasn’t meant to be playing. I had arrived late and was looking forward to a ‘night off’ However at the last minute I had to step in as we had some last minute injuries. There was virtually no time to think and my expectations were extremely low (I had even eaten a pizza about 30 mins before KO!) So it was a quick change and on to the park. Whatever happened that night, it was magical. Everything worked and it was so easy. I even capped it off with a goal. Another time was away to Larkhall. I was loaded with cold and shouldn’t have really been there but thought I would ‘sweat’ it out. I knew I wasn’t fit to play but something kicked in again and I seemed to know where every ball was going before it left. I cruised it again and had a very satisfying win. The last one was a game against Arthurlie at home in Brig O’Lea. This was our local derby and I was playing against their ‘star’ centre forward who went on to have a great senior career. I just had one of those games where I won everything and hardly gave him a kick at the ball. On reflecting over these games, there seems to be common themes at play. Firstly, my expectations were low before I started the game. Subsequently, I felt no pressure going out to play. Lastly, I was operating in the present. Consequently, the combination of low expectations and letting my game go with the flow produced some of the best performances I can remember.
I can only conclude that by removing the ego in these games and thus reducing any expectations that performance is enhanced. This raises the question on how we can achieve the flow state in every situation? If we start with my own hypothesis that the ego raises expectations, thus creating a self-image that you are then trying to live up to. Unfortunately in striving to live up to it, you are having an adverse effect on performance.
My answer is to try and kill the ego or at least try and silence it for a period. Lower your expectations (watch out as your egoic voice will attempt to hijack you!) and just go out and enjoy playing. Be present. Take it all in. Don’t think of past performances or future events, they are just another egoic distraction. Be in the ‘NOW’
I spoke to a player last week who struggled in a game despite a great performance the previous week. After chatting, I asked him what he thought the difference was. He said ” last week you told me not to care and just to go out and express myself. I felt really free and it felt good. This week I had loads of problems at school and home and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. My mind was elsewhere I just couldn’t concentrate on the game.” The results were clear:
Free mind + No Fear = Great performance
Cluttered mind + Fear = Poor performance
Our ego really does work against us. That damn constant voice questioning our every move. Until we realise that ego is a problem we will never reach our optimum. There are many ways to address that incessant voice. The first step is living in the present. If you solely focus on what you are doing then the voice doesn’t get a chance to influence your actions. You will silence it and your performance will improve.
Ignore the past, it is done. The future has a myriad of options which are too many to think about. The only solution is to live in the present. The present moment is all we have.
At the end of the day, does it really matter? We are but a spec of dust on this planet spinning uncontrollably through the cosmos. Will getting 3 points in a game really make a dent in the universe? The ego will tell you it does!
Be Here Now!