One of the most unfortunate ideas being bantered about by coaches and some sports psychologists is that of championing trying hard, grinding, mental toughness, and the like. That has kept so many in a state of never ending frustration keeping them from closer achieving their potential – like rats on a treadmill.
Have you ever been “in the zone?” Being in the zone is about freedom – being free. It’s not about focus, effort, or toughness though those characteristics may appear to be the byproducts. Rather being in the zone is not about anything being forced or the need to be in control. It’s more about passion, simplicity, and creativity. It comes from a pure sense of enjoyment, just as children gravitate toward what excites them and then follow their passion, and express themselves fully in a playful manner without the fear of failure.
Our culture has long championed grit, grinding, and second-efforts in athletics and beyond. In contrast, there are those in other cultures that achieve superhuman physical and mental feats using just the opposite approach of stillness, simplicity, clarity and ease.
Think that I am off base? When great performers describe their peak performances they use words like “easy,” “free,” “natural,” “just happening,” “no thinking,” etc. In contrast, the same people would use words like “over trying,” “up tight,” “work,” “cluttered,” “bound up,” “trying,” and the like to describe their struggling times. It’s not about searching for a fix, and coaches who prescribe that their clients change their behavior based upon varying outcomes are dooming them to become passive victims of the waves of life.
So don’t think! Don’t think about trying so hard. Playing in the zone or your peak performance is not an intellectual exercise or making intricate calculations. It’s about putting the mind to rest, about not grinding or making conscious effort. It’s about freedom and allowing. It’s about giving up control to get control. Good performers don’t think, they know and they trust that knowing. When you play or perform from a place of understanding, your perceptions open up. Everything is viewed as a tool or asset and not cause for failure.
Willpower is the polar opposite of playing in the zone. Stillpower will will trump willpower (strength over will) every time whether you are working on weight loss or your golf game. Freedom allows us to imagine and adjust, to observe without fear and proceed.
Surely willpower may have some very visible short term benefits like getting people doing their “shoulds,” but in the long run quiet clarity coming from a place of passion and joy overcomes forced strength time and again.
Would you rather have insight or willpower? It’s when we try to will things like effort or nervousness that we truly begin to zap our strength. A better remedy is to observe what is, honor it, and just let it be – even if it’s what some might term negative. When anyone judges themselves and tries to counteract anything they feel to be wrong, they ultimately produce acidity in their body, increase their heart rate, tense their muscles, quicken their breathing, sabotage things on a subconscious level, and are ill-prepared to compete – no matter the arena.
Isn’t it about time you cast aside the noise of “mental toughness” and willpower that so many are shouting? Simply quiet yourself, observe from a point of engaged passion and stillness. Forget about “overcoming” and trying harder.
Studies have proven that when we get lost in the experience as opposed to being focused on the rewards or winning, we perform better. We perform better when we want to do something rather than must do it. Again willpower loses its punch!
When you practice stillpower over willpower, you achieve a clarity that keeps you from getting bogged down by judgment and outcomes. So keep your foot off the gas pedal of willpower and allow yourself to ascend for struggles only occur when your mindset is not clear.