Control the Controllables

Control the Controllables

Flow Sports


Most performers may have not been in this seemingly difficult situation I described in the story above, but most performers have probably felt the same way during a performance. Most performers, if not all, have had performances where we think ‘how on earth are we going to get out of this’. Our performances are often consumed with the desire to control situations, events and people outside our control. Whether it is hoping our opponent makes a mistake or praying that the weather turns, our minds are often preoccupied thinking and worrying about things we ultimately cannot control. Great athletes and performers know how to differentiate between things within their control, and not. For example, great athletes in competition know NOT to focus on the outcome goal of winning, but to focus on their process goals of the doing. When great players and performers are faced with a crucial moment during competition whether that be a match point, bowl, pitch, jump, turn, run, etc, do you think their mind is focused on the lifting the trophy smiling as they wave to their fans or imagining their opponent making a mistake, no, they focus on their movements and the next step in their performance. Their attention, no matter how tempting otherwise, is placed on what they can control in the here and now.

There is actually very little in the here and now outside of ourselves that we can actually control. We can have great influence but it is imperative this does not get confused with control. All the time we allocate energy to thinking and worrying about controlling tasks that are not in our control, we drain ourselves of useful energy. Imagine if we put all this wasted energy into the areas of our performance that we can control, how powerful would that be. The illusion is that we will gain more power if we can control these outside influences, however, the contrary is true. By trying to control the things we can not change we ironically end up disempowering ourselves as our focus and energy is expended externally. As we leak this vital energy, other areas of our performance, which would otherwise be using it, suffer. So why do we waste so much energy and mental activity trying to control the uncontrollables?

Our need to control ultimately stems from a fear of not being in control. If this fear did not exist there would be only absolute trust and confidence in ourselves. Not only is this fear to control counter productive, it is an illusion. This fear originates in self 1 as self 2 knows nothing of fear it simple just is. This fear originates form Self’s 1 attachment to the ego and need to win, look good, be accepted, excel. If self 2, not self 1 controls the body’s movements, then any attempt by self 1 to control the body’s movements are futile and wasteful when it could be better served applying simple directions to self 2. The conscious or self 1 naturally has an obsessive desire to control. When we are not performing to our ideals, the conscious often believes it alone is in control of the bodies performance, and demands it to perform better. Meanwhile the subconscious (self 2), who if left be would perform adequately from the many months of training, is only getting more disruptive signals from self 1 further decreasing the performance and chance of flow. This cycle continues when self 1 becomes increasingly fustrated with its lack of control and consequently becomes more and more obsessed with controlling the outcome. This continuum spirals deeper and deeper until self 1 either chooses to let go allowing self 2 to perform as it knows how, or the performance comes to an end. If self 1 simply directed self 2 to perform how it wanted to and then trusted self 2 to deliver, the performance would be back on track.


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