Saturday, February 15, 2014

Facing Fear

I written a few times that fear is something you need to get a handle of in order to focus on playing good pool. 

If you have fear, you have negative feelings.  Negative feelings do not allow good pool playing!  Examples of "fear" in matches are:

  • embarrassment, 
  • losing in front of friends,
  • worrying about how you "should" finish,
  • people watching you,
  • meeting your expectations,
  • playing in front of a crowd,
  • playing with adversity around you,
  • being nervous,
  • feeling pressure,
  • worrying about results,
  • thinking ahead,
  • worrying about your "status"

Basically, anything that makes your heart race, hands shake, maybe sweat a little, can't really focus on pool or your fundamentals, mind racing, etc.

Sounds like pressure, huh? 

How do you overcome these negative feelings and thoughts?  You need to reverse those feelings and start thinking positive.

As I wrote about before, I talked to Paul Potier (a coach of pros) about this very thing - embarrassment in matches - while sitting next to him at a poker table at the Riviera in Vegas in 2007.

As a well-known instructor, I took the opportunity to ask him about my latest obstacle (I had been going through embarrassment in matches for a few months - right after I worked successfully on another part of my mental game, ironically).

He said, basically, embarrassment is the same as fear. If we look at fear and confidence on a percentage level, we have 100% of them combined into a flask (my terminology). The key is to make the two "feelings" lopsided in the flask so there is more confidence than fear. He didn't tell me how to do that but it's still a very important thing to remember.  get MORE confidence than fear.

I have a few tricks I use to get that confidence:

  • Focus on what you are doing right
  • Celebrate even the smallest successes (drawing the ball well or maybe breaking well)
  • Tell yourself how lucky you are to play the game you love
  • Compare this fear to other things in life.  Is this REALLY the worse thing you've been through?  Have you been through more "scarier" things in life.  Tougher things?  Of course.
  • Think of a great thing in your life that is going on to try and occupy your mind off of the negatives
  • Think of a song and sing in your head
  • Think of things that make you smile
  • Try and have fun even though you might be nervous

Basically, re-direct your thoughts to positive things.  Being "scared" or feeling pressure is not the end of the world!  So, make yourself realize that enough you may be heaving, can't breathe, and can't stop shaking.

I, of course, also take deep breathes when that adrenaline is racing through my veins.  Breathe in deeply, hold, let the air out slowly.  That actually slows your adrenaline.

The other key I have written about before is to focus on your pre-shot routine, fundamentals, and three-ball shape.  Tough to worry about what is going on around you if your mind is solely on the game.  Of course our mind SHOULD be only on the game at hand, but we all know thoughts creep into our minds.  But focusing on the layout in front of you helps your mind focus on that only.

For other tips, click here from a past post.

HAVE FUN, People!  Keep pool into perspective.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." You must do the thing you think you cannot do. 

- Eleanor Roosevelt


Unknown said...

I watched a movie the other day "After Earth". Will Smith had this quote, "“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”

The "monsters" in the movies are blind and can only find their prey by sniffing fear. His process of not having fear is similar to what you describe. I thought it was a great inspiration for using in pool or other task, and a great quote!

The mind can only have one thought at a time. This has been said many times by many people including Philip Capelle from his book "A Mind for Pool".

Melinda said...

Oh I LOVED that quote in the movie! It's perfect! Thank you for sharing!

And yes, that reference I made about the mind can only have one thought at a time was from Capelle himself! So you referencing his book really made me smile!

Thank you so much for the comments.