A Recipe to Perform Well

Nov 12, 2022

How can we  “Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing” as Tilopa said?

Learning to play or perform without expectations. 

One of the student athletes I’m working had to take a few weeks off from their sport to recover from an illness. Another had to take time off because of injury.

Upon returning to the field/court, they both said that while they felt rusty, they had little to no expectation of having to play their best They felt a sense of ease. Of course, the athletes were not wanting to play poorly and desired to perform well, but they understand that they might not be able to play their best right now given their recent time away off

This mindset shift allowed each athlete a sense of freedom because we cannot control the actual outcome of our performance anyway.  It kept the athletes focused on what they could actually control.... commanding their effort and attitude with which they put forth in their performance.

Open to all possibilities yet attached to none of the results.  We can then play with more freedom and focus and less pressure and pain. What a recipe to perform well!

Here are three ways to free our minds from expectations:

1. Get into the Process.  I know, you've heard it before to focus on the process, not the outcome.  That sounds wonderful, but how we do this?  By getting in to the focus and flow of our body as we perform. Feeling into our body motions as we hit our shots, make our strides, take our swings. It is not a "Thinking" about your shots, strides, or swings. It is a "Feeling" into those. When you bring your focus into the sensations of your body and movement, you immediately turn down the thinking mind which is where expectations reside.

2. Train your Focus.  It's not enough to train our physical body and sport specific skills and tactics, training our focus is critical for performing more consistently in competition like you do in practice when there is often less pressure. The best way I know to train focus is through mindfulness of breath, body, or senses. The key to it is focusing on something like your breath as you breathe in and out, noticing when your mind drifts away from the target (in this case the breath) and re-directing your focus back to the target.  FOCUS-NOTICE- REDIRECT.  In this way training focus is the art of re-focusing, over and over and over again. When you train your focus, you can better keep it on any target of your choosing.  If you do, expectations drop aside allowing you the freedom to perform your best.

3. Crumble up Thoughts of Expectations.  Our minds can get filled with lots of clutter before a game or practice that get in our way of performing our best. Expectations are at the top of the list but there are many other things. Maybe you had an upset or frustration or are just excited about something not pertaining to your sport that you’re having a hard time letting go.

One thing you can start to do before every practice or competition is to physically write down all of those thoughts, expectations, and experiences on a piece a paper, fold it or crumble it up, and then put it in your locker or gym bag. That is a signal for your mind to let go of those thoughts so you can give your full attention to your practice or game. Then when the game or practice is over, you can go back to those thoughts or just choose to forget them. You can use your smartphone to record those thoughts too.


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