Positive avoidance

Positive avoidance basically suggests avoiding situations, places, events that could cause unnecessary worry, anxiety, or just be plain harmful.

It's smart for example for a recovering alcoholic to avoid the pub.

If there is positive avoidance I guess there must also be negative avoidance.  Avoiding situations that may cause a level of discomfort but by entering into them there is the potential to grow, to become more resilient, to ultimately flourish.

And sometimes it's just plain obvious. 

If you want to be a mountaineer, at some point you gotta start climbing mountains.

The 3 pressures - do you know what they are?

The 3 pressures.

1.  The pressure of being the 'favourite'

2.  The pressure of a 'pop corn' match - you don't know which way it's gonna go

3.  The pressure of being the underdog

Most would agree the underdog is the least of these 3 pressures, the most when having the 'favourite' tag.

Yet, so much of what is desired in training is about 'hitting up' (tennis lingo for playing against stronger opposition), in essence practicing being the underdog.

How about developing the ability to play as the favourite....to practice your attacking skills, learning to boss the court, develop the appropriate coping skills to deal with the added expectation that you 'should' win.

Economy of scale and skill - intensity without 'tensity'

Economy of scale is all about increasing production and lowering cost, as informed by my 16 year old son via his GCSE studies.

Reminds me of skill development.

If production is about increasing output or outcome (more power on the serve for example, more distance on the place kick etc) then cost is related to the input of 'effort', both physical and mental to achieve the desired goal.

The more skilled we become and the more 'effective' we are (output) the less effort we put in. We become more efficient. That's why a top athlete makes things look so 'easy' - the Federer movement as an example.

The contradiction is that we place a high value on 'effort' and external manifestations of this are applauded.  Trying hard.

But trying too hard can have adverse effects on production and effectiveness - we become less efficient.  There is too much 'tensity' in the intensity, when the goal should be 'intensity without tensity'*

Sometimes, simply the goal of 'make the task look easy' brings us out of effort and towards skill.

Defining the opponent

The opponent can be defined in a number of ways.

As a threat, a foe, an enemy.

Or, purely as someone to push you and examine you, to test your skills on the day.

Anthony Joshua on Tyson Fury's claim he will be the unified champion of the world 'inside three rounds':

"He'll bring out the best in me"

Spot on.

Magicians and mechanics

Magician's and mechanics.

That's how Paul Annacone (former American touring professional tennis player and then coach to Pete Sampras and Roger Federer who need no introduction of course!) categorises players.

Somewhere on the spectrum between a Magician and a Mechanic.

It's not a description or measure of 'talent'.

It's just the idea that the magician doesn't feel the need to hit so many balls to find their groove.

The mechanic, on the other hand, wants that volume of practice, particularly in preparation for match play.

You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Interesting descriptions of happiness - outcome v process.

Outcome is the happiness generated by achieving the goal, winning the event, buying the new house/car/whatever.  Often fleeting and having no lasting nature.

I'm reminded of Boris Becker's response on winning his first Australian Open title in 1991 beating Ivan Lendll - he described an emptiness of sorts, almost a let-down in the achievement of the goal.  Jonny Wilkinson's joy in kicking the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final was momentary, or perhaps even momentary relief in his (at the time) pursuit of perfection.

Process happiness is the happiness/joy based more on the 'journey' and the 'getting there'.  In this way, happiness has been described as more of a 'verb' - a doing thing.  And so by definition 'happiness' must include failure, mistakes, let-down, struggles.

We're always in such a hurry to get 'there' - wherever there is.  But of course, we so often find the old maxim is true:

You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Make sure to enjoy the ride.  Today, in all that it brings, is part of that journey.

The inner game definition of 'performance'

Tim Gallway's book 'The Inner game of Tennis' first published in 1975 still stands the test of time in and amongst all the modern thinking around sport psychology.

I often refer to his definition of 'performance':

Performance = potential - interference

'A tennis player first confronts in Inner Game when he discovers that there is an opponent inside his head more formidable that the one across the net.....The Inner Game is that which takes place in our mind, and is played against such elusive opponents as nervousness, self-doubt and lapses of concentration.  It is a game played by your mind against its own bad habits.  Replacing one pattern of mental behaviour with a new, more positive one is the purpose of the Inner Game.'

'It takes years to change behaviour if that's what you're looking for.  But behaviour comes out of how a player sees things.  If he sees a tennis ball as a threat, he swings as if he's defending himself, and he does 33 wrong things.  In this way, you can make radical changes in performance with only a few sentences on perception.  See what he sees before you start coaching.'

The 'rules of results' and the things you can positively influence today

What things can you positively influence today?

List them.

And pin them up.

Then articulate the things you can't positively influence today.

List them. 

And then bin them.

It's just that trying to influence things you have no influence over equals stress/anxiety/worry, and it makes sense in my own mind to positively avoid unnecessary disturbance (in the force if you're a Star Wars fan!)...

I love that concept, 'positive avoidance' - almost contradictory in nature, I'm sure there's a posh word for that!

I also choose to use the word 'influence' over 'control'.  Control holds too many pitfalls - it's so absolute, particularly when fortune and fate come into play.

This all reminds me of the rules of results (results can be defined as any 'outcome') that I was introduced to many years ago:

1.  The results you are getting are the results you should be getting - fact.  Let's take responsibility for them, no excuses, no blame.  Whether at home, relationships, school, business, or sport.

2.  You can't control your results, only influence them.  I can have a 'say' in the result by focusing on the things that will help me give my best performance - hence why so many athletes constantly talk about 'my processes'. 

3.  If you want to improve your results, first try doing what you are already doing, but 10% better.  Then consider doing something differently. 

The old definition of insanity comes into play here: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.


The difference between banter, zingers, and humour

Banter is exclusive.  You have to be on the 'inside' and when you are not 'in on it' you are pushed out and onto the back foot.

A 'zinger' is designed to elevate the deliverer and demean, belittle the receiver.  Often disguised as banter, but you know when you've been on the end of a zinger - it hurts a little, but we tend to swallow it, smile and keep going.

Humour on the other hand is inclusive.  Everyone is in on the joke.

Choose humour, it promotes a great culture.