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Control the Controllables

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 on others and the situation, 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, and is caused by, an over active explicit cognition. Our attachment to the ego, need to win, look good, be accepted, excel, and so, drives many perceived threats to our competence or comfort. The conscious self, or explicit cognition, naturally has an obsessive desire to control. In fact, it is designed to do just that. When we are not performing to our ideals, the conscious brain interferes to 'save the day'; apply logic to a difficult situation. Though, the unfortunate reality, is that this over bearing explicit interference just slows us down; becomes a distraction in itself. The brain's intention to help is thwarted by its own encumbrance in the act. It distracts and overrides the very cognition we need to deliver our actions. By trying to control the situation and 'help' the situation, we foster the illusory control, inhibit our motor cortex to act undistracted, and chew up our attentional bandwidth.

Being specific about what we can actually control, and what we cannot, is 'everything' when acting in the moment.

Try it. Experiment with it. See how distracted your mind becomes when trying to control uncontrollable aspects of your activity. Become aware of how often you do this naturally.

When the moment arises. Only focus on 'controlling the controllables'!


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