Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sunday Cricket Lessons - How the Mind Can be Used

There is much work for the mind in the game of cricket, in any high-performance area, in life itself. Here are a few thoughts mainly oriented to cricketers but surely to other areas too.

The Basic Unit of Mental Work is a Thought
The basic unit for the mind is thought. And the easiest (and hardest) to control. Check where your thoughts are - are they worrying too much about things or are they having an optimistic or creative bent of mind?

Every single negative thought drags you further away from your performance. It does not matter if you've worked hard, but if your mind has negative thoughts, forget it.

Negative thoughts can be about performance, about teammates, about whether you are good enough, about selection, unfairness, injustice etc etc. Just drop them and focus on keeping the first mind on the game.

If you cannot keep it positive, at least keep it neutral. Don't think anything, just stay blank and focus on the next job at the moment.

Create Nice Outcomes with Your Thoughts, Goals
The creative outcomes that you wish to achieve in your mind are what we call goals. Create pictures, videos in your mind of good outcomes, however big. They are thoughts after all, no taxes. Use your time before sleeping to create and live these goals.

Clarity is important, detail is important.

Use every single thought well. It is the seed that will spread all over the mind and shapes how your mind behaves and reacts.

Your mind can control you. But if you can control each thought, you can control the mind. Like they say, what you sow, you reap.

The Mind and Body are Two Different Things
The body and the mind are different. Most of us think of ourselves as one whole entity - mind, body etc - and that they are fully in congruence with one another. But we all also know that sometimes the mind says something and the body does something else. We know they are different.

In a perfect world, the mind and body are fully in sync. In fact, that is what our endeavour is finally I guess - to bring them into sync. But since they are not, let's see how to start the process.

The awareness that they are different is a good start. The next thing to do is that our mind is clear about what it wants the body to execute. This, it must visualise, mentally. The perfect feeling of ball on bat, the perfect drive, the perfect defence, the perfect delivery, the perfect catch. Visualise all this in the mind.

Once we have this visualisation we can turn it over to the body. Tell your body that this is what you wish to achieve. Let your mind give a clear picture of what it wants the body to do for it. When we give a clear direction, its almost as if all the cells in our body work towards making that happen.
On the other hand if we do not give a clear direction, the body acts on its own.

You can give instructions every ball, and on an overall basis. With practice you will find the balance where they act in sync. That to me, is where the zone lies.

There are two minds
As the body and mind are different, there are also two minds inside you. One is the mind that is executing (the good hardworking mind) and another the judgmental mind (the mischievous and bad mind). One wants to help you achieve your potential and the other does everything to stop you from performing well by scaring you, criticizing you. You must help your first mind and shut out the second mind whose unnecessary fears only sow doubt in your mind.

It needs discipline.

The basic philosophy to follow here is this - the mind can only entertain one thought at a time. So its either the bad thought or some other thought. What we realise is that when the bad mind gets into action, we go into a spiral, especially in a tense situation.

We must break this downward spiraling thought. . Many many athletes sing, or hum a tune, or use a word or phrase in the crucial moment so the second mind is distracted from these negative thoughts. Find that trigger and use it to break the chain of thoughts. Some people do something physical like touching something physical - Mohinder Amarnath had a lucky red hand kerchief, Steve Waugh also had it, Srikkanth had a routine of walking round the stumps etc etc. Some touch amulets etc. These routines break the spiral and keep the second mind busy while the first mind goes about executing its job without interference.

In physical space like playing a game of cricket, your muscles have what they call muscle memory. They act and react based on this muscle memory after some level of training. As athletes or cricketers your first mind has trained the muscle memory over years of practice and it knows what to do. Just keep the second mind out of the way with its interfering thoughts by giving it something to do - like counting, singing, breathing, something physical that keeps it busy.
The first mind will do its job beautifully.
Performance - Interference = Potential
(Most of these thoughts are taken from Timothy Galleway's 'Inner Game of Tennis')

Use Visualisation to Improve Performance
Try and visualise the scenario you may face and 'feel' that moment beforehand. Feel the atmosphere, the feel of your hand, the smell, sounds and sights. Do what you have to do with crystal clear clarity. Go through the uncertain part of the game in great detail and address it  -don't leave anything to chance.

When the picture clicks and you feel ready, hold that space. Now you're ready.

As a bowler, it helps to have a clear visualisation of how you see the ball go off your hand, where and how it pitches, how it moves and takes off. Once you visualise clearly, it's as if the mind has given the body a plan and every cell of your body then moves towards making that come true. Without a plan, the body goes all over the place.

It happens with bowling (think up the ball before you deliver), batting (feel in control of yourself, the feel of the bat on the ball), fielding (anticipate moving, catching, fielding and throwing).

Visualisation, like anything, needs practice. Don't be lazy with your thoughts. This could be the most important thing you'd have done. The greatest athletes have all said this - they have visualised every bit of their performance over and over again much before they actually went down to perform. From Sachin Tendulkar to Usain Bolt - they have all done it.

Use your Thoughts to Create the Energy to Influence Things
Our energy operates at a frequency. If we "think" and "feel" that the selectors or coach or captain is biased against us, we are sending out signals that anyone can pick up. These signals are primarily our  energy, which is influenced by our thinking. Such thoughts can only lower our frequency which can be caught by others as 'feelings'. "Somehow I feel his or her attitude is not right" they may say, or they may say "Somehow I feel he or she is not ready yet". These "somehow I feel" statements are coming from the sense they have about you, which is primarily originating from your way of thinking.

Your thoughts become energy and your energy operates at a frequency. It will be picked up by those who are looking for that person with bad attitude, the one who they cannot get a grip on, that someone to drop because they don't understand that person's signals.

So, change your energy by changing your thoughts.

Again, since your thoughts can only hold one thought at a time, substitute your 'low frequency' thoughts with 'higher frequency' thoughts. For example, instead of cribbing about others, be grateful that you are in the team, to the captain, to the coach and the selectors. Consciously keep your mind in good space about them (especially be grateful to those with whom you're having the most problems). Think of 10 good things about them and write them down. If you cannot think of good things about them, at least don't think bad things about them. The signals will go accordingly.

What this does is that it changes your energy and your frequency. You will no longer send a 'man, I am the victim here' vibe. You are sending 'man, I am lucky to be here and am enjoying myself'.

Who will you select of the two?

Change your thoughts and change your energy and you will see a change in the results. If you have a hard luck story, please visit your thoughts and beliefs. And change them right now.

You are the one responsible. Your thoughts are the ones responsible. Change them now.

Change the Mental Story
The stories that you have built in your head get stronger and stronger the more you think and speak about them. Especially the negative stories - about selection, unfairness etc etc. You will do yourself a huge favour by shutting up about them. That is because it will deplete that story of strength and slowly it will die.

Otherwise, your story will come true. And guess who created it. You!

"You are not a failure until you blame" - John Wooden, Legendary UCLA basketball coach

Use your thoughts to achieve outcomes
Many players visualise themselves celebrating a hundred, a five-wicket haul, lifting the cup etc. Hold that visual and let your body intelligence take over. Miracles happen as you send signals all over, to your team, your colleagues and something magical happens.
It begins with one thought.

Good luck. 


Vidyuth Jaisimha said...

Absolutely brilliant. Am going to post this blog in our Hyderabad U-23 Women's Cricket whatsup group. It's all about the mind...

G Krishnan said...

Thanks for sharing, Hari. As always, you have invaluable life lessons to share and keep reminding people who needlessly divert from the basic facts of life. A steady mind will make life uncomplicated. Nice one!