In our previous post on The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt 2), we introduced Self 2 as the do-er and Self 1 as the teller. We gave a common example of the two selves interacting within a tournament, and described the concept of being “in the zone”. For The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt 3), we will look at what is needed to achieve that “in the zone” mentality. By the time you finish reading this post you will have the tools necessary to build consistency around playing at your peak.
The intention of the this post and the last two is to help you rediscover The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete. It’s very easy these days to become mentally cluttered while trying to improve. There is a ton of perceived pressure that comes from social media that clashes with our desires and goals. The Natural Learning Process empowers us to focus all of our attention into our performance.
By reminding us of what we are capable of doing and have done, we can effectively get out of our own way. We find the ability to communicate with the portion of our brain that has a true impact on the outcome of each and every game. To do this, we have to learn how to speak with Self 2 more than we do with Self 1.
Quieting Self 1
In order to reach “in the zone” or peak performance, we first have to work on quieting Self 1. The very concept of being at your peak performance is when everything just flows. Almost with a level of spontaneity. You’re in a childlike state of mind, an unthinking-thinking. While in this mode its as if everything has disappeared around you, and nothing but the task at hand matters.
Attempt to speak about this mode while in it, and it will disappear as fast as it arrived. Self 1 wants to speak about it. Wants to take credit for it, and wants to judge it. Self 1 would have you believe that playing at your peak coincides with your results. Meaning winning equals being at your peak. Let’s take a second and reflect on this idea.
Is winning playing at your peak? It would seem that way. Since it feels as though you can’t win unless you’re at your peak. However, this thinking doesn’t take your opponents into consideration. So if I beat my opponent because my opponent was playing exceptionally poor. Does that mean I was at my peak?
This is important to consider to help identify what playing at your peak is, and what it feels like. It doesn’t always result in a win, or a series of wins. However, it does result in your best performance in that given time, or the most mental clarity for that given time. Mental clarity being critical for maintaining peak performance.
So how can we quiet Self 1?
Letting Go of Judgement
The first step we can take to quiet Self 1 is to learn to let go of judgement. Judgement is Self 1’s favorite form of language. It’s much easier than instruction, and it satisfies an emotional need. No matter what type of exchange you have in any game, you can be sure that Self 1 and judgement are waiting to jump.
Lose an engagement: (insert your own colorful language below)
“That was a bad play”
“Why would I do that”
Judgmental statements like those give Self 1 an opportunity to have a say in what happened. If it was negative, then Self 1 can start criticizing and dictating. It’s quite amazing to see what the judgmental mind can do. First it may judge the event itself. “That was a bad game.”. After it may start to generalize and say things like “I’m just playing poorly today.”. From there a few more games may turn into “I’m just bad at this game.”. Eventually leading to “I’m just not good and never will be.” The judgmental mind can eventually even judge itself!
The major concern with judgmental statements is that they serve as a distraction. They distract from important information that Self 2 needs for improvement. For example, where were my eyes at the moment of engagement? What was I thinking about? How was my posture? None of those questions have any judgement associated with them, and the answer to those questions may help me improve in the next engagement.
I’ll use myself as an example. I typically don’t play a ton of FPS(First Person Shooter) games. My aim isn’t necessarily top notch. However, something I noticed in losing gun fights is that my wrist is in the wrong position. I seem to naturally slide my wrist into this resting position and often times don’t realize it. After a few bad gun fights I decided to take note of things other than the outcome. It didn’t take me very long to realize that my poor aim was due to the starting position of my wrist, and the over correction that followed. Now that I have made the adjustment, and my wrist can be in the ready position more often, I find that I have drastically improved my aim. Self 2, the do-er, now has the information required to consistently perform. If I relied solely on Self 1 to make those adjustments it could be tied to the emotional outcome of each engagement, which would lead to inconsistent results. If I spent all of my time judging each of those engagements as ‘bad’ engagements, I could never zoom out and identify the core issue. I may even end up telling myself “Well I don’t really play shooters, so……”
Judgement Is Subjective
A good way to let go of judgement is to realize that it is largely subjective. At least more subjective than you may have realized. Consider the example I just gave. Those ‘bad’ gun fights, were actually good for my opponent. The presence of both perspectives makes judgement less concrete, and thus easier to let go of. Instead of being a bad engagement, it just simply was an engagement. An engagement that should be looked at to understand why the outcome was the outcome. Then be able to make corrections to better improve the next outcome.
Let’s use tennis as an example. In tennis there are effectively 3 different people engaged in each play. The 2 players and the line judge. If one player makes a serve that the line judge deems “out”, that’s a point for the receiver. Although ‘bad’ for the server, it’s ‘good’ for the receiver. However, the line judge doesn’t care about bad or good. The line judge simply has to see the ball where it lands. This allows the line judge to be clear of mind, and able to make clear consistent calls. The same can be offered to a player who has served a ball outside of the line. Instead of slamming their racket and yelling at the judge, losing all track of their abilities. They need to simply just accept it, check their grip and move on. Once realizing that their grip was too tight, they can make the natural adjustment without putting pressure on themselves.
Communicating With Self 2
Now that we have started the process of quieting Self 1, it’s important that we start to communicate with Self 2. There are a few ways to do this but for this post I am going to focus on one.
One of the best ways to communicate with Self 2 is to ask yourself for qualities. Meaning make a mental picture of the qualities you want to exhibit. If you want to be the player that remains calm in pressure situations, make a mental picture of that. If you want to feel as alert and focused as possible, then make a mental picture of that. The concept of creating mental images, an ideal result, will help guide you to achieve it.
Here’s an experiment that you can do to feel this in action. Before you start your next play session, watch a professional player. Don’t watch it with a judgmental mind and make self comparisons. Don’t even watch with the idea of trying to learn something to implement in your own game. Instead just quietly observe. Just let what they are doing sink in. Don’t over analyze or think too hard. Just simply observe from the beginning of the game till the end.
Now after that observation head into your own match. Continue to keep judgement detached and watch yourself play at a higher level. It can and will typically happen. Self 2 is absorbing the concept of quality, and then will attempt to reproduce it. I’m sure you’ve experienced these types of moments where you watch a tournament and then feel inspired to play. That is Self 1 wanting to emulate, Self 2 is what makes the difference in how you play.
Building Trust With Self 2
It is important to create a new type of communication between yourself and your abilities. This is one of the only ways to keep Self 1 at bay enough to consistently reach peak performance. Self 1 will always exist, your goal isn’t to remove Self 1. But it is to find a harmony between the two as we stated in our previous post.
To accomplish this you have to learn how to respect your own capabilities, and remind yourself of them often regardless of exterior results. Too often we can find ourselves conflating our self worth with our performance results. You will also have to ask yourself for non-judgmental approaches. Asking for form in how you sit or hold your controller. Asking for results in how you aim or move. Focusing on the aspects of performance that don’t revolve around judgement or outcomes. Practicing with precision, and then trusting yourself to execute. Allowing yourself the ability to put the work you have committed to into the game.
Knowing that you have made it this far, and that you have accomplished great feats in gaming. Understanding these concepts, communicating with Self 2, and allowing Self 2 to make the necessary corrections will help you get closer to peak performance. Fostering that consistency and finding your way into the zone more often.
“Are you telling me that I can just go out there and play without thinking and I’ll do better?”
No. There will always be things that we need to learn, things we need to improve upon. What I am saying is to let those things happen. If you don’t know how to do something, then allow yourself to learn without internal criticism. If you know what you’re doing, then allow yourself to do it. Observe it, make note of it, and allow yourself to make the necessary changes to improve. Forcing it, or trying too hard will only result in an inconsistent performance.