In all my columns I examine issues pertaining to you. I thought this time I would let you know an experience that provided a big learning moment for me.
I took up the game of pool some years ago.
And like everything I do, I jumped into it full bore and with a ferocity unmatched by any other living creature.
I practiced hours every day in this mad rush to conquer the goal quickly.
Now, in general, my enthusiasm and commitment pay off in learning and conquering new goals, but there are some that require a dispassionate approach and stretching patience a bit more.
That was tough for me.
I got thoroughly emotional whenever I missed a shot.
I quit several times out of frustration.
I had a good teacher who kept trying to get me to understand that I had to remove all emotion from the equation and become robotic.
He had me do what amounts to a ritual routine with each shot.
Chalk the cue tip, look at the shot, and imagine it happening.
Then put the chalk down and in the air pretend I am doing the shot once or twice.
Then get way down on the table and do practice motions up the cue ball and then fire.
Once I am down, no more thinking, moving, judging; just faith that my mind and body have this covered.
It took me over a year to truly give in to this ritual.
In that year, I also spent time thinking to understand why I got so frustrated with myself, giving myself a harder time than necessary or healthy.
It clearly stems from a most critical father who would constantly berate me.
This made me compensate by doing above and beyond to accomplish, but not giving myself time and space to enjoy the process and the result.
I would miss a shot and become upset with myself: "I practiced this so much, why can’t I do it right?"
Well, in fact, I can do it right — just not every time.
While the routine is robotic, I, in fact, am not a robot.
I am taking a stick with a domed surface, hitting a round ball into another round ball into a hole in a table.
Come on, that is not easy and every muscle twitch, shift of weight, blink of an eye, movement of my head can throw things off.
In other words, even if you are a pro, you will sometimes miss.
Enjoy the feeling of the movements and don’t require the perfect outcome to have any enjoyment. This experience has helped a tremendous amount to get rid of the knee-jerk response.
I was setting up my weaving loom and everything was going wrong, and the setup looked seriously lousy. Instead of getting down on myself, I just smiled, leaned over, pulled the yarn all off the loom, and trashed it.
I walked away feeling quite accomplished. Why? I just accepted that sometimes it (whatever it is) just doesn’t work, and throwing yarn away is not the end of the world.
And, most importantly, that if things don’t go as planned or hoped for, it is not a measure of your worth or general abilities.
It's just life.
Having the calm to make that decision and come back and loom another day (because weaving is very Zen and relaxing) is a big victory.
This was 12 years ago, and I am still profiting from what I learned.
I hope this story helps you.
Dr. Laura (Laura Schlessinger) is a well-known radio personality and best-selling author. She appears regularly on many television shows and in many publications. Listen to Dr. Laura on SiriusXM Channel 111, Mon.–Sat. 2–6pm ET, Sun. 5–9pm ET. Read Dr. Laura's Reports — More Here.
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