Wise effort

Nathan Engel

You know how sometimes, the harder you work at something, the harder it seems to get it right? The farther you get from it and the longer it takes, the more frustrated you become, and then…it gets even harder to get it right. It’s like you get caught up in a cycle of misfiring, and can’t get a win. The emotion of agitation, the story you start telling yourself about how it’s not going according to plan, the future-tripping you dive into about what’s going to happen next, and next…these all take away from your focus, which takes away from your performance.

So how do you get a handle on yourself when it seems like circumstances are pretty well handling you?

First, you stop. Literally or figuratively, pull the plug on whatever you’re doing. Standing on the court and throwing balls at the basket with increasing vengeance each time isn’t going to sink one for you. So, just stop.

Just like that old sitcom from way back in the day, press your two pointer fingers together, blink, and freeze it all. (That’s what she did, right? The blink thing? OK, whatever.)

There you go. Good job.

Next, breathe. Big inhale, big inhale. Close your eyes if you can. Shut the whole situation out, from what you see to what you hear to even where you are. Breathe in, breathe out. Nothing else, just for now.

Give it at least five full rounds of breath, and more if you can. Get out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest.” There’s no crisis, and even if there is, a racing heartrate and disjointed thoughts are not going to get you through it.

Find the ground underneath you, pressing up against the bottoms of your feet, supporting you. Be in exactly that space on earth, for just a moment. Just focus on being there. Nothing else.

Then, open your eyes. Take another deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. With a clear mind and steady hands, try again. No emergency, no roadblocks, no issues you can’t resolve. Just a clear road to your desired outcome, with nothing – including yourself – in your way.

Photo credit: Nathan Engel

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