The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


There was an amusing episode at the end of our rugby strength and conditioning session this week, where – just for fun - the players were leapfrogging tackle bags stood on end. It all went well until one of the guys decided he would leapfrog from a standing start. He got up fine but had no forward momentum and landed on the top of the bag. With his weight, the bag then collapsed and he went down with it, landing horizontally on his back on top of the (now) flat bag.
Remember that TV activity game Wipeout? Well it was like a scene in that!

This got me thinking about how things go much better for us when we are grounded compared to when we’re stressed out and tense. In terms of the player, all eyes were on him, he was trying extra hard to impress, plus his body was tired after an hour-long session. In terms of grounded, he certainly was afterwards – even if not before!

Our Thinking versus our Groundedness

It is all in the nature of life how we feel about things ahead of time, how and if we attempt things, how well we do things, and how we get to feel about ourselves afterwards.
Of course this colours how we might do these same things next time, right down to whether or not we even attempt them.

I used to subscribe to the notion that the more thought I put to doing something, the better I would be. “Get your mind around it!” I would keep repeating to myself – “Focus!”
Does this sound familiar? Is this you, or your team mates? Is this your manager, your boss, your teachers? This idea of it being “best practice” is - to my mind - a total myth.
If it is “pay attention” that they want, then surely you are already doing this. What you really need to do is to “Get your mind out of it!” The only focus you need to do (if at all) is visual – and that is all part of your necessary processes anyway.

You need to be grounded for optimal execution of the tasks in hand – and thinking about anything, especially about anything personal, will degrade the optimal level.

Lock-out or Wipeout
Executing closed skills, after the set up, requires total lock-out of thought. There is a ratio of lock-out to wipeout – more of one leads to less of the other.

So what about complex processes – where tasks are stepped in a linear or sequential way or maybe in a concurrent way?
A good example is driving a vehicle where there are both types of complexity happening. Now for the learner there is plenty of focus AND attention going on, and part of getting to grips with driving skills is to master the shifting nature of that attention.
In terms of Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic there is a huge amount of incoming data – and when we are new to driving we are very ‘clunky’ when it comes to dealing with things in the visual field. We LOOK in the mirror instead of glancing, we LOOK to find the gear stick or pedals instead of feeling for them with our hands and feet. We’re so busy paying attention to what is happening outside and inside the vehicle that we don’t totally hear what is being said to us by our instructor or passengers.
Eventually we trade in our white knuckles and L-plates and cope admirably with the complex processes. That is, until circumstances are tweaked and our abilities are tested. That is when we’ll try and think our way out of the problem. And when we do, lock-out diminishes and wipeout becomes a distinct probability. Whether it is icy roads, alcohol, fog, or anger - the skills always degrade.

If we are grounded then there is a smoother linkage between all our concurrent and sequential processes.
Being grounded in our lives

All of us are fairly capable of many things on a functional level – we can all do plenty of stuff to a reasonable level of competency. If we are GOOD at something then we become more competent and more functional. If being EXCEPTIONAL at something is what we want, then the biggest hurdle we need to be aware of is the level of groundedness required from us. We need to develop an ability to locate that ground when necessary.
If there is something we are NOT GOOD at and would like to get on top of, or get better at, then again groundedness is a huge factor in sustaining our progress towards more competence.
It’s interesting to view the progress of celebrity competitors every year in Strictly Come Dancing. These are people who have excelled in some other part of their lives and are now taking on a particularly complex set of skills and disciplines around expressive movement. Listening to their language, witnessing occasional scenes from their practice times and viewing their week-by-week execution of the dance, it is a showcase of both their progressing skillsets AND their ability to draw upon levels of groundedness within their psyche.

In essence being grounded is about having a good relationship with ourselves. A relationship that supports us by knowing that our feeling is down to our thinking – and that if we’re feeling down or low then it is looped in to our thinking also being down or low. How we nurture and foster that relationship is surely one of life’s most fundamental quests.


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