The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Friday, July 24, 2015

Gateways and The Zone

The Search

I’d always had a desire to find the doors to The Zone, locate the key or keys, and then unlock the doors that the keys fitted. The fact that flow states of peak performance existed, meant that they had to be accessible more than just by chance. It seemed, to my mind, that certain factors were relevant and others were of peripheral importance, and some were just red herrings.

The Way and the Way

Then I returned to Zen and examined the Gateless Gate, and I realised that I was looking in totally the wrong direction – and the wrong way - with my metaphor of keys unlocking doors! And there is no repetitive ambiguity here in my using both “direction” and “way”, for in this regard I take them to mean two quite different things! 
For I see ‘direction’ as being orientation; and ‘way’ as being the manner in which I was looking.

Of course, once I perceived The Zone as NOT being behind doors which needed unlocking, then shapes shifted and new meanings coalesced.

For me the concept within Taoism of Wu Wei - or effortless action - became enriched with knowledge and comprehension. 
Wu Wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awareness, in which - without even trying - we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.

I noticed many practical instances of how people’s lives – on both a macro and a micro level – were changed, purely by their opening up and liberating themselves from their own seemingly unseen barriers.

I also used my role as a coach to facilitate that opening up, so that my clients, athletes and players, could gain an understanding ... from within a sympathetic training ground ethos and philosophy ... of there being an infinite number of possibilities.
Curiously within that infinite number, there is not one that involves your learning about how to “do” effortless action. In The Zone you always know what to do and when and how to do it.

So, in terms of liberating the Self, what is the nature of the barriers?

At the Airport

Look at the metaphorical analogy of the security gate at an airport. It is – for all intents and purposes – an unseen barrier. 

Oh, it may look like a doorway with no door, yet there is an invisible field where alarms go off when we try to pass through carrying certain types of baggage or effects upon our person.

It is a Gateless Gate, wrapped up in a modern disguise!

In terms of sports action (or other life performances) where we want to do well, be liberated from our own shortcomings – to throw off our own shackles even – we need to let ourselves ‘take flight’. In order to board this flight, it is necessary we pass through the security gate and have our baggage and effects checked. 

Now here is where we contradict ourselves, since there IS no room for baggage on the field of play. It gets in the way and clutters up all our pathways to playing to the best of our abilities. The boxing ring, tennis court, the football field, the snooker table – or indeed any arena you may care to consider – all get metaphorically filled with our ‘thoughts and issues.’

Imagine you, or your team, take even just kitbags onto the field of play. There will be times in the contest when you’ll find yourselves tripping over them. Add to the kitbags all those cartloads of issues everyone seems to have in their lives, and then the space will really be getting filled up and cluttered. 

Your game – however good or skilful – will then just have no chance to express itself.

Now you may disagree with this metaphor, or question the validity of the idea of our ‘mental baggage’. However, why is it that we can’t do things right some days? How is it that we’ll play poorly at certain venues, or get ruffled by certain opponents, referees or umpires?
“I couldn’t concentrate today – my head wasn’t in the right place.” How familiar does this sound?

Yet, take a look in the mirror – see, your head is still there on your shoulders isn’t it? So what made it FEEL like it wasn’t in the right place?
Yep - you’ve got it –


(Extract from Gateways to The Zone - Pathways to Peak Performance )

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Traffic Lights

Where I used to live was right by an in-town cross roads controlled by traffic lights. One particular week the electronics system that controlled the traffic and pedestrian lights was completely out of action. This meant drivers and pedestrians had to negotiate the four roads at the junction by virtue of their own perceptions, rather than relying upon the ordered and programmed logic of the traffic lights.
It was an interesting study in human adaptability on a number of levels.

The first noticeable change was in the cautionary approach, where drivers – when faced with immediate “WHAT IF?” scenarios – were both more watchful of, AND considerate to, other drivers. This might have been through being concerned to preserve the safety of self and vehicle, of course – but it was humans being adaptable all the same.

I had expected a continuous cacophony of horns and shouting as the cocooned, selfish and inconsiderate drove with only their own needs in mind – the “get out of the way and stand clear because I’m important” kind of attitude that we can witness all the time at active controlled crossings.
Yet it never happened!
People deferred to others and waved people through. It was as though “peace on earth” had come to visit this little crossroads of humanity.

However, as I watched other pedestrians and was also one myself, I became aware of another noticeable change.
In terms of man v car, the pedestrian is never in a position of ascendancy – therefore the window of opportunity for pedestrians to cross at a busy junction can only be brought about by traffic lights. Without vehicles being held on all the four approach roads at once, pedestrians will always attempt to cross at their own risk.
It is a “The Quick and the Dead” situation.

Thus I joined the other foot soldiers in using eyes and ears in an enhanced manner, to gather concurrent information from four different directions as to whether it was safe to cross. This was much more of a challenge than usual. It took some additional boldness of step and clarity of mind. The spectre of Fear stalked my streets!

The Chicken and the Road

It reminded me of the period in my life, which probably peaked around 25 years ago, when I was affected particularly badly - by stress. This impacted on me on a daily basis in a number of ways, one of which was further caution when I crossed the road.

This extra level of caution was part of my control strategy for safety and survival in a hostile environment – and it was triggered into Mind whether I was crossing at a designated pedestrian place, or at just any point.
I can distinctly remember looking left, then right, then left again, then right again, over and over. I did this far too many times – and when the road even looked clear and I had stepped into it, I was still checking, and re-checking. This was just in case a vehicle came into view and I would have to then take evasive action and make a run for it.
That, of course, was also a dangerous situation – for what would happen to me if I lost my footing and slipped or tripped over in the road? Well the vehicle would run me over wouldn’t it? 
Now whilst one may consider that only a robot vehicle would be the kind to mindlessly wipe me out – the real danger always comes from the ones driven by the people out there who are just hell bent on mowing me down.

Now I knew that this was not the behaviour of the usual ME. I knew I was a careful and watchful pedestrian and there was no need for this repeated and excessive care. Yet here I was, engulfed in anxious questioning every time I looked left and right. And the question was, “Yes but WHAT IF something comes round the corner and I’m stranded and unable to get out of the way?”
A nightmare scenario – as REAL as every bit of sensual data I was experiencing on those same streets. 

Yet it was only the construct of my over-heated and stressed-out Mind.

Adaptability and Control

Now, while I’m reminded of those dark stressful days back in my past, those old thoughts and the behaviour they triggered did not come back to haunt me. The recent challenge of being extra vigilant was accepted and executed with a clear mind - in the same way that we might take an umbrella with us if it is raining. It was all just something to be encountered out there in the formed reality of the urban thoroughfare.

As a human, this is an example of my innate adaptability – an admirable yet also learnable quality.

However, as modern humans we also like to be in control – a less admirable and also learnable way of being.

Our modern Society is full of controls and compliance requirements to make it function better. Likewise our own “inner society” – the thought driven society of our intellect if you like – also has lots of controls and compliances to make us function “better”.

Or   so   we   think.

And this is part of the problem for our “inner society”. Our intellect wants to run the show. We convince ourselves that our intellect knows best because – after all – I think therefore I am proves this doesn’t it. 

Thought-led Control usually starts with ourselves.
Once we feel we have a handle on our own control we like to be able to control lots of other things as well. We build a relationship with our “world” and we like to be able to control that “world” and everything about it and everything in it.
Sometimes we discover that our Control is under threat, so we marshal personal forces (attitude and behaviour) to fight that threat and to wrest control back from it.
Sometimes we become addicted to Control, seduced by it, and we build and train personal forces (attitude and behaviour again) to satisfy our addiction.
Most of the time, however, we just feel and follow our need for control in certain parts of our lives and relinquish the need for control in others. 

And we recognise that NEED only in parts of our lives that really MATTER to us.

Our Command and Control System

As we grow up we discover and learn about many, many things. It starts with “the world” and how “the world” works. We experience “the world” as a single entity with us placed at the centre of it. We find that when A happens, or if we do A then this results in an outcome B. If B is what we want then we now have control, because we merely have to do A to get it. We also have control if we don’t want outcome B – by not doing or avoiding A.

Later we discover and learn, usually through experience, that “the world” is much bigger than we first assumed, thought and experienced. We find we are not always at the centre of “the world” any more – so we need to discover more about Control in order to redress the situation and wrest some of that back for ourselves.

This is our adaptability in action.

The road is dotted with potholes. We adapt our original, unswerving straight line of driving to make our ride smoother – by steering a pathway that avoids as many of the potholes as we can. The more we understand the road AND the way we are driving – the more adaptable we will be; the smoother and more enjoyable our ride will be; the less damage our vehicle will suffer from the effect of the potholes.

We cannot control the road – we can only observe, know more about it and understand it.
We can control the way we are driving of course – and for this we need a greater understanding about how control works.

Control can be either thought-driven or impulse-driven.
One is slow and considered and the other is much quicker and intuitive.
One is in the foreground of our cognitive awareness, and the other is much more in the background, in a deeper or more profound place.
We say that one is more at a ‘conscious’ level and the other is more at an ‘unconscious’ level.
We put labels on these levels merely to help us gain an understanding as to how control works.

Yet – here’s the thing:
If we think and believe that control works best via a thought-driven process, then we will allow that process to take over ALL the impulse-driven controls as well. It will be like handing over some of our driving to a driver that is in the back seat of the car. That driver will have a different perspective of the road, and also be functionally distant from being able to drive well. By that I mean that back seat drivers cannot reach the pedals, gear stick and steering wheel very well – and certainly cannot do all those things smoothly and concurrently whilst studying the road at the same time. They CAN do all those things from the driver’s seat – but we are talking about the occasions when the driver’s seat is occupied by the other driver.

Take my crossing the road when suffering from stress. I believed I needed to be controlled by a thought-driven process when performing the dangerous act of crossing the road. So I gathered data in a slow and considered way – a way SO slow, that I had to keep looking left and right to keep gathering new data, because in the SLOW process the data soon passed its “use by” date. I would be stupid to rely on stale, out of date data for my safety, so I kept demanding new and fresh data.
To a casual observer I would appear to be dithering, but what was really happening was my command and control centre was repeatedly saying to my eyes and ears, “Give me fresh information!” I had lost my ability to adapt through my believing that for this PARTICULAR part of my life I needed to think my way through the process.

Similarly, if the drivers at my crossroads without lights had all been stressed-out then there would have been traffic chaos, gridlock. Instead, they were all adaptable – they enabled their ability to adapt to the circumstances. The pedestrians did too – otherwise there would have been hundreds of them stood there waiting, too scared to move.

Mending the Lights

So consider some of the issues that might be affecting the traffic in your life.

Take an analytical perspective on your command and control system to find out about how much is thought-driven and how much is impulse-driven.

Examine what is happening to your adapt-ability when some of your traffic lights stop working, or they get stuck either on “Stop” or “Go”.

Remember this particularly famous quote from Albert Einstein:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Numbers Racket

Numbers are everywhere in our lives and it seems we cannot escape them. They enable us to place a value on something, they enable us to quantify things, they enable us to categorise things, they enable a judgement of capacity and relativity, they enable us to measure – they enable – they enable.

Numbers are labels, representations, that go way back into the history of mankind – and they also go way back into our own personal history. We learn numbers very early in our lives, probably – because of fingers and toes – well before letters and words. We are armed with our own bodily means of numerical expression, and we soon gain a level of understanding about the cumulative sequencing of digits known as counting. 

Nowadays we live in “the digital age.” The presence in – and indeed the hold over – our lives by numbers is even more apparent than when I was a child.
In a world of materialism and consumption, the presence and importance of numbers is more than just as a quantifier – it becomes an identifier. In fact in a lot of cases it is the numbers in our lives that DEFINE us.

We are seduced by any form of numerical supremacy, in all areas of our lives. Whether it is to do with the BIG things in our lives right down to the minutiae, almost the infinite details, both magnitude and “minitude” are very attractive to us.
We have even coined a phrase for accepting the seductive presence of nothing, which we call Zero Tolerance. Of course, whether that is just zero zero or absolute zero – who knows or indeed who cares! “I will only accept Zero – there’s nothing more to be said.”

Now, although I’ve only scratched a fraction of the surface of this whole domain of numbers so far yet – I’d like to consider a very common and popular judged, quantified, valued, and numerical derivative that has a usage that never seems too over-exposed. 

Bucket Lists

Whether it is dealing with shades of grey or things to do before death – the daily infestation of bucket lists goes unabated.

Perhaps because there was a quantifier present, I found my attention being caught earlier by an article entitled “22 things that confident women don’t do.”

Now 22 is not what I would describe as a seductive number, so maybe instead I was drawn towards “confident women!” I usually am, but then again - who knows?
Anyway I duly clicked out of curiosity – or was it maybe to run the 22 things mentioned past my perception of the very amazing and confident women I know, just to see if the list matches them, or they match the list, or if I am way off beam with my perceptions!

I stepped into a whole new digital world! The website where the article was posted was like a buzzing beehive of Bucket Lists. Here is a sample of some of the “read this too” banners that hit my eye:
“30 Goals you should set yourself before you turn 30.”
“15 Things you may not know about single Moms.”
“13 Things only women who don’t put on makeup all the time understand.”
“5 Foods you must not eat.”
“3 Alarming facts you need to know before reusing water bottles.”
“10 Toxic persons you should just get rid of.”
“20 Quinoa recipes to keep you healthy every day.”
And so on ...

As you see the linguistic structures above, can you notice a pattern or patterns emerging?
Well they all start with the declaration of the number.
Then there’s some modal operators of necessity like should, need, don’t need and must.
YOU, too, are mentioned in most of them – which is important in grabbing your lapels of attention. Even in the list of things ONLY women who don’t put on makeup all the time understand, there’s a massive pivotal presupposition there depending upon whether YOU are one of THOSE women who UNDERSTAND. On another level this one also caught my eye – because I like women who UNDERSTAND.

Seductive? – You bet!

What might also be seducing you to go and read one particular list and be turning you off reading another?

Numerical Tolerance

We all have a tolerance level when it comes to numbers and numerical evaluation. Plus we also each have a threshold of magnitude acceptance at both ends of the scale. We understand much more if the tiny and enormous measurements are expressed in terms of something else.

So what happens in terms of bucket lists and that tolerance? Well - unless we’ve got loads of time on our hands, as a general rule small is both beautiful and useful when it comes to bucket lists. 

We’re more likely to read the 3, 5, and possibly 10 numbered ones than wading through the 30 Goals one - even if we are approaching the age of 30 from the right direction.

The same applies to 20 Quinoa recipes. Twenty? Why would anyone need 20? 
20 is attention, information, and choice, overwhelm. There is a law of diminishing returns once the numbers get beyond our Above Zero Tolerance - and, although Quinoa may be good, does it warrant a list of 20 recipes?

We’ll probably remember all 3 of the Alarming facts about reusing water bottles. We might deselect one or two of the 5 Foods we must not eat. But after that our brain glazes over like the Quinoa from recipe number 17.

OK, there are always exceptions!
I did read the one containing the number 22 –
but then I did say I’m drawn to Confident Women –
plus did I mention that I have plenty of time on my hands!