My 12-year old niece in England is an excellent tennis player who participates regularly
in county tennis matches; so accomplished that she often scores points against her
highly qualified coach and beats her father, who played tennis for his school and college
in India. Her mother, moreover, was an international badminton player. Yet, much to the
despair of her parents, she has been underperforming in many matches; almost as if she
had lost interest. Yet, she has never backed out of playing a match or practicing. I don’t
see this as disinterest, rather, I see in her such a great desire to succeed that she
forgets to play her natural game, and is pressurised futilely by the idea of winning.
Surely, many of us can identify with that. Just as, we all have a desire for for improving
performance, and not just improving it but performing at our utmost best. All the time.
What my niece demonstrates is the exact opposite of what Tim Gallaway advises “For
only when man is paying attention to something he really loves can he concentrate his
mind and find true satisfaction.” Interesting that Gallaway writes about satisfaction, not
winning. His premise being that one should only play the game without worrying too
much about the result; because you are truly passionate about it. Then there is the
ancient Chinese text, Tao Te Ching, its author Lao Tzu prescribed: “Tao never strives yet
nothing is left undone”. I discovered that this is not a convoluted, mysterious concept;
simply put, it means that one should practice hard, but at the time of execution, one can
let go of the extreme desire for winning.
Have you noticed that sometimes when performing a task, competing in a match or
sitting an exam, your focus on writing or playing is so acute that you almost forget that
there is reward at the end, that the task seems almost effortless? Nothing matters but
the racquet and the ball, the piece of paper in front of you, or your guitar and the music;
you become the racquet, pen, the guitar. In other words, you are ‘in the zone’, have
entered a state of nothingness, or as Lao Tzu prescribes, are able to ”Let nature take its
course. By letting each thing act in accordance with its own nature, everything that
needs to be done gets done.” I remember writing an exam once where I was amongst
the top three amongst about 800; it is memorable because I had truly enjoyed writing the
paper and it had seemed natural, effortless as a result. All of us will be able to recollect
Poorna Malavath, who scaled mount everest at 13, the youngest female to ever do so, is
a master at effortless action. In an interview at a Leadership Camp, she shared – “I did
not think about how far the summit is, I just kept repeating to myself all the lessons my coach taught me, and put one foot in front of the other. My12-year old niece and many youngsters from her could take encouragement from her.
So what leads to great performance, perhaps we can break it down, if not simply to an
A-B-C, but perhaps, as we have learnt, to a C-D-E:
Concentration and Consciousness: Concentrating while practicing and practicign
consciousness of just while executing but mostly while practicing being conscious of
why that task is important to you- what will you gain from it? what does it give you?
Peace? Fulfilment? Happiness? Pride? Truthfully divine your true reason.
Determination and Detachment: While practicing or preparing, determine what your
end result will be, determine what obstacles, internal or external barriers you might face
to reach your goal. When you are about to perform, know that success is also the
journey, not just the end; it is not easy to detach from the result, but if you are detached
there is less pressure on you and those in your team.
Enjoyment and Energetic connection: Enjoy the process of practice and performance;
remember you took this on for a reason that is perhaps part of a bigger goal; have fun
because there is value in that. Begin connecting with yourself and your surroundings,
become aware of the sensations in your body, your feelings, and your thoughts- connect
with that. Meditation is a great way to begin exploring this. Once you feel aware and
connected, you will be able to draw on more and more reservers of physical, emotional
and mental strength.
Performance is a subject of great research and discussion; there are many resources
online and offline. It can however be a simple matter of letting your natural skill, and
wisdom and resourcefulness take over.
In our LeadershipPro programme for school children we discuss what optimal
performance is – what helps and what impedes is in reaching attaining it; and
importantly, how to deal with failures and move on. One of the guests who regularly
spoke to the children about performance is Poorna Malavath.
– Triansha Tandan