Immersion, incubation, insight - the keys to creativity and optimal performance

Creativity sits at the heart of the Everyball philosophy alongside 3 other core values, commitment, courage and curiosity:

We are committed to fight for everyball, to run down everyball and to play everyball with courageous purpose.

We see everyball as an opportunity to explore our potential (our 'becoming selves') with curiosity and creativity.

We know that everyball extends beyond our sport as we learn the fundamental life skills (Respect, Responsibility, Resilience, Reflection) that enable us to thrive in an every-changing world.

We (at Everyball Tennis/HaltonUK) define creativity as our ability to identify, mobilise and gather all our resources to go as far as we can and the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yes really, he's a PhD, researcher and pioneer in the field of positive psychology known for his ideas on happiness, meaning, and optimal performance) defines a clear 3 step process that fosters creativity, breakthrough ideas and discoveries as well as improvements in performance whilst preventing burnout and fatigue:

1.  Immersion - total engagement in your work/training with deep, unremitting focus

2.  Incubation - a period of rest and recovery when you are not thinking about your work/training/sport at all

3.  Insight - the ocurence of 'aha' or 'eureka' moments - the emergence of new ideas and growth in your thinking/performance.

For me, the key and most left-out and ignored part of this process is 'incubation' or as I like to put it, world-class rest!  

How much rest do you get in your day, your week, your month, your year?  If you're anything like me, not enough is the answer and maybe it's time to get into some new habits around this area?  When we see rest as an active part of the equation to open up greater creativity and improved performance it might just move us on from our dominant western cultural mindset of 'if I'm not working I'm failing!'

(Reference 'Peak Performance' by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness)

Competing today? Nervous and anxious? That's good (if you view it as such!)

We all suffer the same feelings of nerves, apprehension and tension before going into competition or something that matters, be that a job interview, presentation or meeting.  It's normal and human.

However, the mindset we adopt around these feelings could have a profound effect on how we perform.

'Additional research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, shows that instead of trying to calm yourself down, 'reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement' is often advantageous.  When you try to suppress the pre-event nerves, you are inherently telling yourself that something is wrong.  Not only does this make the situation worse, but if also takes emotional and physical energy to fight off the feeling of anxiety - energy that could be better spent on the task at hand.  Fortunately, according to the authors of this paper, simply telling yourself, 'I am excited' shifts your demeanour from what they call a threat mindset (stressed out and apprehensive) to an opportunity mindset (revved up and ready to go).  'Compared to those who attempt to calm down,' the authors conclude, 'individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement perform better.'  Put differently: The sensations you feel prior to a big event are neutral - if you view them in a positive light, they are more likely to have a positive impact on your performance.'  

(This last paragraph was taken from 'Peak Performance' by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.  Bolds are mine)

The mark of a great sportsman......

This won't sound like a idea dripping with performance inspiration, but consider this.

Your success will not be determined by your very best performances and it will not be de-railed by your worst.  It will be determined by how good your 'average' is.

Your average of course is determined by the sum of your performance scores/the number of performances.  Mark a performance out of 10.

Here are five performances:  2/10, 8/10, 9/10, 1/10,4/10.   Wow, an 8 and a 9 in there, good job!  Let's sweep the others under the carpet eh?!!  The average = 4.8.

How about these five?:  6/10, 7/10, 5/10, 8/10, 7/10.  That's an average performance of 6.6.  Never quite hitting the dizzy heights, but pretty much just 'normal'.

The reality is that most of our performances will sit somewhere between 4/10 and 7/10, in the average to normal band.  It's tough to be right up there at your very best consistently (8-10) and its unlikely that you be at your very worst (1-3) that often, so most of your performances will sit somewhere in your 'average' zone.  This is your 'normal'.

The key then, is to raise the quality of your normal or even take it a step further as Martina Navratilova once commented:

'The mark of a great sportsman is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are at their worst.'

Quote of the day

In relation to Messi's recent exploits in single handedly ensuring Argentina qualify for the world cup by absolutely 100% coming up with the goods in a high pressure/stakes 'win and you're through, lose and you go home' match versus Ecuador:

Cometh the altitude, cometh the attitude

Love that.

Results follow improvement!

Great job to Everyball/Halton UK player/ambassador Beth Grey (ranked 777) who today beat 6th seed and world ranked number 300 Michaela Honcova (SVK) 6-2 6-0 in the Cherbourg 25k round of 16.

Great example of 'results follow improvement' with Beth making some significant strides forward in her game over recent months and working like stink in the gym to get fitter, stronger, faster!

Keep up the great work, onto quarters tomorrow!

The coach's job is to inspire change

Remember this one?

D x V + F > cost of change

That's Dissatisfaction x Vision + First Steps > Cost of change 

The job of the coach is to help promote in the athlete a healthy dissatisfaction with the current position (in relation to a skill, overall game, etc), then paint a picture of what 'could be' (know your outcomes), and identify first steps towards getting there. That equation must be greater and more compelling than the cost to change (generally the associated physical and/or emotional discomfort).

Your ladder to improvement

Energy spent worrying about someone else's ladder is a waste.  Focus on your own. Understand there will be periods where you may get stuck on a rung for a while or even take a step back, and there will be periods of harvest where you might accelerate by 3! Stop paying too much attention to the guy next door, it's unhelpful.

Understand also that the ladder never ends. Even after your sporting career is over, there will be something you can get better at but the attitudes and behaviours are acquired now for that!

It was a 'T' serve from the ad-court

The 'T' serve from the ad-court took a returning Shapovalov into the other half of the court, allowing Zverev the chance to go 'back behind' on ball 3!  A pattern of play we've been working on this week in the Everyball Aspire to Excel Academy programme.