Friday, April 1, 2011

Thinking Too Much

I think too much.

No, I don't mean in general. What I mean is that during the execution of a pool shot, too many conscious, verbal thoughts enter into my mind. Thoughts that try to be "helpful" in some way. These thoughts either distract the shot completely or at least take away the smoothness of the cue arm action.

Now, at first, it sounds like not having conscious thoughts during the shot is like not trying to think of a pink elephant. As soon as you try not to do something, it just becomes impossible. But this is not the case with my problem. Yes, I do have to focus my attention on something. I cannot not think. But what I can do is to focus on something that doesn't generate conscious verbal thoughts.

I realized this again the other day, when I decided that I should not think so much when playing pool. After reading The Inner Game of Tennis, I've realized the importance of letting the unconscious self execute the shot, but I haven't had a way to consistently make this happen. This time I used the trick of focusing my attention to the trajectory of the object ball. That is, the path the object ball is going to take after the hit. It's not an aiming trick as such. My sole purpose is to keep my attention on something non-verbal. I don't try to keep my arm relaxed, say, but I let it be relaxed.

When I'm able to stabilize my focus like this, shooting feels easy. Easy as in not requiring a lot of effort. I still don't make every ball or every position I intend, but I seemed to improve the percentages too. I was able to improve my long time Fargo score average with a significant margin. But that's just a single instance, it might have been a fluke.

Now, if this turns out to be a permanent improvement, it still requires a lot of actual practice. Whatever improvement I might be able to make is only helpful insofar as it speeds up the learning process. If my motor execution improves, I still need to practice the actual execution of different types of shots.

Another concern is that I've often come up with similar insights, most of which have since lost their original impact. But I'm beginning to think that this is what practice is for. Learning not to think.