The past 7 seven years I’ve been learning tennis. I started it to make friends in my neighborhood, and within a year or so I had met a group of women who have become great friends. We started around the same time and now we are hooked on the game. All of us regularly find ourselves feeling tense, insecure or angry about making mistakes on the court. Tennis regularly presses our buttons, all of us regularly threaten to stop, but then we get over it and each step of the way we learn something new.
One of the eternal conundrums about tennis, is about the fine balance between wanting to win and being relaxed if you don’t. It works very simply like this: if you want to win too much in tennis you stress yourself out and you lose. And it sucks. And you can carry the feeling for days. But if you don’t care enough about winning you lose too. And it feels, …well ….mwah. And that feels lousy and tiring too. And in that sense tennis is a mirror to life. Life is no different.
The sweet spot is that place where our uniqueness starts to shine
The holy grail in both tennis and life is the sweet spot. That place where we use our drive towards a goal to bring our uniqueness to the surface and allow it to shine. That’s when you win matches in tennis. Even if you don’t beat your opponent, you beat your internal commentator and you can leave the court feeling great. In work that’s when you are alert, in contact with your environment, daring, people want to help you, difficult things suddenly seem simple, and things start falling into place.
The sweet spot is a gentle place. When we fight it vanishes
The thing about the sweet spot is that it’s a gentle place. It appears spontaneously when our relationship with ourself is trusting and loving. But the moment we fight ourselves it vanishes.
In my tennis matches the first step towards the sweet spot is a very critical moment, usually somewhere in the first or second set when I ask myself why I’m there. Do I just want to run around hitting balls? Or do I mean to really go for it? And then my energy changes. I am 100% there, all my focus is on the ball, I have no time to think and I am enjoying myself in my alertness. I still make mistakes but I’m taking risks and creating more opportunities, and the game becomes exciting.
I also often talk to myself during tennis matches, because I know in stressful times I can use a little encouragement. And when my self talk on the court is not actively positive, it is usually actively negative.
Here’s the thing: The sweet spot never happens by accident. Never in sport, and never in life. The sweet spot comes with practice. The more you master the relationship with yourself, the more time you spend there. I’ve developed a taste for it, which is why I’ve made developing myself my favourite sport. And what it boils down to is this:
- Set goals that challenge you – because that’s where the magic happens. Make the goals yours, engage with them 100% and really mean it. If you have doubts about the goal, it will work against you. And, believe me, I’ve been there, you will suffer. And everything else in your life will suffer too.
- Provide yourself with the physical support you need (food, sleep, physical fitness, techniques, planning and the means and logistics you need.)
- Be your own supportive environment by ensuring your relationship with yourself consistently generates more love than fear. Check your automatisms from the outside in – starting from how you judge reality and what stories you believe – and dare to allow the relationship with yourself to change and develop.
The sweet spot isn’t a goal but an attitude. But the more you are in it, the easier your goals will fall into place. As if they happened by coincidence 🙂