“MIND” your skiing

Lord of the Rings

“… one ring to bind them,
in the land of More Doors,
Where the shadows lie”.
J.R.R.Tolkien.

It’s something of a misquotation, I accept. I’ve just spent a couple of days making doors for what may yet, if the planners can be persuaded to avert their gaze, or they suffer from 100% cuts, become an abode in the stone barn down the yard.

There is nothing wrong with my joinery that can’t be fixed with a couple of giant sanding machines, loads of patience and a forty gallon drum of epoxy! I am an amateur.

While sawing, morticing, routing, and so on, I mused on matters psychological because I found many parallels with the kinds of difficulties many of my skiing pupils encounter when developing their skill.

Things did not go right all the time: indeed when I am doing joinery they tend to go right rather less than 50% of it. I find myself making mistakes that I made a year ago when last I attempted any jointed woodwork. I have to go over things more than once to make sure I am not about to do something I will regret; then I go and do something I regret.

It would be so easy to succumb to self-destructive, self-critical thoughts. So easy to say to myself – “Lord! I’ve done it again – how many times must I do this? I am really stupid!” So easy except that years of coaching have helped me learn that we are not stupid, and we do have to do things over and over again before they become habitual.

Until our movements and judgements have become habituated through repetition – and good quality repetition at that, it is absolutely natural that we will make mistakes. That is how we learn. When we perceive that everything is going without error, then either it really is and we have become skilful at it and don’t need to learn, or it really isn’t going well and yet we are learning nothing – unconscious incompetence. There was a chap I attempted to coach at my oft-mentioned miserable little plastic slope I used to visit who absolutely exemplified this – he thought he was great: ignorance is bliss; so he never improved.

BE OF SOUND MIND, IT’S NOT AUTOMATIC

Because I would like to be expert at everything – however ridiculous that may be – I run a serious risk of thinking myself out of any meaningful progress toward being so.  And that may well apply to you and your skiing if you are intent upon improving.

In my amateur woodwork the actual movements that I need to make with my hands and my body in order to make a door, are very simple and I could perform them quite well by the time I was two. It is exactly the same for your skiing.

That being the case, why is perfect workmanship so elusive?  It cannot be other than either the requirement for a great deal of frequent (and accurate) repetition; perhaps to be let-in on some technique that I don’t currently know, or more importantly my thinking processes. It certainly is not a lack of desire.

So the difference that will make the difference is what I think, and how I think it. So it is with skiing development; indeed so it is with ALL development regardless of the precise nature of the activity. If we can get good at handling our thinking, we will hugely improve our physical performances.

SOME LIMITERS

Here are some of the destructive thought processes I noticed were trying to invade over the last couple of days in my workshop –

IMPATIENCE – without even realising it, I found myself getting slightly irritated if any part of the job began to take what I somehow felt was a “long” time. That is ridiculous; for it to make any sense there would have to be some kind of “optimum” time for any given element of the job, and there isn’t. It takes as long as it takes; and it takes that long because that is where I happen to be at the moment on the potentially infinitely long woodwork-developmental spectrum specific to R.J.V.Trueman, and unique to him. It’s the same for your skiing.

Anyway, I enjoy doing the woodwork, so why would I want it to end? I have done a lot blue-water sailing and I used to do it in the company of two expert skippers, one of whom was always driving the boat as hard as she would go, and the other, older, who always said he really enjoyed sailing so why would he want to rush and get to harbour any earlier than he had to?

Somewhere inside me, probably put there courtesy of some giant “significant other” before I was seven, there is some kind of unreasonable expectation that I “ought” (for Heaven’s sake!) to be better at this. Why?  As soon as I spot this silly-ness I eject it, and start having fun again.

SELF-DEPRECATION – also probably gifted to me by said significant other. Thank you for nothing. As soon as I make a mistake, I blame myself. Ridiculous. Even if this was my full time job, there isn’t anyone alive who doesn’t make mistakes – the difference between the amateur and the pro is that the pro makes fewer, and more importantly knows how to cover them up!

If you find you do this while you are developing your skiing – stop it. Mistakes are what we learn by; there are NO mistakes, only learning. In a way it’s a form of conceit perhaps, why should we expect to be better than we are? Instead, try substituting the thought that unlike the majority of folk, you are showing that you are willing to pay a price for improvement. Well done you.

DISAPPOINTMENT – Again, for quite unjustifiable reasons not easy to identify, when a joint proved not quite square, or was too tight or too sloppy, I felt disappointed; not with the joint but with myself. Crackers! I did, each time, the best I could AT THAT MOMENT, if it was less than perfect well, surprise surprise! I AM less than perfect.

Being disappointed is perhaps either just another little conceit, or maybe just evidence of what we have not until then realised was an unrealistic expectation in the circumstances.

THINKING PATTERNS

These, and other similar thoughts are evidence of thinking PATTERNS; styles of thinking about our world that we have practiced repeatedly for perhaps most of our lives; not surprising then that we have become very good at them.  They are habits.  Thinking habits like these however, cost you dear.

They cost you dear because they remain unaffected by any amount of improvement. You beaver away at getting better at something – skiing if you will – and you do; you become a much more skilful skier than hitherto. But if your thinking PATTERNS stay like those above, you are wasting your time because getting better and better will bring you no more happiness.If skiing brings you no happiness, or less than you would like, you need to change something – not many things are happier than skiing!

No matter how good you get, you can still be IMPATIENT, SELF-DEPRECATING, AND DISAPPOINTED. Or not. It is your choice. It has nothing to do with skiing, or woodwork, or skilfulness, or development or anything else: just your thinking PATTERN. We can help you change that; we have proved it. Not only can you ski better you can enjoy doing it, more.

And one thing is absolutely certain – every part of thinking patterns like impatience, and self-deprecation will retard your development as well as taking away the pleasure in it.

So here I am, forty gallons of epoxy the poorer and with magnificent doors of which I can be justifiably proud. I shall open one and pass through to a new world of happiness, jollity, gaily-coloured balloons…… excuse me, there is a man in a white coat at my newly constructed door, I must away and see what he requires ……..

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