Tennis Lessons for Life

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Who knew my tennis lessons would end up becoming lessons for my life?  They’ve really helped understand the blocks and ways to exchanging old habits for new.

Old Patterns Creeping In

Trying to change old habits is something we all aim for. But as we try to make a new habit, it’s so easy for the old habits to creep in and unsettle all our hard work. Understandably, if we are trying to change an old habit into a new one, it’s going to be a work in progress with some mishaps along the way. But what we don’t always realise is that it takes time to change old patterns and when the changes don’t come, immediately frustration comes into the picture.

Take for example a tennis theory: You have been playing tennis, with no learnt technique, just your natural talent, doing well and then one day you decide to get some coaching. When the coach starts to change your old habits, it feels unnatural and you can’t hit the ball like you used to.  The initial reaction would be shock, ‘I’m a natural, how did I miss that shot?!’. Secondly, disappointment in the self. Maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was. The coach knows that if you want to get better, you first need to get the techniques right but you have been managing with the old for so long. So you still want to use your old ways and can’t trust what the coach is suggesting. All in all, it starts from self-sabotage, moving all the way down the spectrum to being someone else’s fault altogether.

In the example, you can see how easy it is to go from trying something new to falling into a pattern of “I survived with old habits so far, so why does it have to get so uncomfortable now?’ Instead of this new habit of trying a new way of hitting the ball I get annoyed that I couldn’t and wanted to go back to playing the old way, in my comfort zone

Old Beliefs, Self-Rejection

So, why is it that immediately we try something different and if it doesn’t go our way we start complaining, putting ourselves down and believing that we should stick to what we already know? How do we move forward if we constantly stay in the old habits?

Complaining is easy but it doesn’t help when you are trying to learn something new. The whole concept of learning and changing is trying to find ways to combat the old with the new. When we say “I can’t do it. It’s not happening”, we are just putting ourselves down, rather than looking at the situation from a different angle. Instead, try focusing on finding a solution. Analyse and question your way to a solution. If you don’t try to find out the why, the what, and the how, then, you just feel stuck and the old patterns of frustration and annoyance kick in.

Self-rejection then kicks in as you feel that it’s just easier to do what’s old and what comes easily to you. Instead of finding the solution, you choose to ignore the whole situation and to think about it later. Procrastinating instead of going for it; or you keep going over and over the same patterns hoping that one of these will luckily work out or you give up altogether believing that if it didn’t happen the first time, it never will.

Implementing a New Pattern

In order to move forward and step away from the belief that “I can’t do this”, become like a child. Imagine that this is the first time you are learning this so the thoughts of can’t, won’t, and don’t enter the mind. If you want something to become natural, you have to repeat it and repeat it on autopilot until it comes naturally. Let whoever is teaching you, guide you until you feel comfortable. Don’t judge yourself or get frustrated as this is something new. Keep practising and repeating the new pattern. Even if it’s not working out immediately, try different ways until you find one that works for you.

When implementing the new pattern

  • Analyse with curiosity. If it’s not working out immediately, try and work out why. Observe what you are doing. Analyse how you are doing it and see if you can change anything. Instead of repeating the same pattern and repeating the same outcome, what can you change in order to create a different outcome, the outcome that you want to experience? If it doesn’t work the first time, relook at it and question what can you do differently. Accept the unexpected, and keep trying. You will always find the solution, it just takes time and patience with yourself.
  • Remind yourself: It’s recorded in me, the memory is somewhere deep inside. If we didn’t have the memory of the new pattern within us, we wouldn’t desire to change the pattern in the first place, we would be content as we were before. Wanting to change means I have the experience within me, I just have to remind myself that I can change.
  • Stay light. Repetition is not fun and can be a tedious learning experience. Stay light and be like a child. Be curious and keep going forward, but don’t push yourself thinking that everything has to happen now and now only. There is time, you’ve started the change, keep going forward with the knowledge that there will be setbacks but I will push my way forward and become the change.
  • Be in the present. Don’t rush or force yourself to create this new pattern and judge yourself when it doesn’t happen immediately. Let go of the rush. Slow down. Enjoy the moment as and when it happens. Even when things don’t go right straight away, that’s also a learning curve helping you to pave your way forward.
  • Recognise how well you are doing. The end outcome when the new pattern is created is the ultimate experience. But, recognise all that you have been through in order for the new pattern to be achieved and exchanged over the old pattern.

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