“When you don’t care whether you win or lose, you play full out. Then you’re really dangerous because you can win. If you don’t care about the outcome and you’re playing for the point right there, the ball right there, then you possess a lot more power. You are more dangerous because your energies are not conflicted.”
Sally Huss, tennis player, Game, Set, Match: A Tennis Book for the Mind
“The secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.”
Tim Gallwey, peak performance expert and author
Many of us have some goal in mind as we write — some “win” we want to achieve: We want to finish our novels, get them published, reach a lot of people, establish ourselves. All this makes sense, given everything I’ve learned about keeping my eye on the prize and effective goal-setting.
But over time, especially after learning more about peak performance, I’ve come to realize that I’m much more productive when I focus on effort rather than the end game — when I focus, in the moment, on writing the best sentence, finding the most vibrant word, and crafting the best paragraph. Let’s look at Sally’s advice and see how we can apply it:
“Don’t care about whether you win or lose” — Just for today, let’s go of the outcome, of where our work is going to take us, of getting to the finish line.
“Play for the point” — Let’s focus on the ball “right there” in front of us: the sentences we’re crafting, the plot point we need to fine-tune, the chapters we need to juggle.
“Play full out” — Whatever small piece of our work we’re focused on, let’s give it our total attention and energy. Let’s tackle it with laser-like intensity and give it all we’ve got, right in the moment, where it counts.
“Possess our power” — When we’re in the moment, totally focused, and not draining half our energy away by wondering about how we’re doing and whether we’re making progress, then we are truly marshaling all our power: the power of devotion, intention, and effort. We are in the zone.
Let’s play “full out” today for the “ball right there” — the job at hand — at let the rest take care of itself. Write on!