Coaching and taming and re-framing my imagination
by Andy Howie
I’m away from home and so I’m talking this blog through with our writer, Mark, over the telephone. We don’t usually do it this way, and it feels different. Normally, we would meet face to face and catch up on family news over a cup of tea before the conversation eases gently into the theme of the blog, which often emerges quite naturally. This morning I’ve had a nagging voice in my head telling me all about the things that could go wrong with this new way of blogging: I may not be able to think of what to say, we’re time limited so there is not much room for small talk, I could struggle to find a quiet place to talk, the mobile phone signal may drop off. I’m wondering what’s going on inside me. Is it a feeling of mild panic? I know my pressure can be self-generated, and perhaps I’m just feeling the effects of a change in routine.
Pressure can come from others too with deadlines and expectations, and can also induce an internal stress response. That response is where I turn pressure into worry and activity because I feel it is important not to let others down. But I also know that I can sometimes set unrealistic agreements in haste and even though it would be fine to renegotiate expectations, I am reluctant to do so, maybe because it would lead me to feel disappointed in myself.
This morning, until we started to talk, I felt trapped in my response, in my imagination, and it initially resulted in a blank, a freeze. And it was unnecessary; I did find a quiet room, there is a strong enough phone signal and we do have sufficient time. If I didn’t watch it and catch it I think I could, fairly regularly, become trapped in my imagination. I wonder if I could turn things around and allow my imagination to lead me to a more relaxed response. Can I use my imagination purposefully and positively?
But then maybe there is some benefit in using my imagination to fear the worst. It can make me more aware and alert to danger and anticipate any risk. Biologically this would have served my ancestors well. However, if I stay in that imagined state for too long I am at risk of ignoring reality and living in fear that is not actually there.
On balance, I think it is good to develop the practice of using my imagination more positively. Elite athletes do it; they visualise things going well in the expectation that their sub-conscious will turn their thoughts of success into reality. I could do the same for work situations, but I first need to recognise my capabilities and accept that it is possible for me to achieve certain things. I also must let go of control and forcing, and allow trust to take their place, follow my curiosity and go with what is happening. In Timothy Gallwey’s work and writing on the Inner Game he recognised that in his tennis coaching this approach worked really well for players.
Finally, I can remember the past and how situations I’ve been anxious about, such as the conversation with Mark when writing this blog post, have ultimately worked out and led to me feeling relaxed. I’m sure I can tame my imagination – to some extent.
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