Routine or Superstition?

I was listening to a podcast called Against the Rules. Specifically the episode The Coach in Your Head. As of now (Oct 2020) the podcast has two series. One covers referees, and the other coaches. This particular episode is part of the series on coaches.

This episode is all about how you can coach yourself. And that (even) the best coaches focus on raising awareness within the individual, rather than instructing them on what to do. 

The approach stems from a person called Tim Gallwey, and what is now called, the Inner Game. Named after the book Tim wrote called the Inner Game of Tennis. The premise of the book is about working with you inner thoughts. Harnessing them where appropriate. Silencing them at other times. Some have called it the art of relaxed concentration. 

In order to get into that state – of relaxed concentration – we adopt routines. Or apply superstitions. These are really obvious in sports. Players talk about their pre-game routine. Or their pre-goal shooting routine. Commentators also talk about players needing to do the same. Researchers investigate them.

But at what point does the routine change from something that helps us get into the state of relaxed concentration? To something that we MUST do in order for success. Without it we cannot be successful. 

Again, sports provide a good case study of this. Steve Waugh famously had a red handkerchief. Peter Brock had a box of crystals. There are heaps of examples of male, and female team sports players wearing certain clothes, putting their clothes or protective gear in a specific order. 

So how can or does this relate to be a researcher? 

I’m not sure… Because I am not you. 

But I bet there are things that you do or don’t do because of their impact on your inner game. 

Maybe you only write your grants or journal articles on a certain computer. Or while you’re in a specific place or space. 

Or maybe you’re avoiding writing because “I can only write in set blocks.” 

Or maybe you have no superstitions. And no routines. And, maybe that’s why your writing, or data analysis or data collection is so variable. The lack of routine. The lack of creating a state of relaxed concentration? 

I’d love to know your thoughts.

Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He specialises in delivering high quality strategic advice to the education, research, and government sectors. He is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart, making academic ideas practical; the art of the #pracademic. Richard’s clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.

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