The Session Built on Magic

One particular lad I coach (aged 14) is developing mental perspectives well outside ‘the box’ and part of the weekly challenge recently has been to explore differing mindsets and how the mind-body link with each one, plays out within the confines of his technique.

Choosing our Realities

This week I talked a lot about perspectives and realities – and how we make up our realities based upon our beliefs and experiences, and how these beliefs start out and grow. If we believe particular things about certain venues, certain opponents, certain playing conditions, certain arbiters and officials, certain selectors or examiners, certain coaches (and so on) then every one of the above “certain” scenarios is likely to have a negative or a constraining bearing (or effect) upon the way WE are going to play or perform – if we choose to let them do so.

Being at “Effect” rather than “at Cause”

The thing about all our different realities is this – each one is just one version of “the truth” – His, mine, theirs etc. The thing is that no particular one is right, no particular one is more real in the real world than the other, and of course we can choose a different one every time. However, taking this choice means we have come to a fork in the road, a fork where one way leads to being “at cause” and the other to being “at effect”. To do this we adopt a particular mindset, in order to align our view of the world with our view of the physical and mental approach and behaviour we are going to take. The choice is ALL ours – except that the choice of “at effect” doesn’t actually feel like it is a choice we have made. The causes are all external, and we are the victims.
We’re all familiar with limited beliefs and excuses such as these …

* “But HE made me do it!”
* “I was distracted – they put me off my concentration”
* “The Ref was a complete idiot”
* “I didn’t believe I was good enough”
* “Nothing felt right today”
* “My head was in another place”
* “We always lose to them – they’re our bogey team”
* “I hate xxxx – he winds me up just being there” and so on.
These are all external or internal distractions that we have chosen to react to in a non-useful way.

Manipulating Realities and Framing Success

“So, do you enjoy magic – do you like watching magicians doing tricks?” I asked him. I noticed a half smile that said he knew some shift in perspective was just around the corner – and he nodded so I continued.
“Magicians have mindsets that are centred on trapping and focussing your attention on one thing and then changing the reality where you aren’t paying attention. They also have, built into that mindset, a belief that they will always succeed.”
He was showing attentive curiosity now…
“So in order for you to ‘play magically’ there is a mindset you can adopt that is very much like that of the magician.”

The Magician’s Mindset

“Most of us go into any contest, performance, action even, with what I call two frames of mind. There’s the one based around what we want or would like to have happen – and there’s the other based on what we don’t want or hope won’t happen.”

This is akin to the famous phrase that says ‘Those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t, end up being both right’ – because their actions are geared towards proving their beliefs.

“All the things that happen in the contest, performance, action, we then set about comparing with our two frames of mind – and in this we justify ‘how things are going’. If it’s not going well then we react badly and if it’s going well then we might get complacent. Its that mere act of comparison that torpedoes our performance. However – if we go into the same contest, performance, action, with only ONE frame of mind, the success frame, the magician’s I-can-trick-you frame, then whatever is going to happen is ‘driven by us’ in advance AND, curiously, we tend not to make any in-play comparisons either, leaving them until the event is well over. It’s about changing the thinking from I-hope-to or I’d-like-to in favour of I’m going to”

“The other thing about the magician’s mindset,” I continued, “is the first bit – about focussed attention. This is all related to our manipulating our reality or, in other words, playing with and changing the balance of our sensual input. The magician will direct what we are looking at by talking to us in a certain way and inviting us to feel things in a certain place. It’s very cunning, and it plays with the balance of our senses in a way that we can’t consciously control. However, we can control it when we are being the magician to ourselves.”

Taking single-minded action

I invited him to step outside of his comfort zone and take the challenge of trying something different – and approaching it with a magician’s mindset, to be single-minded. There was a period of adjustment, especially as I hadn’t invited him to do something quite like this before. Then, once auditory sensual data and internal dialogue was turned right down, the changes really began to take place in terms of visual-kinaesthetic. He found the challenge exhilarating, physically as well as mentally tiring, and with some super-quality outcomes. It was interesting how he described it as mentally tiring, because he was treading uncharted territory, and this was something akin to hacking a new pathway through a “neural” jungle. I did point out that it would never be quite this tiring again.

The Priceless Comment!

Later when his one-to-one with me was finished and we were both engaged in some general activity with the rest of the players in the group, I made some remark to one of the others about being able to know what an opponent was going to do even before he did it. It was then that this particular young player grinned and asked,

“Pete, is this whole session this morning built on Magic?” It was quite the most perceptive question I’ve been asked for a long time.


It was a timely reminder that when we are working with clients, one of the pre-requisites for great interaction, learnings, changes and understandings, is rapport. And, for me, part of the magic of coaching is rapport and where clients then feel able to go with whatever changes they want to bring about. Although in this case I was guiding a player to break new ground, essentially part of our rapport was his trust that the new ground would be useful, purposeful, worthwhile to him as a player – and indeed as a person. Building a ground-breaking session for him within a frame of magic and artifice, was also ground-breaking for me too.

In reflecting upon our session and his amusing yet insightful remark, I have discovered that there is a great deal more for me to explore with other future clients, in terms of the concept of adopting the Magician’s Mindset.