The Book of Judgement

At the end of a coaching session last evening I was watching a lad bowling a tennis ball at his brother.
The first one went wide to the left – and the second one went wide to the right. There was plenty of huffing and puffing, shrugging of shoulders, and a chorus of “I can’t bowl with tennis balls – they’re so light.”
It was an interesting array of excuses and beating himself up – all tilling and making fertile ground for seeds of self doubt to come along and germinate.
So what,” you might say – “we’re human – we do that all the time.

The thing is, for us to have learnt how to beat ourselves up and make excuses, we must have had a teacher or teachers, from whom we have modelled our behaviours. At this point in our young lives we take our models as exemplars, and firmly believe this is the way the world is. We are not judges of their energies or wisdom, we just code up our experience with readings from their Book of Judgement; whether we are surrounded by those with a spirit of understanding, generosity and learning through experience, or whether we are surrounded by one-eyed perfectionists!
What happens then is that our own growing and expanding Book of Judgement – and its inherent hierarchy of values – is taking shape based upon our, understandably immature, comprehension of the nature of the data in our world.

We learn very young what happens when we cry out for attention, and also the kinds of expressions and responses we get from others when we are doing things and learning to do things. These are the building blocks of the way we are framing up our maps of the world.
Consider the difference we might notice when someone says to us, “Do it again, ” as compared to “Try again.” The first is merely an overt instruction to repeat – whereas the second is a covert instruction to repeat plus a presupposition that a) we’d got it wrong, made a mistake and b) that we were trying in the first place.

Yes, but isn’t this all common parlance?” you may ask.
Well, yes and no – but whichever way you look at it there’s quotes in there from someone’s Book of Judgement, not ours!

When the word “try” is employed and, with young ears, we get to hear it a lot, we build an understanding as to what it means. We then take with us the idea that whenever we hear it, and whoever we hear it from – that it always means the same. So – what starts to happen when we hear it used in a phrase such as “try harder”? It’s always said like that, too – not “try more”, which is what the real intention is behind the instruction.

There’s an interesting exercise you might do with a group of adults, which is to get them to demonstrate – in a physical way – what kind of pose and posture they might adopt in order to be seen to be “trying harder”. There’s a tension in the bodies and limbs, a clenching of the fists and or jaw, and so on. Any relaxed or grounded state is probably the furthest away thing on view. And when we adopt this state and posture – what are the chances of us actually giving the task (mental or physical) our best shot?

So, for the young lad I was observing, his next effort after two “errors” was probably going to be framed in “try harder” mode. Arguably, therefore, a good time for me to intervene.

“Joe when you bowl allow your front foot to land. That way you’ll have stability. Sometimes when you bowl you release the ball before the foot has landed – so you are only balanced on one leg. And when you are moving and on one leg your balance isn’t as strong as when you are on two! Allow that front foot to land and see what happens.”
Joe bowled, allowed the front foot to land and – Hey Presto – the ball went dead straight, exactly where he wanted.
Cor,” he said, “How do you know all the answers!
“Ah,” I said, “I don’t know all the answers. I do know most of the questions, though – because I’ve seen lots of people bowl and there aren’t that many questions!”
He laughed and carried on bowling, most of the time allowing his front foot to land – and knowing when he bowled wide that he probably hadn’t allowed it to land.
The other thing that may already have started to happen, is that some of the pages in his Book of Judgement have now been updated with a degree of objectivity that may begin to filter into other chapters.

In conclusion I would like to offer you two things to consider.

Have a good look at the words and quotations in your own Book of Judgement. Are they useful for you in your life, or are there some that might need to be updated – especially if you’ve brought them with you from a very early age.

And finally …
Sport is fun – Sport is learning – Learning is fun – Sport is life – Learning is life – Life is fun.