: Samm Diep
Before we begin, let’s first define the word habit. Our trusty friend Merriam-Webster says it’s a “costume characteristic of a calling, rank, or function.” How do you develop a habit? Well, that’s a topic for a different article. There are many theories that believe habits can be formed anywhere from 7 to 21 to 45 days, but when you least expect it, and you don’t realize you’re doing it, that’s when you know it’s a habit.
In the best-selling self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effectively People by Stephen R. Covey, he introduces the concept of Paradigm Shift which prepares readers for a complete change in mindset. Although we’re applying similar habits, I don’t believe a revolutionary transformation is necessary to become a highly effective player. You may find you already do some of these things some of the time. The key is to do all of them all of the time, and without conscious effort. That’s when you’ll know they’ve become habits.
Habit 1: Be consistent – Form the habit of forming habits. Your mechanics and pre-shot routine are habitual reactions to your brain telling you it’s show time. When you put in the hours and develop a foundation of rock solid fundamentals, you’re building muscle memory, and that consistency is critical under pressure. Work on being consistent with all your movements at the table. You don’t need to have the exact number of warm-up strokes before each shot (unless you feel it helps), but it is important to consistently shoot only when you feel ready.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in sight – Always have a plan before you start shooting. With every rack, work backwards from the final ball and visualize the entire run out pattern in your mind. If you wait until you have two balls left, it may be too late. Remember to play position three balls at a time for every shot. It’s okay to change the plan if necessary. The pros do it all the time. Things don’t always work out the way you originally planned but without a plan at all, you’re just leaving things up to chance.
Habit 3: Put first things first – You would never put your shoes on before your socks or your underwear on after your clothes? I suppose you could but it would be awfully tricky. Most processes have an order, likewise in pool. Your shot process should be as follows: make a decision, commit to the decision, get down, and shoot. You’ll never catch a top professional player looking around the table after they are down on a shot. If you change your mind when you’re down, the process starts over.
Habit 4: Think positively – I can’t emphasize this point enough. Detoxify your life of all the negative thoughts, words, and body language. Nod when you’re ready to shoot. Step forward into the shot. Say “I can” and “I will” instead of “I can’t…” Never give up. Be confident in your actions. You could be the best player in the tournament but you’ll never win if you don’t truly believe you can.
Habit 5: Always be learning – There is always something that can be learned from every scenario. Never let your ego get in the way of learning something new. Even the worse players could teach you the most valuable lessons. Efren Reyes is arguably one of the best players of all time. When he’s in between matches, you can often find him sitting in the stands, observing, and remember what it was like to be a student of the game. An error by a beginner player could turn out to be your savior in the right application.
Habit 6: Only focus on the things you can control – Your breathing, your shot selection, your execution, your tempo. These are all things you can control. Who your opponent is, the shot they leave you, the time of your match, the table roll. These are all things beyond your control and should not receive any of your energy. The next time you find yourself bothered by something, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to change or fix it? If the answer is no then the best thing you can do is to move on until you can. Don’t allow it to consume one more ounce of thought as it’s nothing more than a mere distraction.
Habit 7: Stay in the match – This means: you shut off your cell phone before you lag, you aren’t texting your boyfriend or waiting for your wife to call, you aren’t talking to your friends in between shots, you don’t order a meal that you’re biting into every time you step away from the table or worrying about it getting cold when you’re at the table, and you definitely aren’t looking around while you’re in your seat. Stay focused on the tables and balls. Be prepared to pounce and make the most out of every single opportunity you receive.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s fun topic. I’d like to give special thanks to Mike at PoolDawg for suggesting it. While going through the process of becoming a more effective pool player, you may find some parallels with your day-to-day life and possibly even become a more effective person in general along the way. Enjoy the journey!