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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aiming without Aiming - How to shoot pool like a pro in three months

This blog has moved to www.adityaravishankar.com

If you like this post and would like to read more of my pool related posts, please check out my new blog at www.adityaravishankar.com

When I first started playing pool (billiards), I considered myself an average player. I could never be sure if I would make the next shot, and running two or three balls in a row was a big achievement for me. I read books on aiming systems like the ghost ball system, and different drills. However I still saw a clear difference between "easy" and "difficult" shots and trying advanced things like position play would make me miss my shot.

Some time back I heard the term "subconscious-competence" and about the subconscious mind. This is the same thing that allows us to walk without having to logically plan every muscle that needs to be raised to take each step - We just look at where we want to go, decide we want to go there, and then automatically end up there. It is also responsible for the times when we might get distracted while driving, thinking about all kinds of other stuff, and suddenly realize that we have reached home without remembering any of the turns, traffic lights or other cars on the road.

I don't think that we were ever really meant to be conscious learners. The conscious mind can handle about 5-9 things at a time after which it zones out. The subconscious mind can apparently keep track of EVERYTHING, including things the conscious mind wouldn't even dare try.

The only thing the unconscious mind really needs is
1. The initial desire or thought from the conscious mind - Creating the goal
2. Trusting signals from the subconscious mind - following your instincts
3. Allowing the subconscious mind to learn and train itself for the goal - Allowing mistakes to happen without labeling or judging them and not getting frustrated by them
4. Getting out of your own way - Letting the subconscious mind do everything instead of trying to take over the wheel while it is doing its work.

Three months ago, I wrote down in my notebook, a thought addressed to my subconscious mind - "I refuse to aim. You do it otherwise we both miss". For three whole months, I did not aim. I just looked at the pocket I wanted the ball to go, and just shot the cue ball without aiming with any system... Talk about a crazy, unrealistic, leap of faith...

A few days after I began, when the first difficult shot went in without aiming, I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed it was just luck. Over the next few days as more and more people started noticing my consistent shooting "luck", I started getting an ego. If I did miss, I forgot rule 3. I didn't realize that when I missed, it wasn't that my plan wasn't working, it was just that my subconscious mind hadn't trained itself for that particular shot yet. It took several days just to accept any misses and not try to control with my conscious mind.

Now days every shot is "easy". I spend exactly 0 seconds planning the shot. I just look at the pocket, look at the ball, wait for that "YES" signal in my head, and shoot. It goes in on its own. I don't aim or shoot. My subconscious mind does. I don't take credit for the shots since I never really shot them. I saw it shooting some amazing shots which blew my mind. It was almost like my subconscious mind was a different person, who was shooting through me. And as it overtook me with its skills, it earned my trust and respect. I no longer dared to compete with it or try to take over the steering wheel again. I knew, that as long as I stayed out of it's way, it would do the job better than I could have ever hoped to.

But this wasn't the real shock. Now that I could shoot without shooting, I wanted to see how far I could take it, and what limits my mind had. My next goal was to run a table (run all 7 balls, and the 8 ball in one go without giving my opponent a turn).

Again, I wouldn't plan it or think about it, just make a goal and trust my subconscious to do whatever was needed. Over the next few days, I found myself wanting to shoot one particular ball versus another, without any logical reason. I would just look at the table, see a particular ball and think to myself- "I like that one, that is what I will shoot next". Trying to logically decide which was the best ball to shoot actually messed things up.

One week later, I broke and ran the entire table when playing with my team captain - or rather my subconscious mind did. Now days, running 4-5 balls is almost a regular occurrence. Three months ago, I would have laughed at that possibility.

The funny thing is, I don't even have to be paying attention to the table while I am shooting. I can be thinking about taxes or some movie I watched. In fact, anything OTHER than aiming the shot. The balls just go in on their own. I seem to get so zoned out, I seem to lose track of time and place. I can now play entire pool games and not remember shooting even a single shot.

With the success in pool, I had to push things further. I now started setting broad goals for all areas in my life, just trusting my subconscious mind to handle it. Since then, I've had more synchronicities in my life than I can count. Accidentally finding about just the book I needed to read, talking to the one person who can help me with a project. All I have to do is stop wanting my goal or trying to get it. Just do what I feel like doing. My subconscious mind seems to take care of ensuring that I feel just what I need to feel to achieve my goal. Every few days I have to adjust my goals to make them harder and bigger. Frankly, I don't think the subconscious mind has ANY limits.

I think some people call it being in the zone. Some people call it instinct. Some people call it muscle memory. Some call it trusting a higher power. Whatever you choose to call it, trusting your subconscious mind can let you live life the way it was always meant to be - effortless

If you like this post and would like to read more of my pool related posts, please check out my new blog at www.adityaravishankar.com

2 comments:

Ernie Reynolds said...

Fascinating concept and one that I have used in the past without even knowing it. Thanks for a great article. I will be working to develop this ability further in my life.

jbiddle said...

This is great stuff. I've found that my best performances are always associated with doing exactly what you describe, letting go and allowing your subconscious mind to be in control.

The difficulty I have, and that you don't seem to, is how to actually accomplish that on a regular basis. I have a number of posts on my blog about this, but I still find it difficult to achieve. If you have any tips on this I'd love to hear them. I'm heading over to you Pool blog next.