tyson stare.jpg

 

 

 

Last week, I got told I looked "scary", "like you wouldn't want to cross me in a dark alley" and had "the cold look of a serial killer".

 

Don't worry - I didn't do anything that would make you an accessory to a crime by reading this.

 

I took part in an exercise that was something akin to a mass staring contest.

 

For 10 minutes, we took turns to stand one foot away from different people and look at them expressionlessly. Any change in expression would be signalled by our partner at the time with the intention of alerting us to our fluctuation so we could learn to self-monitor better.

 

One foot away in an invasion of what most people consider to be their 'personal space'.

 

Looking at somebody in the eyes for anything longer than a few seconds is pretty odd in our culture.

 

This was an exercise in noticing and learning to manage uncomfortable emotions brilliantly designed by the guys who ran The Life Event last week.

 

If my partner laughed, I almost automatically laughed at the start. At the end of 10 minutes, I had weakened my automatic behaviour and was able to stop myself from laughing before I started.

 

Aside from my laughs, I was not signalled once for any flicker in my expression. I guess from my job I am used to detecting minor physical differences in myself and others so I was well-prepared. 

 

The thing is, physical differences and emotional/psychological differences are all inextricably linked.

 

When touched, we change our emotions and thinking.

When spoken to, we respond with our body as well as our mind.

 

We speak about ourselves in parts but we're really one whole that can't be separated. It's just easier to speak as if we can.

 

 

What the guys from The Life Event and I know well is that having a greater influence over our 'body' is an easy way to influence our thinking and feeling.

 

If sport is merely a physical act to you, I invite you to reconsider.

 

These other facets of us influence the levels we reach and our consistency so, so much.

 

One man who knew this intimately was Mike Tyson.

 

Regardless of what you may think of Mr Tyson outside of the ring, in the ring there aren't too many who wouldn't rate him at his peak as of the greatest boxers, if not the greatest, of all time.

 

Here are some of his words on eye contact.

 

"I walk around the ring but I never take my eyes off my opponent. Even if he's ready and pumping and can't wait to get his hands on me. I keep my eyes on him. I keep my eyes on him. Then once I see a chink in his armour - BOOM - one of his eyes may move, and then I know I have him. Then once he comes to the centre of the ring, he looks at me with that piercing look as if he's not afraid. But he already made that mistake when he looked down for that one tenth of a second. I know I have him. He'll fight hard for the first two or three rounds but I know I broke his spirit."

 

Mike was a master of intimidation.

 

But here's the thing. He never intimidated one of his opponents. Not one.

 

That little flicker he saw in them was them intimidating themselves.

 

Nobody from the outside, without physically moving us, can directly affect us.

 

They can say what they want, do what they want, look at us in whatever way they choose and at the bottom of it all, they can't make us do a thing with those methods.

 

We respond in certain ways to what they did. And whether it feels like it or not, we have choice in those ways.

 

Many times, we don't feel that choice. We think that what happens outside draws a natural response that brings with it no choice.

 

Sorry to any cupcakes reading this, but it just isn't true.

 

We control our response.

 

There's only you that influences your thinking.

 

Only you can regulate your bodily tensions, your breathing and those changes of expression and eye contact.

 

 

Developing that choice of response so that it feels like an easy choice takes a bit of time and a bit of discipline but is possible for all of us.

 

 

Tyson could control his state in the ring better than his opponents (at his peak before he began biting and drug binges anyway).

 

I learned in a few minutes to better influence myself through better regulating my bodily responses in a situation that is no longer so uncomfortable. Given a bit longer, I could have probably been able to do so without looking so cold and scary. My look should have been reserved for Mike!

 

How useful would more self-influence and self-control be for you in your sport and in your life?

 

 

 

 

Arton "See you in the dark alley" Baleci

 

 

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