In pool, the issue of control begins with being able to control the destination of the object ball. Once that skill is established, the concept of control shifts to one of controlling the cue ball and after that it moves to controlling the table and even the arena itself. The common denominator of all of these is self-control.
It is only when you are in full control of yourself that you are able to reach a level of mastery in these other areas. Since you are the center of your universe, you bring your entire physical, mental, and emotional package with you when you step into a match. Any issues that affect your ability to control your mind, emotions, and attitude come into the match with you. That’s one of the reasons so many people are attracted to competitive pool and why there are so many mentally strong people at the highest levels. Going into a match with an equal or stronger player forces you to experience the deeper levels of yourself. If you have a strong intention to play well and win, serious competition will reveal the areas of yourself where you lack control.
Self-control is essentially control of the mind and that, in turn, leads to control of action. It shows up in daily life in terms of doing what you say you will do and in focusing your thoughts and attention on the outcomes to which you are committed. If you say you are for peace, for example, but continually indulge in violent thoughts, you have a gap in your self-control. If you say you are going to stop smoking, but buy six cartons of cigarettes in Kentucky to save on the taxes, you are similarly conflicted. To have self-control means to exercise it. It means to have goals, values, and principles and to be continually steering yourself in a direction consistent with them. It is the opposite of impulse but in no way conflicts with spontaneity. In fact, self-control is the only real basis for true spontaneity.
True self-control is not a function of force or coercion. It is not an issue of self-discipline and persistence. It does not mean gritting your teeth and grinding it out. It requires digging deep, but there is a naturalness about it that is undeniable. At its fullest, self-control is an expression of authenticity and shows up as effortlessness, ease, and high energy. When you are in control of yourself, nothing bothers you. Nothing interrupts the flow of your attention and nothing hinders the easy unfolding of the action on which you are focused. When you are in control of yourself, you are in full possession of yourself, and when you are experiencing self-control you are being yourself at a profound level. From this perspective, self-control is not a function of applying control over the self, but rather one of giving up control to the self.
This is different from the normal view of self-control and seems to fly in the face of the usual associations. Most people think of self-control in terms of shutting things down, not opening them up. So let’s turn the conversation back to competitive pool and see what we can discover. What part of pool does the previous paragraph describe? Doesn’t it remind you of something that all pool enthusiasts have experienced at one time or another? Don’t you remember? That’s right … it’s being in dead stroke.
Wow. Isn’t that a surprise! How can being in dead stroke be an example of pure self-control? When you’re in that state it seems like you’re not even present, certainly not in a controlling fashion. This can only mean that you are most in control when you have no conscious sense of being the one in control. You are totally focused on the matter at hand, and nothing interrupts or distracts you. You aren’t anticipating the future or fearing the past. You are in the moment and allowing yourself to play pool with grace and power. That’s true self-control.
Good luck good shootin’!