In a transition? Energy lagging? Play a different game.

Play a different game during transition.

In my mid-20s I was on a steep learning curve as a competitive squash player in Cayman. I was at the club every evening after work and, in addition to coaching and formal training sessions and matches, I’d play anyone who wanted a game.

One day I was asked to play a match with someone quite a long way below my current standard. I’d played them a few times before and somehow that day found myself less than energised to play them again. I saw my coach was at the club, so spoke to them just before the match. Their advice to me when I told them I wasn’t energised to play?

“Play a different game”

When I asked my coach what they meant, they simply said:

“go on to play, play as you normally would, only a) you are now allowed any drop shots to the front left corner, and b) you are not allowed any boasts from the back left corner. Oh, and your opponent cannot know you have eliminated these options from your repertoire.”

Always known for following the instructions of my coach, I went on to play and it took a LOT of focus to do what they had said. I had to really concentrate to play a different game, a “game within a game”.

When I came off afterwards, they asked me how it went. First, I downloaded how it went, how many times I had to play the shots I was barred from hitting etc. They listened patiently, then asked, quietly: “how did it feel!”, then I realised at that moment how energising it was to have something fresh, new, different to focus upon.

Recently I’ve come across several clients and mentees who are in transition in one form or other, in a “limbo” of sorts. This has them struggling with energy to keep doing what they are doing.

This reminded me of that story from nearly thirty years ago, which I told each of them as a story anchor, then coached them around “what different game can you choose to play that will keep you energised during this transition?”

Also published on Medium.

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