Do you know the phrase “they play like they have nothing to lose”?
It is a common saying, mostly used in sports and it refers to those moments, rare indeed, when a rookie athlete or a team is playing amazingly well, the reason being not having to defend a title or a reputation, or when an athlete or a team is in a dire situation during the game and is dropping any struggle to win and consequently performing much better being more relaxed.
It is very interesting that such familiar and easy to observe phenomena don’t ring us, common people, a bell as it should be. It can help us in many aspects of our lives.
Bringing common experiences in meditation can be a very useful practice for understanding how our mind works. So, why do we perform better when we don’t have anything to lose?
I was meditating upon it and I’ve observed that the inner dialogue is free of any conflict without the typical judgmental voices. It’s a state of surrender to what it is. The inner dialogue seems to be empty of any strong conversation, of any content. When you have nothing to lose the only content of your mind seems to be the pure joy of the experience, nothing else. I think it’s appropriate to say, it’s an experience close to being totally in the present moment.
Being free from these voices and enjoying your game (or whatever you do and think), you are accessing a more spontaneous and homogeneous mental space, therefore you are performing better by playing/thinking without any interference. Another important quality of this mental space is the attitude of “tomorrow is another day”, meaning that there is no need for the apocalyptic type of pressure like the world is going to end if you don’t win.
I think the state of a very agitated inner dialogue when we feel hopeless, bitten, frustrated and in many moments on the edge of quitting, precedes the state of total surrender. When we manage to transcend the agitated state through this surrender, we experience profound tranquility.
There are many examples of athletes winning from a hopeless position because of this mental space. Their triumphs come as miracles and most of them are becoming memorable moments in the history of sports.
Probably psychologists will say that you perform better because you are operating more from your subconsciousness, where all your physical movements and mental processes are memorized through multiple repetitions. From my experience, I would dare to say it is much more than that but I need to explore more. I want to know if it is possible to cultivate this state of mind and access it whenever we want without the triggering context of being a rookie or in a precarious position.
to continue with some answers