Cultivate curiosity.
Create possibility.

Federer Shares the Secret to Success: Practice (Makes Possible)

I just watched the 2012 Wimbledon Tennis Championships, where Roger Federer, hailed as the best tennis player ever to play the game, just won the men’s singles title (his 7th Wimbledon title), and reclaimed his status as the #1 ranked tennis player in the world – at the ripe old age of 30, almost 31. It was very exciting.

I am not an athlete (though watch for my coming-to-a-theater-near-you post about the handstand I will do this year), and I barely know how to play tennis, but I have a deep respect and appreciation for the discipline and passion required to become successful in anything, including sports.  And I, along with many people, love Roger Federer. I am in awe when I watch him. I love his grace, his warmth and his humility, and the demonstrable respect he has for the game, his opponents, the ball runners, and everyone we witness him interacting with, and I love his masterful tennis playing.

I am inspired by the skill and precision with which he plays, and the focus and discipline with which he works.  The tennis champions-turned commentators rave about his talent and his skill level, which are, obviously supreme, and unrivaled thus far. In comparing him to other champions, they said that Roger not only loves to win, he loves every aspect of the game.  He loves it all.

In addition to teaching us so many things by his performance on the court, I was struck by his instructive comments at the closing ceremonies, after he’d won.  When asked about regaining his rank as #1 tennis player in the world with his Wimbledon 2012 Championship he said:

“As we know, world #1’s, you don’t get those gifted.  I was up 2 sets to love here the quarters last year, 2 sets to love at the US Open, so many chances if you like.  Maybe I got nervous, maybe the other guy was too good, you know. I never stopped believing. I started playing more, even though I have a family,” Federer said. “It all worked out. I got great momentum, great confidence and it all came together. So it’s a magical moment for me.”

Mr. Federer reminds us as many leadership experts have, that love of what you do is key, talent is a blessing, and you are lucky if you have them.  But, Federer teaches, those alone do not a champion make.  He never stopped believing, and he started playing (practicing) more.  How much more can a Roger Federer practice?  More. The combination of his attitude and his activity is what made the difference.

As a therapist and a executive coach, I see people in deep distress because their lives are not where they want them to be.  They are stuck, in pain or not able to be successful in their professional endeavors, or their lives have taken unexpected turns that they were unprepared for. Frequently, people come to me who have been prescribed medications to make them feel better, and they are frustrated and demoralized that they haven’t taken care of the problem they want fixed. They (sometimes) believe that they can feel better, but they do not consider, really, that they could address their limitations and challenges, and develop the emotional-intellectual-social muscles they need to live their lives and be successful in whatever they want to do.

Wanting to feel better is reasonable, and understandable.  And, feeling better is not the same as getting better.  It can help, certainly.  But it is not the same thing as developing your capacity to create your life and the ability to create with whatever comes your way, to be able to be ever more successful in what ever you do personally or professionally. Wanting to be ranked #1 tennis player in the world, and believing that you can be again, is not the same thing as practicing what you need to, and developing your capacity to play, in order to achieve it.

At The Possibility Practice, we make an offer to people, and perhaps a methodological challenge to the standard approach to psychotherapy, and to living.  It is the first line in our manifesto: Create your life.  We ask: What if you could turn your greatest obstacle into discovery and possibility? We think you can see beyond your self- and societally-imposed limitations.

We help you to create your life, and we help you to engage in a practice that helps to develop the ability to see anew, to ask new questions, cultivate curiosity, and create possibility. Our practice, our approach helps people to develop their capacity to create their lives, and we teach people how to practice it.  It is a practice, not simply an idea or a belief system, and, as with practicing a sport or an art, it is the practice that will inform and support your belief that you can do it.  Because it works.

How?  Well, we don’t give you answers, we help you ask new questions. We help you to slow down, to take a look at how you see; to unravel the web of assumptions you have – about yourself, about others, about your problems, and about the world – that prevents you from living life in creative and gratifying ways.

The dominant way we’re trained to understand ourselves is so ingrained that we literally don’t have the muscle to see beyond our own self- and societally-imposed limitations. The way out is to engage in a practice that helps to develop the ability to see anew, to ask new questions, cultivate curiosity and create possibility.

The Possibility Practice is a place where you can develop the emotional-intellectual-social muscles you need to grow, and live life joyously in an ever changing and uncertain world.

It is a practice, an exercise, that enables you to develop your capacity to create your life.

Practice makes possible.

Congratulations Mr. Federer, and thanks for the reminder.

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Karen Steinberg