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Programing Your Subconscious for Pool

by Carlton Redford


Pool Picture Henry Ford's famous observation was: "If you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right." If you intuitively understand why this is true, you're a prime candidate to benefit from hearing about a deceptively simple technique that has the potential to radically transform your playing ability -- going from a good intermediate level to a top regional player. And if you already routinely run multiple racks of 14.1 or 9-ball, you can readily advance to a consistent powerful performance that approaches a professional level. I've taught the technique to a number of very dedicated pool students over the years who thought they had risen to the best level that they could and had hit a permanent limiting wall that precluded any future important performance gains.

Rather than involving any new pool playing knowledge, the radical playing enhancement comes about by taking the most practical possible advantage of the fact that pool playing (like golf, tennis, archery, and many other individual-performance sports is so largely mental-quality dependent as you attempt to transition within and beyond intermediate and advanced stages of ability. The stages where negatives, internal "chatter" and inconsistent self-confidence become prime daily barriers to further improvement, regardless of the amount of former and future technical knowledge at your disposal.

Here's some personal background to give a fuller picture of the subconscious powers you can methodically cultivate (possibly the best unused and fundamentally easiest tool you will ever learn to apply to your pool game):

Just about 40 years ago, in my early thirties, in a Venice, California gym I trained heavily alongside Schwarzenegger for 3 years and got to know him pretty well via my passable German and his exponentially increasing English (he learns everything at lightning speed). He had won the 1966 Mr. Universe at age 19, then a string of annual Mr. Olympia titles as he matured. The relevant thing to this discussion is that he had about the most powerfully directed mental powers I've ever seen in firsthand operation in any athlete. And believe me, in serious bodybuilding the Will to improve and gain is critical to the discipline, planning, and enduring of the pain in order to go beyond your present limits every workout. One day Arnold told me that when he was 16 he made mental contact with his 25 year-old future self -- a world-famous bodybuilding success, and he clearly saw that he had achieved all his physical transformation ideals. Then during the rest of his teenage years he kept that image before him, most importantly, every night when he was falling asleep, and he could call it up daily during every workout. And thus he repeatedly "programmed," and his subconscious mind accepted the truth of the visualization -- that it would happen ... in a sense, had already happened in a metaphysical continuum (well defined incidentally, in quantum mechanics equations).

Arnold of course, had the genetics that defined an advancement potential that other pro and semi-pro bodybuilders wouldn't quite reach, regardless of what workouts they endured or what growth-promoting chemicals they used. That said, the positive benefits of Arnold's self-taught mental conditioning are soundly rooted in the now widely proven principle that the subconscious mind freely accepts imagined experience and intentionally created visualizations as literal fact. The more substantial you make your constructed visualizations (and carefully phrased affirmations), and the more senses they involve, the more they become part of your subconscious belief, your Will, and your conscious physical performance.

The process key is that the 2 or 3 affirmation phrases and the corresponding playing proficiency visualization are gently and regularly fed to a willing subconscious when it is optimally receptive. There is an identical, highly suggestible period in pre-sleep, in the just-awakening state, upon entering self-hypnosis, and in most forms of meditation that is sometimes called the alpha/theta brainwaves states. Neither fully awake nor fully asleep, moderately aware of external sensory stimuli and totally in contact with the subconscious and able to formulate, perceive, and fully experience desired phrases and visual information such as positive sports performance affirmations and the very important visualizations of yourself performing at an ideal wished-for level.

Briefly stated, this process works wonders! Once you realize how easily the subconscious stores and uses against you all negative statements or self-critical appraisals of futility, despair, defeat, inevitable end of progress, you can understand the proven logic that positive and well-designed input to your receptive subconscious will quickly produce breathtakingly positive and permanent playing ability enhancement.

Incidentally, the meditation-like alpha/theta state described above can, with a week's practice, be easily descended to even when fully awake during the day by sitting down in a reasonably quiet place, suggesting to your body during a minute or two that, in stages, relaxation is slowly spreading from your feet all the way up to your facial muscles. Then just begin to count down backwards from 50, spacing the counts about 2 seconds apart. After 2 weeks you'll be able to reach the alpha state and even deeper, more receptive theta level, by counting starting at 25, then by the fourth week easily from 10 backwards. And remember that the pre-sleep and just awakening states are already well-connected to the pure subconscious for positive suggestion purposes.

Always do all conditioning sessions with closed eyes. With the exception of a pre-sleep session, as each session ends, come back to full consciousness by telling yourself: At the count of "5" I will be fully awake and feeling wonderful and count upwards from 1 to 5. Below, I'll flesh out these 3 elements and if you, without cynicism and with a willing suspension of disbelief give these dual mental conditioning tools a daily (preferably twice daily) sincere and almost religious effort for at least a month, I guarantee you'll see weekly positive and repeating changes in your playing ability:

TIME OF DAY -- It helps to use several of the optimally receptive times of the day and evening at first.

AFFIRMATIONS -- Compose and use no more than 3 short phrases (self-commands) relating to crucial things you want to improve, and say your particular phrases in the exact same words each session. Here are some very effective examples (modify to your needs or compose your own per your ideals):
"My concentration on every shot is as intense and productive as any professional player in the world." (The concentration effect of this one is almost magically transformative and shows up almost immediately in your playing. Be sure to include it as written.) "My pre-shot routine flows smoothly and precisely on every shot." "I always see patterns with ease and clarity." "I easily bring all my pool knowledge to every shot and situation." "I never use more force than necessary."

After telling yourself 2 or 3 such commands, immediately tell yourself each time: "I desire this, I believe it will happen, I expect it to happen." (This works powerfully in your subconscious, one of whose prime functions is to aid your conscious mind's daily needs and self-expression.)

VISUALIZATION - Follow your 2 or 3 affirmations (commands) with a 5 or 10 minute visualization of a performance featuring you at the table, that definitely and repeatedly includes all of the ideals in your playing that you've just affirmed. Project this performance on a large mentally-created screen that is seemingly 10 or 15 feet in front of your mind's eye as if you were a nearby spectator to the activity. Make the visualization as real as possible by including all the normal external sensory input that logically accompanies your playing: the nature of the lighting; the sounds of balls clicking and dropping into your pockets and on tables around you, even food and beer aromas, soft conversations buzzing, approving smiles of onlookers, etc. The subconscious mind uncritically accepts and registers your affirmations, then when you're visualizing, it literally accepts imagined experience as real, and it even triggers all the beneficial (and reinforcing) emotions of satisfaction, excitement and pleasure (as when happily dreaming) which would be normal to a surpassing pool playing performance.

The cumulative sum of all the regularly inserted affirmation phrases and visualization experiences will profoundly and permanently enhance your playing ability, confidence and consistency. Make the mental conditioning routine systematic, precise and identical till your results come reliably filtering into your playing. Then introduce 2 or 3 new affirmations to replace the successful ones and an appropriate new accompanying visualization. Rotate your fund of spoken and seen conditioning tools and don't hesitate to call them up instantly anytime you wish, even outside of your alpha/theta sessions. They'll be a readily accessible part of your subconscious now.

We are not only the product of our conscious thoughts, but to a much larger extent we're the functioning product of our subconscious resources and beliefs about our needs, passions, and actually quite fluid and amendable capabilities.

We are all used to the concept that a physical conditioning routine can greatly improve the health and fitness of your body. Lest anyone think that this mental conditioning routine might result in Pavlovian or robotic pool playing responses, here's my food analogy that clarifies: Your subconscious is prey to junk food nourishment 24/7 (destructive input); why not do yourself a major favor by systematically and purposefully feeding it quality nourishment?

If you've hit a wall in your game-improvement I guarantee that 2 ten-minute sessions a day of this mental conditioning will be the breakthrough you've wanted but never really expected, especially in this easy, controlled and self-administered mental form.