August 6, 2018 - Training the Subconscious

Advanced players seem to always know exactly what shot to do and where to put it. It's one of the reasons why they are advanced. But there's no time during a point to really analyze the situation, so it's all done reflexively, i.e. the subconscious is calling the shots. How do you get your subconscious to do this? The answer is that your subconscious is always there, listening and watching, and if you let it know what you want it to do, it'll learn to do it.

For example, suppose you realize that an opponent is weak when you attack his middle (his playing elbow). Between points you can tell yourself to go after his middle every chance you can. You don't need to say, "Hey, subconscious, attack the middle!" If you keep telling yourself to do something, it'll get the message.

When it doesn't work - for example, an opponent attacks from the middle with his forehand - note when and why it doesn't work. Again, your subconscious will pick up on this, and if you decide you should attack the corners if your opponent is looking to play a forehand from the middle, the subconscious will get it - and it will start making reflexive decisions on whether to go after the middle or an open corner. The more you do it, the better you get at this and any other tactics you think about. The goal is to train your subconscious to reflexively play smart tactics in any given situation.

I've met literally hundreds of very smart people who were good tactical analysts away from the table, but tactical disasters at the table because they never went through that stage of thinking about tactics at the table so as to train the subconscious.

The converse to all this, of course - though it's not that obvious to many - is that if you keep telling yourself negative things between points, like "I can't make that shot!" or "I'm no good!" or "I'm choking!", the subconscious will pick up on that as well and reinforce and thereby magnify it,  which is why players who do negative self-talk have great difficulty improving, while those who are positive shoot up as fast as their subconscious can drive them.