"There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."
Last week, Steve Briere and I sat down for a virtual meeting with some of the goaltenders we train remotely during the season. "Sunday Squad" as it's come to be known, features a conversation or Q&A session each week, and one of our goalie friends had a great question for Steve, but it's the answer that I want to expand on today.
A question from one of our goaleis was along these lines: "how should I practice my pushes so that I can be better and prepared when we get back to the ice?"
Steve's answer probably shocked most of them: don't practice. Don't try too hard to change circumstances that are out of your control.
Or maybe, if you do practice it, don't put too much energy into how you feel with your pushes. Don't worry about feeling weird when you get back to the ice...expect it!
Steve said that whether you practice away from the rink or not, you'll feel weird when you get back to the rink regardless. So why put energy into worrying that you won't be ready!? You'll get it right back!
But I think Steve's answer gets to a deeper point that I want to dig into: our egos fuel our fears, telling us that we won't be good enough.
The question was asked in a hopeful and positive light, no doubt, but the underlying reason for it might have been fear.
Fear that you won't be ready for return to play. Fear that you won't be good enough. Fear that you're going to get passed up. Fear that all of your worst nightmares come true, that you have the worst practices known to human history, your coach hates you, your teammates turn on you and you become isolated and disjointed from the team...you quit hockey. The world ends.
Ok, maybe that last one is dramatic, but sometimes our egos do think through the worst possible outcomes that just aren't based on reality.
Our egos want to be liked. They want approval from others. They want to show everyone else that you are worthy of being loved and deserving of game time.
Our egos make us worry that we won't be ready.
But the other half of Steve's answer was that NOBODY is going to be 100% ready for a return to play. So then, he said, why not just enjoy where you're at!?
Enjoy today. Enjoy this time that you get to be away from the sport. Enjoy the opportunity you have to connect with your family more at home. Enjoy the quiet time. The downtime. The peace, without the normal stresses and worries of games and practices.
But our ego doesn't like that. Our ego wants us to constantly have something to show for ourselves. Something to remind others about how worthy we are.
Our ego says, "See? I did x and y and z. Look at how hard-working I am. Look at how committed I am. Look at how humble I am!"
Now, don't mistake me for saying you shouldn't do anything ever for the sake of subordinating your ego...that's not the point.
The point is that your ego distracts you from the now.
If you let yourself now get distracted from the now, what will your future self do when the future becomes the now?
Steve's advice is to practice your ability to be present.
Practice your ability to quiet the ego's voice ringing in your head.
To be quiet. To be calm. To calm your ego.
You won't be ready for return to play. Nobody will be. It will feel weird for about a week. But like a bike, you'll get right back into the swing of things, no problem.
For those of you who haven't ever stopped playing, or have gotten back already, you know this! You didn't feel "right" for a couple skates, but then you got right back into the swing of things.
It wasn't the end of the world, being away from the game.
If anything, enjoy the pause. Enjoy the moment.
Learn to be present so that when you do return, you return full of life, enjoyment, and happiness.
Stay frosty, friends.