When You go Beyond What’s Possible

(Now imagine a much smaller, much paler person doing this in her bedroom mirror)

Realizing that you’ve done more than what should be possible is one of the best feelings in the world.

A few days ago I was playing squash with a friend. On one water break we paused to watch two guys on another court; at least one of them was on the Queen’s squash team, and although he seemed to be beating his partner they were playing really well.

They were on a higher level than I have ever played at.

My friend and I went back to playing, but soon we saw that the two guys had finished and for some reason they had walked down to watch us. They stood outside the glass and seemed to be commenting on what we were doing.

Having them stand there, watching, talking, changed everything.

Once upon a time I played squash for a club. It was only for a few years until I turned 14 or 15, but I back then I was used to playing in tournaments and to people watching me.

When we gained an audience, two players who are certainly much better than us, my friend and I started playing better. Although I’m usually inconsistent I can say without exaggeration that I was faster, stronger, and more precise in every shot. Just remembering how I played, my pulse races.

I wish that the two guys had hung around for ages and ages, but they didn’t. When it was over my friend commented on how much better I had been playing, and maybe its just me, but maybe he sounded incredulous.

I could hardly believe it myself. I’m going to remember that squash session for a very long time, and I want more moments like that. I can’t help but think it would be great if I could play so well without having an audience to spur me on, but whether that is possible or not isn’t the point. The point is how amazing it felt to achieve.

I was reminded strongly of a TED Talk where Jane McGonigal talks about gaming and “Epic Wins”. She says that

“an epic win is an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive that you had no idea that it was even possible until you achieved it… and when you get there, you are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of…”

I had a real life Epic Win. Now because I don’t game much, and I’m horrible at it, for me the odds of doing more than the possible may be higher in real life than in virtual realities. And depending on who you are, it may be higher in games. Or in cooking. Or in Foosball.

Regardless of what you’re doing, try without thinking too much, and do without reservation. There’s always the chance that you’ll create an Epic Win, and gain a high that costs nothing.

I’m playing squash again tonight. I can’t expect a similar miracle, but I’ll go onto the court happy, recalling what happened last time.

Plus I have new court shoes!

28 thoughts on “When You go Beyond What’s Possible

  1. Ah, now you’ll blame it on the new shoes…, right???
    You played that good because your mind told you that you could. You just have to bring those thoughts and feelings back to the fore when you play. Be agressive and competitive. (I used to be a coach – not of squash – but coaches are coaches). Nice story, Lily. Good nite now.

    1. The shoes were awesome! I wasn’t as good as the last time I played, but still better than usual. Maybe I was able to bring some of those thoughts along 🙂

      Once I get competitive its always the most fun! What did you coach?


      1. Track, Baseball, Football … Coaching is only about 25% technique, the rest is teaching young minds to believe that they can do better than they believe they can…, 75% psychological. Win their mind, win the athlete. It’s all based on trust. They trust your leadership – you trust their cooperation. Easy, right???

  2. It is an interesting thing. I used to be a boxer, and competed in martial arts, too. I always found that I performed better when, A: I ended up with an opponent that I did not expect or, B: someone I perceived as “better” than me was watching. In both cases, I believe that it helps us to focus more on the match instead of ourselves, i.e. how well we are doing. And, as a natural result, when your focus shifts from ourselves to the match, we perform better. In any event, like coach (PapaBear) wrote, you can cultivate that mentality. It’s an awesome feeling!

    1. I’ve always wished that I’d taken martial arts as a kid instead of some other things. Since I always play with the same people I can’t enjoy the benefits of A like I did in the old tournament days, but people still walk back and forth past the courts so B is somewhat within reach.

      I think you’re right about the external focus. I do worse when I’m thinking about how I feel or what I should have done. I’m going to do my best to develop the right mentality for the game 🙂


  3. i had an epic win against a 10 year old boy who mocked me, laughed at me, stoned me to death in playing Wii. but i beat him in tennis court. he faced the merciless el toro nadal. i always have problems with 10 yr olds. one boy easily crumpled my face in a national chess tournament, big time. i think he is an international master now. epic loss. early lunch for me. big meal. anyways, great article. keep on writing.

    1. Each to their own advantage 🙂 Haha bratty kids are the worst, that must have felt good.

      I find chess prodigies particularly disconcerting, because my mother likes to tell me I’m good at logical thought and yet I’m awful at chess.

      Thank you for visiting!


  4. Whoo hoo! Go Lily, Go Lily!! I love when stuff like that happens. Granted it would be nice if it happened on a more regular basis, but hey it will be a treasured memory. And it made a great post 🙂

  5. Very inspirational. I will particularly try to keep this lovely line in mind: ‘Regardless of what you’re doing, try without thinking too much, and do without reservation.’

    1. Thank you! Sometimes I hate physical activity and sometimes I love the cool things that can happen when you do it. I’m glad if that line resonated with you – thanks for reading!


  6. I LOVE squash, and this was a wonderful story. That is a great phrase – epic win! As for being able to play like that without someone watching, it is often about focus. In the case an external force motivated your focus, but remember the focus came from YOU. Therefore you are capable of it, just just have to dedicate yourself to tapping in to it.

  7. :)http://iamforchange.wordpress.com/awards-page-and-nominations-thank-you-i-am-so-honored-and-grateful/ So many have shared so much with me and I wish to share as well please accept my nominations and if nothing else know I am grateful for your sharing on your pages with us all and the time you share with me on mine.Thank you!! 🙂 Joe

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