Above the single bed in the guest-room of my Grandparents old villa in Somerset used to hang a few lines of a poem:
“If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters the same;
It would be many years later that I would learn that these lines came from the famous Rudyard Kipling Poem ‘If’. A poem that would act as a beacon for Victorian British pride and stoicism. It was also a number of years after I would stay in my Grandparents guest room that I would learn that my Grandfather had been awarded a Military Cross for bravery in WWII. An act of courage that he had never spoken about and, as family, we only discovered after he had died. Since then, these lines of the famous poem have resonated strongly with me as a reminder to try and remain grounded regardless of the Triumphs or Disasters that face us.
Yet, despite our best intentions, ‘the Ego’ can be a difficult beast to contain. It can be easy to feel invincible or particularly clever when life is working in our favor and equally downbeat and unconfident when things haven’t quite panned out as we had expected. It’s for this reason that I agree with the Victorian’s that sport is such a great leveler for us all. For me sport is most enjoyed when you compete with as much tenacity as you can for the win and yet accept any outcome that you receive. Lady Luck is as valid a variable as anything else in life and we should not bemoan the occasions when she does not look fondly upon us unless we are prepared to acknowledge the moments when we have been met with fortune ourselves.
With this all-in mind, we thought it would be a healthy exercise to reflect on some moments when our Egos felt great and also moments when our Ego took a dent. By reflecting on these moments of Triumph and Disaster, and realizing that they are both simply outcomes, we can then acknowledge them as but imposters that only act as a distraction. We hope that this exercise might help you to stay present and focus on the moment by minimizing the impact that the outcome has to your Ego. Or as Rudyard Kipling put it over 110 years ago.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Your’s is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And-which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!”
When I reflect on a moment that made my Ego feel great I think of my first match debuting for the NZ hockey team. It was obviously a thrill to achieve selection and play at the pinnacle of the sport but what made me most proud was the fact that I had a great game. It gave me great confidence to know that despite the nerves and distraction, I was able to channel this energy to produce a performance that I can look back at with pride and some astonishment at how I managed to reach this level of performance. I attained a level of Flow in a moment when I was under the most pressure. The irony that I found during my time playing at an elite level of sport was that the more experience I gained playing at this level the harder it was for me to attain a sense of flow. I thought too much, allowed insecurities and my ego to interrupt my ability to just play and react by instinct. It was during these moments when my Ego was being challenged and I would lack confidence in my ability or feel defensive about my weaknesses rather than being open to developing myself and my game. I couldn’t control my Ego.
My experience in sport has provided me with great experiences, memories and friendships. It has also allowed me to better understand my Ego and recognize when I’m allowing it too much attention. Running a farm and having a young family are great for keeping you grounded and provide that much needed perspective. I have found that both my relationship with the land and my family thrives when I allow myself to be present and engaged with them, recognizing and adjusting to the small changes and needs that they require without being distracted by an Ego driven objective.