Reflecting on Black-Box thinking got me thinking about the process of analysis in which we become involved when we're trying to improve. It made me wonder if we don't sometimes over-complicate the process or more likely over-analyse things.
When I go to my practice sessions I usually go with a plan of sorts. I'll often think about it as I drive to the courts (you knew I was talking about tennis didn't you!). I might think about how I've been playing and what I want to try or where I want to focus my practice. We tend to do a series of drills planned by the coach, and I usually have something simple, almost generic in mind. It might be footwork, it might be contact point, it might be balance. It might even be a decision to hit cross-court or focus on my backhand.
I rarely have more than one or two things in my mind, and there are times when the plan goes out the window because the session opens the door to something I hadn't thought about. Other times I'm hitting so poorly that I have to ditch the plan in favour of focussing on the really basic principles of hitting the ball!
The things is, when you're actually playing a match, there isn't time to do detailed error detection and progressive correction. You just have to fix it, change something, find a way to get things working. That's one of the great joys and challenges of a game like tennis and also one of its great frustrations!
So keep it simple. Fix one thing. Change one thing. Don't fill your mind with all sorts of stuff. Don't try and check your footwork, body-work and racquet work in at the same time. Get your feet moving first, then your body and then your racquet.
I met a golf pro once who used to talk about the guy that sits at the front of your head and messes with your swing by asking if your grip is right, your take-away smooth, the club head doing whatever it's supposed to do. Too many things to think about. He used to say, "Give him one job to do." That one job might be to make sure you focus on the contact point until after the ball has gone, or it might be to get yourself balanced before you swing.
You'll be amazed at the difference it can make when you don't over complicate the process. After all, if you get the process right, everything else will fall into place. The ball will go where you mean to send it. Outcome follows process, so always focus on making the process work, and the best way to do that is by keep it as simple an uncomplicated as you possibly can.