The old adage that "over-analysis leads to paralysis" is often true in the game of pool. One of the primary difficulties pool players face is the amount of time they have as they transition from one shot to the next. In reality, this is both an advantage and a problem.
The advantage is you don't have to shoot the cue ball until you are completely ready. The problem is this extra time available can be completely misused. When you use that extra time to over-analyze a shot then your brain can become frozen and send the wrong signals to your body. The mind can only process a limited amount of information at one time.
A good example of this is over-analyzing a simple layout of balls. For example, you might look at your shot and see it as a difficult cut. Then you go to the other side of table and see it as a bank shot. After an internal debate with yourself, you circle around the table another time to decide how much the slow cloth will affect the bank shot if you do in fact decide to shoot it. So far, you are doing what any pool player would do, but when you start to introduce numerous factors that may effect your decision such as the cleanliness of the balls, the fact that the table rolls off slightly, and the outcome of your last bank shot, etc. - your mind becomes overwhelmed with details.
Great players relax and let their imagination account for all the variables. Whatever a pro player initially selects, for the most part he shoots. A pro doesn't second-guess himself and certainly doesn’t look for reasons to change his mind once he is down into his stance.
Another good example of this occurs when I see players get into their stance and look at a shot for a long period of time. Often they are thinking about a checklist of 5 things they want to accomplish with one stroke. This is too much information for the mind to handle at one time and this can also lead to a “brain freeze.” Try not to think about everything your pool instructor told you to do on every single shot. Simplify your approach and focus on one part of the process at a time especially when you are set up and ready pull the trigger.
A quiet mind is necessary to get into the correct flow and become immersed in the proper execution of the shot. How do you quiet your mind? First of all, stay in the present moment, don't think about past shots or matches or let them obstruct your current thinking. Be totally focused on the shot at hand, not the one you had five minutes ago. And don't become frozen trying to analyze the details of every missed shot or try to fix your stroke in the middle of a match.
Leading coaches often teach their students to silently repeat a mantra to quiet their mind. If negative thoughts come to mind, you're instructed to let them pass and focus back on the mantra. It isn’t reasonable to believe that you will keep your mind 100% quiet, but you can focus your attention on your breathing just before each shot. If other negative thoughts come to mind let them pass and refocus on the rhythm of your breathing. You can use a simple pool-specific "mantra" to quiet the mind or focus on the basics of your pre-shot routine such as set, pause, finish, freeze.
Try also to stay focused on your tempo. Visual players might want to see the shot then visualize what is going to happen next and finally let their subconscious take over. Save your concerns about your stroke mechanics for your practice sessions in between matches.
Always remember that pool is a game best played with a quiet mind. So the next time you become overwhelmed with too many details take the time needed to thaw out your brain and you won't become frostbitten by a cluttered thought process.
Anthony Beeler is the 2017 Pool Instructor of the Year and is a former BCAPL National 9-Ball Champion. He has numerous top 25 national finishes and is one of only 8 ACS Master Instructors in the world. He is the primary author of the National Billiards Instructors Manual and has also authored the book Unstoppable! Positive Thinking for Pool Players. Anthony currently has the highest established Fargo Rating of any Master Instructor. He has won over 300 tournaments and has defeated numerous professional players in tournament competition.