A few weeks ago, I was playing some One Pocket with a student of mine in Edmonton who has improved his game by many levels over the year that we worked together. His name is Richard Wear. He was just about to get down to play a shot that I knew he shouldn’t play.
So I stopped him and asked him a simple question. I said, “Richard, I want you to ask yourself this question: Is the shot you are about to play the shot you want to shoot, or the shot you should shoot?” His eyes got really big as he stared at me and exclaimed, “You know Paul, now I truly understand the four step process in decision making that you have been drilling into me over the last year! You have to write an article on this again.”
I have written many articles on decision making and have taught it to all of my students. However, it is definitely the skill set that has been the most difficult for most people to grasp totally.
Even so, without exception my students have all agreed that the step by step process that I teach is the most logical process. They also agree to commit to making the process into a habit that will ultimately become a part of them. Most of them actually become much better at making decisions and their overall skill level jumps higher because of it.
Some of my students over the years have actually excelled at the skills needed to make the process into a habit that becomes a part of them. Most of those students have also excelled in all of the other skill sets in their pool game. No surprise there!
In order to play at the highest level, a player first needs to think at that level.
Learning how to make the best decisions is the first step. Committing to making the process into a solid habit is the second step. Planning a course of action to develop that process into a habit is the next step. Repeating that process over and over again is the way to strengthen the skills needed to make the habit yours and develop a high level of confidence needed to play at the highest level.
Apathy and sloppiness are your enemies. Patience and a desire for perfection in method are your friends.
Good decision making, just like all other habits, has very little to do with intelligence and everything to do with proper method. One of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes goes like this: “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Of course, if Einstein is correct, then all of us are at least a little insane.
However, he makes a great point and he certainly shows that he understands human nature. We all seem to have this natural habit to be in a state of denial when it comes to change.
Here are the four steps to decision making that I teach:
Step One (I call this the Easter Egg Hunt): Simply put, your task is to find all the possible options. Not the best option, not the first option you see, not the most obvious option, but all the options that are possible. No matter how ridiculous or outrageous. As long as it is possible it is to be considered without any additional judgement. In order to be good at this you must develop observation skills and searching skills, and you will need to stop your ego from being involved.
Step Two: This is where you begin the judgement stage. You will sort the options into two categories. Category A are all the options that don’t make the grade. They are easy to discard as too risky or unnecessary. Category B are all the options that have some potential and will need additional consideration.
Step Three (The final judgement stage): This takes many skills to excel at. You should seriously consider all the options from Category B by judging them according to all the variables involved. Some of these variables are (but not limited to): The speed of the cloth, size of the pocket, bounciness of the rails, difficulty of performing the shot, will performing that shot assist you in winning the game, can you run out after pocketing the ball on that shot, is it the best option in comparison to the other options, etc. After proper deliberation you must choose the best option. Your ability to choose the right option will depend on how well you performed steps one, two, and three.
Step Four (The belief stage): This is where most people who miss the shot or screw up somehow fail to see the picture of what they want to happen clearly enough for their subconscious to make it happen properly. If you don’t send the right message to your subconscious it won’t have a clear enough picture to work with, and the result that you get will probably not be to your satisfaction. You must commit to developing a skill of drawing a very clear picture in your mind before you get down to shoot the shot. Of course I am talking about using your imagination!
After deciding on what shot you will perform you must imagine it happening exactly the way it needs to happen. Then you must believe in it so much that it seems to have already happened, even before you get down to shoot it.
The better you are at that skill the more the shots that you choose will actually happen exactly the way you believe they will. Of course the shooter must actually have the physical skills already to be able to perform the shot they imagine.
Some people might argue that a person must first have the physical skills before they should use my four step process. I emphatically disagree!
I have known many players who have terrible physical fundamentals but became very good players in spite of them. They got there with a strong belief system. They probably could not explain their system to anyone, and it might not even be a system that was developed on purpose, but a belief system it was none the less.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge promoter of the benefits of developing great physical fundamentals. However, nothing is more important than developing a great belief system.
You are what you think! If you think you can, you are right. If you think you can’t, you are right. You are always right! Be careful what you think! This is a very important skill to develop.
I encourage everyone to try incorporating my four step system on decision making into their daily practice and competition. If you find that my system doesn’t work for you, fine, develop your own, but use a system.
Don’t just rely on intelligence. It’s not enough! Always explore and develop great habits that will help you in your search for excellence.
Enjoy the Process!