“Stillpower: Excellence With Ease in Sports and Life” turns the conventional wisdom of sports on its head.
Garret Kramer, a former collegiate ice hockey player and the founder of Inner Sports, presents a unique approach advocating a clarity and stillness of mind that can improve performance on the playing field and throughout one’s life.
Sports psychology is an interdisciplinary science that draws upon knowledge from kinesiology and psychology. First established in 1925, it involves the study of the interrelationships found between psychological factors and sports performance. The search for excellence in life, however, is as old as humanity itself.
What makes “Stillpower” immediately intriguing are the claims it makes that at first appear outrageous. The first impression is that either Kramer has hit upon ideas of genius or he totally misses the target. The claims he makes are bold enough that they must fall to one side or the other.
In his introduction, Kramer defines his Stillpower concept as “… The clarity of mind to live with freedom and ease; the inner source of excellence; the opposite of willpower.” In contrast to the usual approaches, he writes, “Yes, improving skills through training and practice is fundamental for achievement. Beyond that, however, no external mental tool, system, or model actually exists that will help you attain long-term success or personal contentment.”
Such an understanding depends, Kramer notes, upon a deep trust in one’s own inner wisdom. Kramer thus asks us to set aside all of our how-to methodologies of the self-help world and to trust in the fact that, ” . . . there is nothing you must learn, or even do, in order to get the most out of coaching, training, or playing the game. For the truth is this: you already know.”
That goes against almost every sports training approaches, which is always searching for a new style or method to enhance performance. However, by placing the required knowledge outside, an athlete is continually searching for a technique that they may have missed.
Kramer, in interviewing hundreds of world-class athletes, finds that high performance is very often described as “freedom”, “natural”, “easy”, “comes out of nowhere”, and “requires no thought.”
Adrenaline-spiking pep talks, deep-breathing exercises and attempts to control visualization only cloud the pursuit of better performance, according to Kramer. The external circumstances of win-loss records, performance on the field and all manner of worries are all like a murky glass of water. Nothing needs to be done, except to allow the sediment within the water to settle. Kramer writes, “This understanding – not trying to do something about errant thoughts – allows the minds of the most resilient achievers to quiet down in the midst of negativity. Such stillpower permits clarity, positive feelings, and the potential for success to emerge spontaneously.”
He thus puts instinct, inner-wisdom and insight at the top of his list of enhancing performance tools. To incorporate his principles of mind, consciousness and thought, Kramer asks people to trust themselves and not add obstacles to their own creativity.
By placing our state of mind or mood as the basis of our experience, Kramer hopes to empower. His goal is to place the athlete into the driver’s seat. In his last chapter Kramer concludes, “The time has finally come to stop toiling away at the strategies and methodologies of others. Simply look within to your own inner wisdom and understanding. Permit your own spirit and freedom to take you to new levels of performance, productivity, and contentment. Success is so much closer than you think.”
As an inspirational guide to achieving greater success in sports and in life, I find “Stillpower” as an excellent resource. Kramer’s work is well-supported by hundreds of athletes and coaches from many different sports.
For a training athlete or aspiring human, Stillpower is engaging, accessible, inspiring and complete in itself. Nonetheless, to a psychologist, who wishes to understand further details, Kramer’s work suggests several directions in the study of the psychology of optimal performance. The similarity of his work with that of Mihály Csikszentmihályiʼs “Flow” and with Eastern philosophy demonstrates that Garret Kramer has, through his own intuition, found a central chord in the play of optimal performance.
I thoroughly enjoyed his book and keep it nearby on my bookshelf. I consider this book a pearl of wisdom and highly recommend it to everyone.
Stillpower: Excellence With Ease in Sports and Life
Atria Books/Beyond Words, June, 2012
Harcover, 224 pages