Those who play sports constantly try to improve their results and to achieve this they think that more and more effort is required. New research suggests a completely different approach.
"Less is more" may be the key to greater achievements in the sports world, a new study has revealed.
Researchers in Singapore and China say the best way to achieve this is through the practice of wu-wei, (無為) or the art of not doing it.
If you’ve ever heard an athlete talk about being in the “zone,” they usually talk about how effortless their actions become, whether they kicked a ball or ran on a track.
Sports psychologists encourage athletes to practice mindfulness as part of their mental preparation before major competitions. In general, mindfulness training tries to help people gain a non-judgmental view of certain moments, while such practices often help people achieve an increased level of focus and give a sense of "flow" in their actions. This is where wu-wei comes into the picture.
Wu-wei is a central Chinese philosophical thought in Taoism, researchers state in the Asian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Wu-wei is mentioned in various parts of the Tao-te Ching (Book of the Tao) of Lao Tzu, a series of life lessons that call for simplicity and harmony with the environment.
Lead researcher Professor Ying Hua Ki, a member of the National Institute of Education at Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore, said that wu-wei indicates the elimination of the emphasis of intentional effort while achieving results.
In Chinese, “wu” has a connotation of nothing and “wei” refers to doing or action. Other examples of how to achieve wu-wei's effortless movements include drawing, listening to a friend, meditating, and of course disconnecting from all the technology that scatters one’s attention.
By the way, the Dutch also have such a method, a philosophy called Niksen that offers a much simpler approach. Don’t focus on breathing, don’t scan the body to examine how it feels and don’t contemplate the thoughts that come up from time to time, but just really don’t do anything. No effort, no agenda and most importantly, no feelings of guilt. Sounds perfect!