I struck the 7 ball on the spot I had marked, completely incredulous that it would go anywhere near the pocket I had called. I watched my cue ball slide toward it, the sharp crack and the 7 shot in a straight line, directly to the corner pocket and in. A part of me felt completely disbelieving as the whole event unfolded, another was very happy. It was a competitive league game, and I hadn’t played pool in over 10 years. I was doing well.
This was not the first of this new run of pool games. The prior games had not gone as well as this one was going. In those games I had been working to call up an instinct for play, that I had apparently lost. I would sight down the length of my cue at the white ball and out to my object ball. I would imagine that I could see the angles radiating out from it. I was hoping to tap into the intuitive pool knowledge I had had when I was playing more regularly. Yet I kept sending my object balls too far right or left, everything seemed to happen in larger degrees than my intuition lead me to believe. After a few failed games, I decided I needed to switch my tactics.
I started looking at my object ball first, identifying where I would strike it with my cue if I were to sink it directly, then identifying that spot on the ball. I would then return to my cue ball and aim a straight line at this target on the object ball. Honestly, this is basic pool stuff. What was interesting to me was how strongly my instincts screamed out against my new striking points.
Every time I looked down the cue and planned my shot for my newly sighted target, my instincts would say “not enough!” or “too much!” A few times I made the mistake of following them, my instincts usually serve me quite well, but the results were far off the mark. My strategy began to incorporate the willful dismissing of my instinct and my reliance purely on my system of lining up target spots and hitting them. When I returned to my cue I dismissed the idea of the pocket altogether and simply shot for my target. I started to actually sink balls and have some success.
The instinct to measure my shot from the length of the cue (and incorrectly) did not fade that night. Every successful shot that was accompanied by my wilful dismissing of that instinct, felt like a wonder.
It is easy in life to come to trust our instincts and to follow our intuition. I feel that in my life this has largely served me well. I know that it is far from magical, that instincts and intuition are a metaphorical representation of a chemically conditioned response to my brain analyzing thousands of patterns. Yet this event reminded me how easily my brain can be fooled. That this process is not magical and conditioning can be wrong, as well as my perception of it.
If there’s time to think about a situation and review what is truly in front of you (rather than inside you), it’s worthwhile to do so. If your intuition does not line up with the facts, it’s worth considering that the facts are right and your intuition is wrong. It’s only through being open to a new way of seeing the world that one’s intuition can have an opportunity to be re-attuned to something perhaps more aligned with reality.