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HACKETT: Staying out of the quicksand


Sometimes inspiration can come in the most unusual of places.

I found myself earlier this week, struggling with some day-to-day occurrences. These were mostly first-world problems. Things I should have easily let slide or not let bother me too much. But when you’re in the muck, sometimes the more you fight it, the harder things get.

The anger just boiled over quicker than I could put a lid on it.

This all reminded me of one of my favourite movie quotes of all time, albeit from an unlikely source. In the cult classic The Replacements, in which Keanu Reeves plays a football quarterback who has been tasked with filling in for the professionals who are on strike, he delivers a quick one-minute speech that always gets me.

In a team meeting, the coach, played by Gene Hackman asks his players about fear and what they fear on the field. Of course, it being a comedy, players quip about spiders and bees before Reeves drops his insightful commentary.

He says “quicksand.”

“You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. Then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move. You can’t breathe. Because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.”

Whether in sports or for those of us who don’t compete athletically, in life, these quicksand moments come at us all the time.

Dealing with them is not easy, because life isn’t easy– sport isn’t easy. It’s the challenge in handling those moments that is the measure of a person.

Some people with an easygoing nature can let these feelings slide right on by. On my good days, I can do it as well.

I read a lot on the psychology of this phenomenon and listened to experts on podcasts and TED Talks. I’m not an expert and this isn’t meant to be clinical advice, but rather a few techniques I’ve learned, that I wish I could use that might be helpful to some people.

There’s by no means a universal strategy to fight through these quicksand moments but there are a few helpful things that I’ve learned to try and not sink any deeper when they strike.

Breathing. When we’re angry, annoyed, upset or frustrated, it’s the first thing we lose track of. Deep, controlled breaths always seem to be a way to come back and find that centre. I wish I was better at this, but as I mentioned before, sometimes the feelings rise too quickly and you’re in over your head before you know it.

Acknowledge the feeling. This one is far tricker to tackle in the heat of the moment but I’ve found it effective when I’m able to. When you feel those feelings boil up, acknowledge that they’re there. Rather than try and push back against them– no “I’m not mad/ angry”– try to see those thoughts as if you are a pedestrian watching cars pass on a highway. You would never just jump out in the middle of that traffic, but you see the cars passing and you acknowledge their existence. Try and do the same thing with those feelings and it might be the thing you need to help manage the struggle.

I am by no means perfect, in fact, I’m pretty terrible at employing those few things I’ve learned over the years. I really hope by sharing them with you, the readers, I can be a little bit more accountable to myself, but also maybe help somebody along the way.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate and a regional Editor for Black Press Media.

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

I have been apart of the Red Deer Advocate Black Press Media team since 2017, starting as a sports reporter.
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