Competitive Spirit



Due to my illness, I now have major confidence issues, which unfortunately dictate how I live my life. As someone suffering with depression, I have to admit I’ve become a bit of a defeatist and a master of putting myself down! I can soon start to feel useless and incapable of the simplest of tasks. That’s why it’s so important to keep reminding myself that I am good at things and not to shy away from my successes. Table tennis has brought me many successes over the years and become an integral part of my life.

competitive spirit

In the past I have represented my county. In order to do this I had to be ranked in the top three players. That meant that out of over five million people living in Yorkshire, I was rated second best in my age group. I know people might say it’s no big deal, it’s only table tennis, but it takes a hell of a lot of hard work and dedication to reach that standard at any sport. I’ve been playing since I was six years old. Back then I used to find the game extremely frustrating. It took me well over ten years and a number of coaches, to get anywhere near to mastering it. To be chosen to play at that level was fantastic and I felt immense pride every time I put my team shirt on. I knew that however much I managed to fuck up the rest of my life, it’s something that no one could ever take away from me and a feat that few other people will ever accomplish.

The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a competitive person, the majority of games and sports I take part in, I couldn’t care less whether I win or lose, as long as I don’t stand out as being really bad. Table Tennis is the exception to this rule. Right from the first time I picked a bat up, as a six year old at a Butlins holiday camp. I’ve become addicted and devoted to being the best I can. Why this sport, as apposed to others? Well, as a child I tried to be good at numerous things but it never really bothered me if I wasn’t, I was always very laid back in that respect. I could quite easily enjoy an activity without being the best at it.

For whatever reason it wasn’t like this for me with Table Tennis. I found the game excruciating, why wasn’t the ball going where I wanted it to? Why couldn’t I keep it on the table for more than two shots? Why was my brother so much better than me! For the remainder of our stay I played every day in an attempt to improve and my parents had to endure several strops from me along the way. By the end of the week I was completely hooked and was setting my sights on becoming world champion, as you do as a six year old!

These days I don’t take it half as seriously, I mainly just play for fun in the local leagues and enjoy the social side of the game. All this aside though, I haven’t lost my competitive spirit. One thing that’s always remained the same is my hatred of losing, and I still do everything in my power to avoid this from happening. I’m not as naturally gifted as most of the top league players, but what I lack in ability I make up for in tactical nous. Over the years I have defeated many better players than myself, purely due to having a better strategy than them.

As I’ve touched upon earlier in other posts, I get on extremely well with my teammates and people from the opposing teams, but when I’m at the table, I become very single minded and determined to beat whoever’s in front of me. There’s plenty of time for pleasantries later in the pub! When I’m up against a formidable opponent, I double my efforts and tend to relish the challenge.

I hope I can adopt this same approach to other challenges in my life, such as dealing with my depression and moving on in the future. I need to view every obstacle I come up against as a new opponent and just like with an opponent; I can weigh it up and adopt the right strategy to beat it. When I put it like this, it seems relatively simple but I’m not naïve enough to believe it will be that easy.


Nerves can be a good thing. This is especially evident in competitive sports. Obviously if you’re far too nervous, you risk going into self- destruct mode and not be capable of doing anything. But on the flip side to this, if you’re not nervous at all, maybe you don’t care enough! Top sports stars use their nerves to there advantage, they have learnt to channel this energy and the adrenaline rush, to use to there advantage. A certain amount of nervous energy actually enhances there performance.

competitive spirit

A sporting great such as Roger Federer has a very interesting outlook. when interviewed after a match. However much the interviewer pushes him, asking questions or making predictions about winning the overall tournament, he says he never looks so far ahead, and I believe him. Top sports stars have several special qualities. They have to have, to play at the level they do. Single mindedness and that extra grit and determination, not to mention their undoubted talent and natural ability, are all key ingredients in their success. But I believe most important is the ability to remain in the present and focus on one thing at once. They don’t think about winning an event or even who they’re likely to meet in the next round. All they focus on is winning the next point and how they’re going to play the next shot.

This is a great mentality to have and one you can take into other aspects of life, when undertaking any given task. Last week my friend and I started doing some gardening work for an elderly neighbor. At first glance we were both shocked by what we saw, the task appeared overwhelming and even insurmountable. we couldn’t believe what we’d let ourselves in for! The area between too garages had clearly been used as a dumping ground for rubbish and judging by the amount, this had been going on for a long long time. We’d have to clear this before we even got to the garden. To say the garden was overgrown was a massive understatement, In fact the jungle that confronted us was inexplicable. It reminded me a bit of the fairy tale sleeping beauty and the endless thorn bushes surrounding the castle. I now knew what the prince must have felt like trying to get to the princess!  Instead of freaking out,we broke the task down into manageable segments and before we knew it we’d cleared the rubbish and was making a start on the garden. We haven’t finished yet but by taking it one small step at a time and bottling up all our competitive spirit, it won’t be long before we’ve achieved what first appeared to be an impossible job.


Keeping Things simple

Today I’m going to talk about keeping things simple. For all you smart arses out there, when I use the word simple I’m not describing myself! I’m actually referring to the way we live our every day lives. Time moves quickly and that’s why its important not to waste a single moment. All the small day to day experiences are much more significant than you think. The majority of us rush from one task to the next and sadly the simple pleasures end up passing us by.

A friend asked me a good question the other day. He asked ‘If someone told you that you only had a week to live, what would you want to do in terms of enjoyment? Here’s what I came up with :

  • Obviously I’d want to spend quality time with my family and friends
  • Maybe a countryside walk with my brother
  • A milkshake with my friend in our favorite café
  • A couple of ice cold beers in my best mates garden
  • A picnic with my mum at our favorite lake
  • One last game of table tennis with my team mates
  • One last round of golf at my favorite course
  • Watching a classic film, like Goodfellas, whilst indulging in some Ben and Jerrys ice cream

Hang on a minute, I did all this last week and I’m still here! You might question why I haven’t got anything more elaborate on my list, but would you really want to cram as much things in as you can, or like me, would you prefer to keep it simple and stick to what makes you happy?

Rather than just a week,when I planned to kill myself I gave myself a full month to savor my last moments. Once I’d sorted all the practical stuff, making sure my debts were paid and I left my family enough money aside for the funeral. Once I’d sorted all this, all that was left to do, was to keep things simple and enjoy the time I had left. This was not a solemn time, it actually turned out to be a great time and a very honest one, I no longer had to pretend to be something I’m not. I found I was able to reflect on all the positive and completely live in the moment. No more worries about the future, what future Ha!

More than just a feeling of relief, all my senses were suddenly heightened. I remember thinking, this might be the last time I see this, So I’m going to make sure I really see it! This could be the last time I feel this and so I’m going to make sure I truly feel it! I was noticing and appreciating more than I ever had before.

Have you ever quit a job which you really hated? you hand your resignation letter in and straight away it feels like a huge weight has been lifted. Whilst your working your notice period, all of a sudden things don’t seem so bad, you might even start to wonder whether you’ve made the right decision to leave. I’d decided to make the ultimate quit, quitting on life, and all though I still thought I’d made the right decision I was far from certain.

I’m not going to go into details again about the day I almost went through with my suicide plan. If your interested in reading about this, its in my ‘There’s Always Hope‘ post. But this day was again about my senses being heightened, and arguably about a stronger spiritual connection. In the build up to the day and after it my whole outlook and approach to life changed. Now I’m satisfied with just being me and not having to prove myself to anyone. Still being here, alive and well should be, and is more than enough. I’m not going to pretend the journeys been an easy one, living with depression is extremely difficult. On my bad days I still hurt, and I still feel lost, like there’s no way out. But by learning to live in the here and now and  keep things simple, I’m putting much less pressure on myself and I no longer want to die (which has got to be a good thing!) I’m now able to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life, like a beautiful sunrise or a clear starry night. Things that in the past have somehow passed me by. I feel lucky to be able to witness these things and thank god everyday for giving me the strength to carry on.

Keeping Things simple


I don’t have to go far to feel close to nature. This is what I can see whilst sat on my garden swing