Deep insights from the World Cup

With all the excitement of the World Cup, it seems appropriate to use football as a guide or metaphor for the inner life, or as one book title puts it, the game of life and how to play it.

The image of the club is like your image in the world around you. Whatever your present reality, the glories or otherwise of your past have created a mass of associations which are held by many others. Like a club, you will have fans and opponents, and their beliefs about you will change only slowly.

The image of the England team is a great metaphor for how past problems can affect our present reality. The opening match against Tunisia had episodes of the England football we dread (remember going out in a match against Iceland). But the transformation in the Panama match encourages us all to remember that positive change is possible!

The players at the club are like the aspects of your personality. Some are wild, some are quiet. Some break the rules often, others keep their nose clean. Some appear on the pitch often, some stay mostly in the reserves. Your players could be called sub-personalities: the romantic, the geek, the angry hitman, the princess, the saintly sage and so on.

Often you may be only aware of one of your players at a time: the geek may lead in a work task, the romantic may lead on a hot date but substituted by the lonely moper if you are losing the match. But although only one of your inner players has your attention, i.e. the ball, other aspects of you are on the pitch, in the team, and it can help you to draw them into the manoeuvres.

One of the things I love about soccer is the astonishing difference the manager can make. Gareth Southgate deserves massive credit for England’s success in this World Cup. He’s shown courage in picking a young, inexperienced squad, and real intelligence in his training and tactics, such as intense practicing for set-pieces. What’s the analogy for your inner life? As in football, your inner manager needs to bring a combination of intelligence and inspiration, technique and passion, to your inner team.


Do any of these reflect your own inner manager?

Just as different football teams respond to different managers and approaches, there’s no one prescription for your inner life. But somehow, you need to connect with your sense of purpose and passion, so that your inner players go out with fire in their hearts, and can pull themselves back against impossible odds. Remember Newcastle’s legendary recovery from 0 – 4 to 4 – 4 against Arsenal?

Looking at successful teams like England (!) or Manchester City, it’s so clear that it arises from brilliance in both method and motivation. Your inner manager needs to know what training and techniques will help your players face the challenges of your life. He or she needs to find the right team choices among your inner players, so that you bring a mix of skills to bear on every situation.

The coaching team are also vital in the morale and the skills of your players. Your coaching inputs may come from friends, professionals like counsellors, blogs like this, or resources from the Natural Happiness website.

My local paper in Bridport, West Dorset, had a caption which nearly gave me heart failure. It read Here’s to the Premier!, over a picture of a team with bubbly at the low-key ground of Bridport Football Club. They are celebrating promotion to the Toolstation Western League Premier Division. It’s a useful reminder that few of us as individuals will be in the limelight of a UK Premier League. Most of us will be in the equivalent of the Toolstation Premier Division, or the England squad. Local football clubs have just the same dramas and delights as their big brothers, so whatever your league your personal club may be in, find the passion and wisdom to manage it well.