Jonny Wilkinson has revealed how quantum physics and Buddhism have helped to liberate him from an overwhelming fear of failure that was preventing him from taking pleasure in his rugby success.
In a new book, the England first five-eighths, famed for his obsessional commitment to practice, describes how his quest for perfection denied him happiness even in the aftermath of England's 2003 World Cup final, where he clinched a fairytale victory with the final kick of the match.
"I did not know what it really meant to be happy," Wilkinson told Friday's edition of The Times in an interview to promote his new book, Tackling Life.
"I was afflicted by a powerful fear of failure and did not know how to free myself from it."
Within 24 hours of landing that famous drop goal, Wilkinson had been laid low by a powerful sense of anti-climax. "I felt like I was tumbling out of control," he recalled.
Four injury-ravaged years were to follow for Wilkinson and it was the time spent away from the rugby pitch that enabled him to unravel the roots of a psychological malaise he now believes was based on a profound fear of death.
His epiphany came after reading about a famous experiment in quantum physics known as Schrodinger's Cat.
"It was all about the idea that an observer can change the world just by looking at something; the idea that mind and reality are somehow interconnected," Wilkinson explained.
"It is difficult to put into words, but it hit me like a steam train."
He continued: "I came to understand that I had been living a life in which I barely featured. I had spent my time immersed in the fear of not achieving my goals and then spent my time beating myself up about the mistakes I made along the way. Quantum physics helped me to realise that I was creating this destructive reality and that all I needed to do to change it was to change the way I chose to perceive the world.
"I do not like religious labels, but there is a connection between quantum physics and Buddhism, which I was also getting into. Failing at something is one thing, but Buddhism tells us that it is up to us how we interpret that failure."
Wilkinson appeared for his club Newcastle at the weekend sporting shoulder-length hair for the first time and he revealed that his new look was related to the spiritual transformation he has undergone.
"The new hairstyle represents the new me, but don't assume I have gone back to my old ways if I decide to cut it," he said.
Wilkinson says Buddhism, with its concepts of karma and rebirth, have freed him from the twin fears of death and life without rugby. "It has given me the ability to understand that rugby, like life, will also come to an end," he said.
"My motivation today has nothing to do with status, money or ego. Before I wanted to be the best in the world and I would watch other players to see how I measured up. Now when I do something great on the rugby pitch it is not about being better than others but about exploring my talent ... My fulfilment is no longer about self-gratification; it is about seeing the happiness of others."