In a four hour round of golf, you will spend only a few minutes actually hitting your golf ball. Most golfers spend the rest of the time thinking about “fixing” their swing,” thinking about how they had played so far, what could have been (“If only”), thinking about the “what ifs” that might happen, and thinking about their score.
All of these are thoughts of your past and future that will produce emotions interfering with the process of producing a relaxed, smooth, confident swing. To hit your target, your mind and body must be relaxed. You must stop caring about whether you hit a good shot or not. When you stop trying so hard, you are in the present and, “just do it.” The desire to control stands in the way of effortless effort.
To play at your most relaxed best, you must let go of all irrelevant conscious thoughts and focus on the process of creating the shot you desire. A player who is truly in the present steps onto the tee thinking only about how s/he wants to hit his/her tee shot. S/he doesn’t think about what s/he wants to or “ought to” make on the hole. If you are thinking a number, you are already thinking several shots ahead of the present moment.
Here are two recent examples of how two people who were presented with their biggest life challenges were able to stay in the present to perform at their ultimate peak performance levels.
Susan Boyle, the 48-year-old spinster from Scotland succumbed to the pressure of instant worldwide notoriety. She began her semi-final performance off key. Since she obviously loves to sing, she quickly regained her composure and sang the rest of the song on key. Are you able to recover as quickly after a missed shot? In the final contest, Susan was able to once again thrill her audience, collapsing only after another superb performance. Are you in control of your thoughts and emotions for the entire round, releasing them only after the round is over?
Captain (Sully”) Sullenberger III saved all 155 passengers and crew on US Airways Flight 1549 that he landed in the Hudson River. He told CBS news anchor Katie Couric, “One way of looking at this might be that, for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience; education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.” Do you allow your training and experience to produce the shots you desire in pressure situations?
The way to focus in the present is not by telling yourself to concentrate. That is like telling yourself not to get nervous over a challenging shot. If you tell yourself not to worry, that alone will cause you to worry more. To focus in the present requires directing your mind to the process of creating the shot by using deep breathing, visualization and affirmations.
While you may not have much control over how well you are striking the ball on any given day, you do have reasonable control over how you can prepare for each shot. Have you decided that the present is a good state of mind to be in where you are not invaded by negative thoughts, indecision or self-doubt?
Here are some ways to increase your mental stability to stay focused in the present moment:
1. Monitor the mindless chatter mentioned above that is going on in your mind. It is called self-talk, the “monkey mind,” or the bothersome mind that interferes and distracts you from the process of creating the shot you want.
2. Let go of miss-hits and think positively about the next shot. Don’t tell yourself to “block it out” as that is a distracting command. Jack Nicklaus said he didn’t take the time to dwell on a missed shot because he was too busy thinking about his next shot.
Nicklaus is known for rarely dwelling on mistakes or momentary failures. His son Gary explained, “Does my Dad dwell on mistakes? He doesn’t even remember them. Most of the time, when it comes to golf, he doesn’t acknowledge them. In his mind, they didn’t happen.”
3. Create a habit of thinking positively about yourself and your abilities. Habits are created by repetition. It is much easier to create good habits than to try and break bad habits. When you think positively you are in a good state of mind and your emotions are lighter. In this state of mind, your physical game is turned over to your subconscious mind and it becomes automatic and easy.
Aristotle – “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, thus, is not an act, but a habit.”
4. Trust your swing by practicing perfectly.
Ben Hogan showed us that it is possible to have an automatic and repeatable golf swing. He believed that if you did something enough times the correct way, it would become automatic. We now know that this is how you create a habit. It is important that your practice is repetitive. Repetition can be the mother of success or of failure. Practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect. The only place you can practice perfectly is in your mind. Program your mind and your body will respond.
5. Be responsible for your results. You create your own reality and are personally responsible for your own success or failure. Everything in your life right now is something you created. When you believe good things are coming, they come quicker.
Golfers are quick to use the rational part of their brains to find an excuse for a miss-hit as a way to avoid uncomfortable feelings or a wounded ego. When you are three putting, instead of blaming your putter or the greens as the source of your frustration, stay in the process by stroking your putter without a ball until you regain your rhythm and stroke.
6. Focus on connecting with your target. Then you are not focused on swing mechanics, outcomes, fear of the hole, past or future shots, or what others are doing. Pick out a specific place where you want to land the ball, or in putting, pick out a specific place on the dirt inside the hole. Visualize the path the ball must travel to get to the target. If you aren’t able to “see” it in your mind’s eye, imagine it until you are able to “know it.” The smaller you make your target the better chance you have of putting the ball in the area where you want it even if you miss the target.
7. Develop a consistent pre-shot routine. Once you make up your mind, don’t change it. Indecision gives you something to blame. At the end of the routine you should be completely engrossed in executing a good swing.
8. Let go of your attachment to the results. When you are concerned with where the ball is going, you have moved away from receiving any awareness you might have sensed and are already in the future. Play one shot at a time until the last putt on the 18th. Don’t keep a running tally of your score. Don’t think about what you need to shoot on the back 9 to make up for your front 9 score. Play each shot as if it is the most important shot of the day.
9. Maintain your arousal level, not getting overly excited or discouraged. If you get too excited you’re thinking about the outcome of the round. If you are discouraged, you are dwelling in the past mistakes you’ve made and worried about the final results.
10. Trust your intuition. The more often you allow your instincts to take over, the more often you will have unconditional confidence in your ability. This is the way that children play, and the fun way to play golf.
Many golfers have experienced intuitively “seeing” a line on the green to the hole, or knowing that a long putt was going to go in. This is when you are “in the zone” of allowing your inner mind to let you know you are in the present; calm and confident. When we get out of our own way, we are doing things naturally, and will experience the Zone any time there is an absence of interference from mistaken thinking and upsetting emotions.
11. Be convinced of your success.
Pay attention to the trees, not the forest…………..Let your mind get lost in the process of creating your most awesome round yet!
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