l DO YOU HAVE A FEAR OF FAILURE OR A FEAR OF SUCCESS? - Archived Newsletters - Positive Mental Golf Archived Newsletters
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Newsletter May 2009

       I recently received an email from a golfer who wrote that he has trouble staying calm when he has a good score going. It is important to recognize the fear-based self-talk going on in your head that keeps you from staying calm. If you think about playing defensively, or screwing up, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

       Are you a victim or a victor on the golf course? What are your ego’s defense mechanisms that you use during your round of golf?


       What happens when you want to shoot your career score? Shoot your age? Break 100? Break 90? Break 80? Win a tournament?


       Do you choke? Are you so absorbed with the score that you don’t stay in the process of creating one shot at a time?


       Do you have a subconscious belief that you don’t deserve to be that successful and your low self-esteem sabotages your round?


       Whether you have a fear of success as above, or a fear of failure, the result is the same. You don’t accomplish what you desire.


       Achieving success is the opposite of failure. Many who fear failure are comfortable making conservative choices that will allow them to remain within their comfort zone instead of taking risks to achieve success.


       On the other hand, some perfectionists are motivated by playing poorly and try harder so they won’t experience the feelings of failure. This is a strategy that moves you away from success. And when some success is achieved, the motivation is gone, and the cycle of failure begins again.


       Perfectionism is a belief that perfection can and should be attained. When the line of too much perfection is crossed, the belief is then that anything less than perfect is unacceptable.


       While golfers know that no one can be perfect at golf, it doesn’t stop them from analyzing every shot and judging their performance. A mishit shot causes a golfer to yell at the ball, swear at themselves, and generally overreact with their emotions because of the desire of the ego to hit a perfect shot every time.


Fear of Failure

       A golfer with a fear of failure at times uses generalizations as an excuse for his/her lack of ability and self-esteem. This “all-or-nothing” approach is apparent in the golfer who misses the first fairway and worries about his driver from then on. Or the golfer who 3-putts the first two greens, and declares ”I guess it is going to be that kind of a day.” Other fears of failure that golfers encounter are:

·        Fear of embarrassment

          Fear of an off-line shot

·        Fear of not playing to your handicap

·        Fear of not playing up to your expectations

·        Fear of what others will think or say about you

·        Fear of losing the match

·        Fear of others knowing your score


In golf, the fear of success and the fear of failure both show up with the same symptoms of anxiety like shaky hands, rapid breathing, and fast, jerky swings.


At the 2009 Masters Kenny Perry said of his consistent performance, “Through the years, I've been able to try to channel my energy and calm myself down out there on the golf course, and that really helps you. When you get under the gun and under pressure out there, you've got to figure out a way to slow your heartbeat down, slow yourself down and just make a nice, smooth pass at it.”


Fear of Success

       What will happen if you succeed? What will happen when you achieve your goal? Then what? What else will change? How many times have you had your best score, expected to play as well the next time, and played poorly?

      Since success is about the future, you don’t know what it will bring to you. Consider these fear thoughts that might arise from your success:


·        I don’t deserve it.

·        I’m not really that good. I was just lucky.

·        If I have a low score, I won’t be able to do it again.

·        Even though I had my best round, someone else will be better.

·        My relationships with my golf friends will change.

·        I won’t be able to win with a lower handicap.

·        My team partners will expect me to be that good.


The only time you have any control is in the present. When you are totally engrossed and focused in the preparation of your shot, fear cannot exist. Fear enters when you allow your mind to wander into the future and think about the “what ifs” that might happen. Stay in the process of creating the shot you want, and let go thinking about any results.


It is important to program your mind to accept your success when it happens and to know that you earned it and deserve it. I remember reading about Gary Player visualizing his success at winning the Masters in 1961. Every morning on his way to the first tee he would stop at the huge green scoreboard. At the bottom of the scoreboard was Arnold Palmer’s name as the winner the previous year. Player would see his name superimposed in gold over Palmer’s name as the current winner. He believed in himself and made his belief come true. He was ready to succeed and accept his success as the first international pro to win at the Masters.


Golfers who have at the same time, both a fear to fail and a fear to succeed can become paralyzed with indecision, unable to make any choices.


       Successful golfers accept personal responsibility for success or failure. They do this by defining the game as a competition against the course. Tiger’s Dad used to tell him, “Beat the golf course first, and you don’t have to worry about your opponents.”


       To play at your peak performance levels, you need to believe in yourself, know that you have self-worth, that you deserve to win, and that the contest is the main focus of your attention.


       Golf is a game we play for fun. To play well it cannot be a grueling test of your pride and ego. Your goal should be to stay calm and relaxed maintaining your arousal level especially after you have a bad hole or hit a couple of bad shots in a row.


       After the 3rd round at the 2009 Masters, Shingo Katayama was asked about his confidence and said, “I believe in what I've practiced to this point and I'm just doing my best.”


       Accept the fact that every time you play golf you will have some missed shots. Even the golfers who have shot 59 know that they could have hit some shots better and scored even lower. Hitting bad shots doesn’t reflect on you as a person. The way you react to a mishit does reflect on you. Anger, frustration, embarrassment, and losing trust will also sabotage your score and your day.


       Know that as humans we learn from our experiences. Failure to execute a shot is a good learning experience. Know that a missed shot doesn’t make you a failure. It is just a skill that you didn’t pull off at that time. Learn from the experience so you will know how to execute it the next time. Don’t be distracted by a fear and miss this opportunity to improve your game.


       Helen Keller said, "Life is either a grand adventure or nothing.”  When you allow your fears to sabotage your golf game, you give up that grand adventure.


       Have fun on the golf course by training your brain to stay in the present. When you do the fears will disappear and you will be in control, and scoring lower.


·        Visualize your success.

·        When you wake up in the morning, think Victory.

·        Acknowledge it.

·        Stay with it constantly.

·        Choose Victory in your heart.

·        Understand that the Law of Love does all things well.

·        Go forward in the radiant image of Victory.


Entrain Your Heart & Brain for Peak Performances!


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