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In life we have to give up some things to get better things. It’s called “delayed gratification,” and it’s one of those secrets to a successful life that even many adults don’t comprehend.
So too in golf, there are things we need to let go of in order to make gains in ability and outcomes. If we want to get better, we are challenged to give up those attitudes and behavior patterns that are holding us back. We must be able to put aside certain beliefs, habits and actions that are no longer serving us well. Let’s examine some of what we should let go of.
The first thing to do is let go of fear. What are you really afraid of anyway. I’ll bet you haven’t thought of how hidden fear, below the threshold of awareness, is holding you back from much better performance. Do you fear looking foolish or embarrassing yourself? Being seen as a loser and someone who chokes? Being ridiculed as a chump or a pigeon? We often imagine that bystanders, or even playing companions, are closely watching everything we do and every bad swing we make. That may be true in the pressure of Ryder Cup play, but in truth fellow players are concerned about their own business. Have the courage to let go of fear completely.
Deeply ingrained maladaptive notions are rooted in destructive core beliefs that often take the form of “musts,” “shoulds” and “have-tos” that generally do us harm when it comes to performing at our best. In a detached, rational view, it’s of course ridiculous, but the whole idea of feeling the impending panic of failure can be intensely implanted in our emotional makeup. When you let go of the “musts” and the fear, you let go of tension, which is the enemy of good golf. We need to do a little soul searching and boldly identify what our inner fears really are. After challenging our demons, being willing to face them directly as truly unfounded, perhaps even immature, we will choose to let them evaporate. Remember also that true courage is not being absolutely fearless: it is acting correctly and with resolve in the face of fear. Like our boys did in the Battle of the Bulge, the beaches of Normandy, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.
Along with letting go of fear, we do ourselves a big favor when we let go of doubt at the same time. If you doubt that you will be able to play your best golf when you tee it up in a tournament, it is very unlikely that you will. If you doubt you can win, you probably won’t even give yourself a chance to win. Doubting yourself is born of insecurity – not trusting yourself and your ability. It rears its ugly head, for example, by looking up to see the ball before finishing the swing or the putt. Releasing self-doubt will be the first step toward newfound confidence. Be positive; I mean simply deciding to be optimistic, where you see possibilities, not pitfalls. Make it your business to know your own game and trust yourself to play it solidly when it counts.
How about letting go of bad habits, like being too lazy to exercise or work out, or being unwilling to practice or remaining stuck in old and unproductive swing patterns. In his bestselling book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” author and consultant Stephen Covey tells us that high achievers select personal and lifestyle habits that work for them instead of against them. Achievers tend to be goal-directed, focused, disciplined in their priorities, resilient to setbacks, conscious of high health maintenance and emotionally balanced. Good for golfers.
Lastly, let go of whatever is inauthentic. In the wonderful golf story (and movie) “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” caddie Bagger urged his golfer, Junah, to strip away everything that was inauthentic – not truly his own – about his golf swing, so that what remained was his own real and genuine swing. He told Junah his game was good enough to win and it was useless to try to borrow someone else’s swing. The lesson for us in that story, of course, is to play our own game, and if it doesn’t measure up, take some lessons and bump it up a notch.
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.