Are You ‘Trying’ to Enjoy Your Golf?
Are You ‘Trying’ to Enjoy Your Golf?
Had an interesting conversation with a good golfer recently.
He was struggling with his game and not enjoying his golf nearly as much as he had done in the past.
He was putting a lot of pressure on himself and grinding his way round the course, trying hard to find his best golf.
He felt anxious, uncomfortable and tight.
Golf just wasn’t fun any more.
Take Your Foot Off The Pedal
Unsurprisingly he was having a hard time.
He had enough insight to realise that this approach wasn’t working, but didn’t really know what to do about it.
As with a lot of good players who want to realise their potential, he had bought into the idea that the pathway to success is blood, sweat and tears.
That all the pain and sacrifice would be worth it in the long term, whenever that might be.
My friend Garret Kramer uses a neat analogy.
He describes grinding and struggling and using willpower in this situation, as like flooring the accelerator pedal when your wheels are stuck in the mud.
The harder you try, the more you grind, the worse you feel and the more your wheels spin, the more stuck you become.
The first thing to do when you’re stuck is to take your foot off the gas pedal.
The tough thing about this idea, is that to a good player who is used to trying hard, to playing flat out, is that ‘not trying’ feels a lot like ‘giving up’ or ‘quitting’.
I remember when Garret first shared this with me.
I went out and played the next day. I didn’t feel tight or anxious anymore.
I just felt a bit flat and empty, like something I cared deeply about had left me.
I didn’t play that well either.
I remember thinking that if this is what golf is going to be like, I’m not sure I like it that much more than being tight and anxious.
The wheels might have stopped spinning, but at the end of the day I was still sat in the ditch.
Looking back, what I had done was replace my thoughts about striving and trying hard, with thinking about doing the opposite.
I was thinking about not trying. Replacing one type of thinking with another sort of thinking just doesn’t work, it’s just more thinking.
The player I was speaking with recently had a similar experience. He asked me a question.
“OK. I need to stop trying, and to stop thinking. So should I go out there and just try to enjoy it” ?
I asked him to try to imagine the following scenario.
“You have had a really good day on a great golf course, the weather has been perfect, warm and sunny with a gentle breeze.
You’ve hit some great shots, enjoyed the company of your playing partners and all in all had a lovely time.
You walk into the bar and order a beer.
The barman takes a tall glass out of the fridge.
It’s frosted with condensation. He places it under the tap and the icy cold, golden liquid streams into the glass.
A frothy white head forms on top as the tiny bubbles rise to the surface. He places it down on the bar in front of you.”
“How hard are you going to try to enjoy that beer?”
So, we know that trying hard and grinding doesn’t work.
It makes us feel bound up, and tight and anxious. No enjoyment there.
We also know that trying not to try doesn’t do it either.
That feels empty and sloppy and careless, like we’re letting ourselves down.
Trying to enjoy something you do because you already like doing it, is just a bit weird.
Stay Patient – Be Aware
The answer lies not in a technique, or a strategy, or a belief system.
The answer lies in understanding how our minds work.
Feelings of enjoyment, of fun, of connectedness, of contentment, of satisfaction, of peace - come from having a clear mind and simply doing what you do in the moment.
Thinking interferes with that clarity of mind and gets in the way of enjoying the experience for what it is.
Our feelings always come from our thinking, so if your feelings aren’t what you want to be feeling, they’re telling you your thoughts are pointing you in the wrong direction.
The way it works for me now, is that I step onto the golf course, and I just play.
I’m aware of my thoughts coming and going, but I’m just letting them be.
I will play some golf while I’m waiting, but I’m not trying to do anything in particular.
Sooner or later, a little insight pops up, and nice feeling will come along with it.
It might be a good feeling in my swing, or my putting stroke, or just a more general feeling of calmness and confidence.
We’ve all had that feeling of ‘knowing’ that this shot will be a good one. By waiting, by being aware, I’m just creating space for that feeling to come along.
Left alone, your mind will always revert to a state of non-judgmental awareness.
Thinking gets out of the way and leaves room for insight and good feelings to happen, which they won’t do with a mind full of thinking.
Being in the moment certainly feels better than forcing it or ‘making it happen’.
Or indeed, ‘trying’ to enjoy it.