It is a couple of hours before your final round tee time. You have played yourself into contention for one of the best tournaments you have ever had. Yet, the uncertainty of what will happen today is filled with disaster scenarios flashing through your mind. The tension and anxiety are bubbling, almost ready to explode. You have agreed to answer a few questions from a reporter but are apprehensive because “your mind just isn’t right”. Then you feel a tap on the shoulder. You turn and it is the wisest person you know. Maybe it is the Buddha, the Pope, your Mother, Father, or Mister Rodgers. “Having a little difficultly?” He/she asks rhetorically. You nod. “Would you like me to help?” You nod again and suddenly you reverse places and you become the observer and this trusted sage becomes you. Now you watch as the interview with the reporter begins.
How do you feel about the round today?
Well, I am naturally a little nervous. Obviously, I would like to have a good result and win but of course that is not something I can control.
What are you going to do to calm your nerves?
Nothing. They are outside of my control and I am not going to waste any energy trying to control them.
Aren’t you concerned that your anxiousness would interfere with your performance?
I do not hit the golf ball with my thoughts, feelings, or emotions. I hit them with my actions, I use my eyes to connect my shots to the target, verbal reminders to direct my focus, hands to manipulate the club, and feet to align myself. That is where my concern is.
Are you worried at all about failing?
There is absolutely no shame in failing. It happens all the time and even more to those that choose to pursue excellence. I would rather fail at the pursuit of excellence than fail to pursue it at all. I am extremely grateful that I will have both the opportunity for victory and defeat.
Your closest competitor who you are paired with today said yesterday that she was going to take it to you today and put the pressure on. How do you respond?
That is fine, I am not even going to try to beat her today.
What? Um, what are you going to try to do then?
Well, I will pay attention to what presents itself from moment to moment, approach each shot with the same degree of importance, assess what actions will give me the best chance to hit the shot I want, and place my focus on committing exclusively to that.
What will you do if those shots turn out bad?
There is no bad or good, there is only feedback and information. I will use it to adjust if needed.
Is there anything that will prevent you from playing this way?
Yes, many. Namely, losing connection with the present moment and forgetting that my thoughts have no credibility.
How will you keep that from happening?
Most likely it will happen, yet I have routines, pre-shot, post-shot, and in-between shot mental checklists developed. If I utilize and stick to my checklist, I will be doing the best I can.
How will you feel if you win this tournament?
That is irrelevant. Playing the contest at my full potential is the prize not winning the competition.
The interview concludes, the sage turns to you, and you exchange bodies with it. As you thank the sage, he/she leans in close and whispers in your ear, “pretend that it is important but know that it is no big deal”.
The advice and wisdom of your sage is as unique as it is priceless. Your life is immensely enriched by having such as person in your life. But, understand this, you are that sage. You possess within you all the wisdom to be the best you can be. Outside sources of true insight are dangerous. While you may feel lost at times and think you need the wisdom of another to guide you, all you really need is to learn how to access it from within. Learn and practice how to separate yourself from the filtering effects of personal history, irrational beliefs, and distorted perceptions of reality. Find a system of regular actions that lead to constant, unlimited growth.
Create a pre-round list of affirmation statements that reflect the wisest and most helpful advice you could give yourself to overcome the mental obstacles and play to the fullest potential you have that day. Take it a step further and turn them in self-statements (mantras) that you can repeat to yourself as you play.