You don’t need to read this to have a good golf year in 2021. I mean ... it’s not rocket science. Stay fit, focus on enjoying your game, and keep your wedges sharp, and you’ll have your share of positive moments on the links.
But chances are you’re reading these words because, in your heart of heart’s, you want something more from your game in the upcoming season. There’s a level of play within your reach that’s somehow remained beyond your grasp ... and you want to grab it ... now.
So here’s the bottom line: Do the exercise below, and you’ll be adding a primary ingredient to the golfing cake you most want to bake.
But first ... let’s reconnect with Part One of this article. It discussed how each of us is guided through life by a personal story — a subconscious script full of memories from your past — and suggested you manage your memories in a way that purposefully highlights your best moments. If you haven’t read Part One, I recommend doing so here because it leverages your golf history in a way that enables you to get the most from what follows.
And when you’re ready, let’s move into the future by focusing on the conscious mind — in other words, let’s examine the importance of what you think and how you think it in relation to achieving goals.
The Left and Right Brain
Basically, we think our thoughts in one of two ways; analytically or imaginatively. Perhaps you’ve heard the terms Left brain and Right Brain before ... but the essential idea is this: We can think in a logical, analytical manner replete with rational arguments about why something’s right, or something’s wrong (the Left Brain), or, we can think in ways that are intuitive, imaginative, and deeply connected to emotion (the Right Brain).
Here’s what’s important for an avid golfer to know: Traditional goal setting is mostly an analytical activity. We logically choose a target, then plan a path to achieve it. It’s good stuff, but it’s not great stuff because it doesn’t produce the passion and persistence required to create a breakthrough performance on a personal level. What I’ve found more powerful for my clients is a goal-setting process that’s mostly about imagining.
Please note I’ve used the word mostly twice in the previous paragraph because I want to underline this truth — we think analytically and imaginatively simultaneously. I’m not telling you to disregard or discard logic and engage in a flight of fantasy. I’m saying this — to get the maximum from goal setting, place the majority of your mental effort on the intuitive, imaginative, creative side of the equation.
Here's An Example
Perhaps an everyday example will be instructive here. Let’s say you’re driving home one evening, and the idea of pizza for dinner pops into your mind. You consider your options and choose vegetarian toppings instead of meat lovers because your partner prefers the former, and you’re good with both. The process only takes a few seconds, and while you rationally weigh your options, your mind will conjure up images. But the mental pictures will be fleeting, and you won’t immerse yourself in any of them. In the end, if there’s not enough feeling in your thinking, you won’t call home to make the suggestion, and your attention will quickly move on to a different topic. In such moments, you’re using both left brain and right brain thinking, but the weight of your mental energy is mostly on the side of your logical, left brain.
But what if you placed the majority of your energy into imaginative thinking and immersed yourself in the pictures unfolding on the screen of your mind? What if you pulled into a parking lot and shut off your car, then closed your eyes and imagined yourself at home, reaching out to open the lid on a still-warm pizza box? And what if, in your mind’s eye, you separated a slice, gave it a close look, and brought it up to your mouth ... pausing for a moment to savor the smell? And what if your mental imagery was so vivid you felt the heat of the crust in your hand ... and as you taste that first bite ... well ... you know what pizza bliss tastes like, don’t you? Now that inner experience would feel different, wouldn’t it?
In the latter example, you’re giving most of your mental energy to imaginative thinking. And the more you create a sensory experience in your mind’s eye — as if it was actually happening — the more likely you are to call home with a strong recommendation for pizza tonight.
Going Beyond Normal Goal Setting
You see ... what you rationally think influences what you do, but what you vividly imagine powerfully influences what you do. And that’s why I’m not helping you set a goal in the traditional sense of the word. Regular, run-of-the-mill goal setting isn’t intense enough to take you where you want to go.
Besides, in all likelihood, you already know how to set SMART goals. There’s nothing wrong with establishing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. They make good common sense ... and, in my experience, are well-suited to managing front-line employees in a business context. However, to fulfill your golfing potential, you’ve got to lean on your right brain. Just as you must be creative to get up and down from a tricky lie, you must creatively use your imagination — on yourself —if you want to be the best golfer you can be.
Here you might note that I’ve yet to ask you to identify your specific goal or goals for 2021. And you might be wondering ... how can I accurately imagine a goal I’ve yet to set?
Well ... good question. And here’s the answer. I don’t want you to begin this process using analytical thinking; I want you to end there.
You see ... if you begin with left-brain logic, your ego will want to worm its way into the process. Chances are you’ll sell yourself short because of a fear of failure, or you’ll get carried away by some grandiose idea of who you “should” be. After decades of coaching clients, I’ve come to trust that imaginative, intuitive thinking will always surface a truer, more meaningful image of what you can achieve.
Therefore, let’s establish your primary goal for 2021 by relaxing, letting your thoughts drift imaginatively into the future, and discovering what your subconscious mind intuitively knows is possible for you. In the same way that you make more putts when you instinctively trust your line, and you’re not over-thinking the stroke required, I invite you to find a quiet, uninterrupted space and let your mind go where the questions lead.
Ok ... enough explaining ... time for creative visualization.
Step Three (continued from the previous article)
- Begin by taking a few minutes to relax your body and mind. Inhale slowly ... and exhale fully. As you breathe deeply, consciously relax the muscles in your shoulders.
- When you’re comfortable and at ease, close your eyes and let your thoughts move forward into the future ... to a specific moment in time ... an upcoming event/tournament/round that will be especially important to you this year ...
- See yourself playing a hole, from tee to green, as if you watched yourself in a YouTube video. It could be the first hole, the final hole, or any hole in between. What’s important is this ... ask your imagination to let you watch yourself playing the golf of your dreams.
- Make a mental note of what you see. Notice your body language, gestures, facial expressions. Watch yourself go through your pre-shot routine, your set-up, and your swing. Watch how you respond to each shot and putting stroke.
- Watch for as long as it takes to see yourself walking off the green with the hole completed.
- Now rewind to the very beginning of the hole, and this time, step inside the image and live it as if it’s happening now.
- Where does your attention go during your pre-shot routine?
- Where does your attention go during your in-shot execution?
- Where does your attention go during your post-shot response?
- Note how it feels to be doing what you’re doing at this moment.
- Finally, with your mind still connected to this imagery, ask yourself this question,
— What’s my goal for 2021?
- Open your eyes, grab a pen, write down your goal, and a logical plan to get there.
Whether your goal is external (scoring record/handicap/tournament win) or internal (state of mind ), or both, the key is trust. Deep down, you know it’s your heart’s desire, and you also know, with 100% commitment, it’s possible for you to achieve.
- Repeat Step Three on a daily basis.
Mental strength is comparable to physical strength. If you hired a world-class trainer, and he/she designed the perfect fitness program, you wouldn’t do the workout once and never go back again. You know you’ve got to pay a price today to achieve something meaningful down the road. And the price, on the mental side of the game, is time and attention.
You don’t need to sit cross-legged, light candles, and put yourself into a trance for an hour. But you do need to take a few minutes — regularly — and imagine living inside the golf of your dreams. It’s a small investment because once you become familiar with the process, Step Three will take less than five minutes to complete. Yet, it can bring a game-changing return.
Let me close by stating the obvious: As with anything worthwhile in life, transforming your golfing aspirations into reality isn’t easy or inevitable. And getting one thing right won’t be enough, on its own, to guarantee success. It really is comparable to baking. You’ve got to include all the right ingredients, in the right measure, at the right time ... and you've got to set the oven at the right temperature and time things just right. It’s part science and part art. And with that said, all I can promise is this — commit to practicing the process I’ve described, and you can be absolutely assured you’ve added a quality carrot to your carrot cake.
All the best