One of the great things about BrainStyles is its every day application. Here, Marlane Miller explains how learning golf allowed her to realize some very valuable lessons about living and performance.
The sport I have attempted to learn over the last decade is golf. I find the sport a very apt metaphor for most of living. In this way, I believe it is a truly Zen activity. In a recent clinic to improve my game, I learned the following things which I believe translate to living and performing in the world.
- Don’t grip the club too tight. Tension prevents performance. Tension stems from expectations for outstanding performance, executing a skill equal to the image I can create, or that someone else can perform. Excellent performance actually occurs when relaxed, with an easy acceptance of my current level of skill, without judgment, and timing rather than force and effort are used to create a powerful result.
- Use the club appropriate to the situation, but keep the fundamentals the same. I have the same gifts to apply in all situations.
- Keep the focus on the future. A sports psychologist tells me that the best of the sports professionals (in golf, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, for example) use their mistakes to learn from, spend between 60 and 90 seconds thinking about what went wrong, and then focus totally on the next challenge and how well they are equipped to handle it.
- Use feedback to correct and improve, to find the core of the game that is the best game that you can play. Ultimately you are the best judge of what works for you, not the teacher.
- Keep the focus on the game, not the shot. So many times as a beginner I would be devastated by horrible shots and elated by a great shot. Golf is engaging because it is such a mental game, played against yourself. Professionals hit shots so that they can hit another thousand shots in the same day. No one shot is more precious than another, no day more special than another, all is a part of the grand game.
There are many other lessons golf can teach you. For instance, a tournament can teach you to take criticism. Golf teaches us ethics – golfers are required to complete their score cards on the Honor System. You either follow the rules or you don’t. Golf also teaches us about passion and why it is necessary for a long run, like golf.
Golf teaches us lessons that can transfer into real life, including how to congratulate and encourage our peers. Former President Gerald Ford once said, “The pat on the back, the arm around the shoulder, the praise for what was done right and the sympathetic nod for what wasn’t are as much a part of golf as life itself.”
This weekend, dust off your clubs and hit the links. Take a deep breath and accept the lessons that golf teaches us.
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