Thanks to Dr. Deborah Graham for her idea of a busy brain vs. a quiet brain, which is the subject of this graphic:
Any list of qualities you want or don't want to have when performing is just that, a list. The key to looking at theses lists is to individualize it to you. When your head gets busy, which one of the thoughts on the left creep in? When you are playing well and you are in the zone, what would accurately describe your state of mind? It is rarely a lot of things that are bothersome. For some players, it is keeping a mental scorecard and projecting the final score or lamenting mistakes or big holes. Either keeps the player in places other than focus on the moment. Others can't forgive themselves for mistakes and spiral into negative self-talk and a lack of motivation. I am sure there are many other busy mind states we can fall into that don't help us on the course.
As for the quiet mind, it might take practice or reminders to learn to embrace these states of mind. In fact, you can be quite patient on the course one day and lose it completely the next. A quiet mind doesn't simply happen, but takes commitment and practice. As with the busy mind, there are usually one or two things on the quiet mind side of the inventory that are individual to you and your game. For some, it might be vivid visualization that keeps them focused on hitting the shot or rolling the putt. I read Tommy Gainey's interview today following 36 holes of great golf and he stated that he needed to have fun out there. Many of you reading this might think the fun comes from playing well, but a commitment to fun can also come first. To me, the word fun shows in facial expressions, looseness, finding challenges in tough situations and being totally oneself. What would fun mean to you?
Pick one or two of the states of mind on the left that you would like to eliminate from your golf and then choose one or two that you think are keys to successful play. Now commit to playing a round of golf without the negatives and focused on the positives. If you chose anger and frustration for example, when you find yourself feeling angry after a poor shot, remind yourself that you want to be in control of your emotions and focus on hitting shots. Lets say frustration is creeping in after a string of bogies. You are now clearly in the past, not the present, so change gears and have clear visualization of the shot at hand. See it vividly before you step in to execute it.
If you want to see how great your mental game can be on the golf course, commit to one useful state of mind the next time you play and vow to leave one busy mind state behind.