Sunday, November 11, 2012

More Fast Easy Fun

More, fast, easy, fun!  These are the words that Dr. David Walsh used to describe our society's focus now.  We don't hear "No" very often and don't want to accept it when we do.  What does that have to do with golf?  Instead of saying no to emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, young players often give in to the emotions they feel on the course.  It might have started when they were younger and allowed a tantrum or a whine or it might just happen on the golf course.  Either way, they need to learn that how they act in any situation is their choice and not a matter of an out of control reaction. 

Adam Scott allows a moment of frustration. 

I don't really like the idea of "controlling" emotions.  Instead, I like the idea of cultivating positive emotions.  Cultivating means to nurture or grow.  How can you play golf and nurture your positive emotions while neglecting your negative emotions?  That is the skill that needs to be developed if you want to play golf in your best state of mind.  It is less about control and more about choice.  It is you being your best self in competition.

Symetra Tour player, Julia Boland allows herself positive emotions on the golf course.

Your first step in cultivating your positive emotions is to figure out what emotions help you and hurt you on the course. According to Dr. Robert Plutchik, your emotions were important to your survival by regulating your ability to reproduce or decide on fight or flight.  Wikipedia  Without a threat to your life, emotions on the course become centered on performance.  Poor performance becomes the threat and emotions create reactions that involve thought patterns and behavior.  In order to stop the reaction, you need your will instead of your emotions.

As happens to me constantly, when I am thinking through a blog post, the world seems to want to help me.  At Mass last Sunday, the priest, Fr. Paul Otting, gave the homily about this very topic.  He talked about emotions vs. will.  While his talk was focused on sin and not golf, it brought a level of simplicity to my thoughts.  Your will is your ability to choose.  It is your determination, your desire, and your purpose.  Fr. Otting spoke of the ability to set emotion aside in the moment to gain something in the long run.  Delayed gratification is a skill that is somewhat ignored these days, but that is the skill that is most needed in learning to tap into your positive emotions on the course.

Watch this video and come back.  Marshmallow Test

What bearing does this video have on a golf game?  Simply, we need to learn to say NO to ourselves when we want to give in to negative emotions and instead use our will to stay in the right state of mind for success.

Plutchik's Wheel

By Machine Elf 1735 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Plutchik believed that there are eight basic emotions:  Anger, Anticipation, Joy, Trust, Fear, Surprise, Sadness, and Disgust.
Your will is your biggest source of strength on the course.  It will overcome any negative emotion you may have if you choose to say no to the emotion and not allow the patterns of behavior and thoughts that accompany the emotion.  Here is an example:

You hit your first shot of the day out of bounds on the left.  How do you act?  Or do you react?
Here is a table of both:

Young players seem to think that emotional reactions are out of their control.  Emotions flood in, thoughts fly and behaviors change.  The tail wags the dog.  Instead, the player needs to understand that emotions, while natural, aren't automatic.  Choosing your emotions is the same as choosing your choice on the menu.  The cheeseburger calls your name.  You can smell it, see it and even taste the juiciness of it before you order it.  However, you can decide to have will power and eat a salad.  If you look around, there are a lot of people saying yes to the cheeseburger.  There are also a lot of competitive golfers who never see their best round.  When you are playing golf, all of your feelings are on the menu and only your will power will keep you strong.  Decide the emotions that help you succeed and order them as much as possible.  Know which emotions are score killers and will yourself not to give in to them.  It's up to you!

What can you do to cultivate your positive emotions on the golf course?  Here are ten things:
1.  Be in the moment
2.  Let go of mistakes
3.  See problems as challenges
4.  Stay active with your mind between shots - self coach positive thoughts
5.  Judge yourself at the end of the day
6.  Remember, you are not your score
7.  Decide or script your actions for the day.
8.  Forgive and forget.  A good practice in life and on the course.
9.  Allow your routine to focus you on your task.
10. Choose the emotions from the top of the wheel and keep them close by you.

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