Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Do You Evaluate Yourself?

This is the second post in the series based on how to perform at your best and get out of your own way.  Today, we will talk about how you evaluate yourself.  When players aren't playing their best, they are often their own worst critics.  They judge themselves harshly and often in minutia. Every bogey confirms a doubt.  Every stray shot confirms a fear.  Every negative thought is dissected.  The player who is in her own way judges her game constantly.

Do you judge yourself harshly on the golf course?

Yesterday, we talked about defining yourself as a golfer.  What did you come up with?  Whatever it is, it will be the criteria you will learn to use to evaluate your game, your effort and yourself.  This is tricky but very powerful.  The importance of how you define yourself is crucial.  My old definition of myself as a golfer has had to change completely since a bad injury in 2011.  The shift in my definition has allowed me to begin to enjoy the game again.  I gave up the idea of power and risk taking and embraced smooth and resilient.  I have also embraced accepting as a strong definition of who I am as both a golfer and a person.  That was a key.  Let's choose three qualities that were listed yesterday and pretend they are yours.
  • Athletic
  • Determined
  • Playful
If this is who you are as a player, these are the criteria you will use to evaluate yourself.  You can think about them at every stage of playing the game; practice, preparation and competition.  Here is an example:

Are you living like an athlete?  Is your nutrition what it should be?  Are you sleeping enough?  Are you fit and ready for anything?  When you practice, do you work as an athlete?  That means are you creating habits that are positive and will help you perform under pressure?  Do you find pleasure in the physical feats you perform for their own sake and not for the score they produce?  Do you use all of yourself, your eyes, your muscles, your mind, your heart and your gut to perform?  

What does it mean to be determined?  It means that you know what you want and will work tirelessly until you achieve it.  That can mean one shot or a career.  Very determined players work to learn what they need to be successful.  Determined players work hard to do something great even when it doesn't seem to matter.  Determined players believe that they will be successful if they keep at it.

Playful!  The player who is playful is finding joy in the game.  She is able to find fun in the challenges she faces instead of seriousness.  She can smile when things go wrong because she is still playing the great game. 

If these three characteristics were your three, you would evaluate your performances using these criteria.  If you practice, do you stay playful?  When things get tough, do you stay determined?  Are you able to tap into your athleticism to solve problems or overcome obstacles?  When you compete, do you remember to have a playful attitude?  Do you find a skill, such as staying in the moment and stay determined to achieve it?  Do you walk and act like an athlete with your head up and your arms swinging? 

Things can and do go wrong on the golf course, but it doesn't have to be what defines you.  Rory is a great example of creating his own definition of himself in trying times.  His collapse at the 2011 Masters lead to an 80, but in a few months, he bounced back to win the U.S. Open and in 2012, he lead both the PGA and the European Tours in money earned.

If things go wrong on the course, can you remember to tap into who you are?  Would a double bogey cause you to lose your playfulness?  Can it make your playfulness seem frivolous and unimportant?  Does it cause you to turn on your very strength?  Yes, golf can do that to you.  We see it all the time.  If you are playing golf as an athlete, but make a few bad swings, do you change to a mechanic?  Does your mind take over from your eyes and body?  Does your brain get busy on problem solving instead of playing the great game?  Yes, we see this reaction all of the time also.  You may be an athlete, but you retreat into bad habits or the safety of being a mechanic as soon as the challenges seem too big.  If you chose determined, can you remain determined during an entire round of golf?  Can you stay with the shot at hand?  Can you walk with a purpose and stay resolute in your decision making?  If you are true to who you are and how you define yourself, you will understand that this is your salvation and will eventually bring your game to the top.

By tapping into who you want to be and how you want to act, you create the positive habits that will transform you into a strong player.  Your body language will reflect your state of mind.  You will not spend time or energy working to be someone you aren't or fighting who you are on the course. 

Your task now is to check out yesterday's list again and confirm your definition of yourself as a player.  Then write down some ways that your attributes will show in your practice, preparation and play.  Think about when things go wrong and you don't feel like yourself on the course.  What attributes do you adopt then?  Does your happy turn into unhappy?  Do you turn from a fighter into a thinker?  Does your goal orientation become one of avoiding mistakes?  Commit to thinking about your attributes and how you will use them each and every time you step on the course.  It can happen off the course, too.  If you want to be an athlete, you must treat your body as an athlete does all the time.  You can take this as far as you want to, but it must happen on the course. 

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