Friday, July 31, 2015

Tell Your Story

I'm out on the Symetra Tour this week on the bag for one of my students.  I also have the chance to watch, hug, talk to and catch up with a bunch of other great women out here.  As I listen to them, they tell me their stories.

Stories are important for all athletes.  The story you create daily has a lot to do with the outcomes you produce.  The things you talk about, worry about, mull over and to which you give energy are important.  They are your reality, because they become your story.



Stories are a part of life for all athletes.  They are a way of framing the experiences you have as you learn your craft, compete and grow as a player.  They can also be a way to hold yourself back or get into your own way.  This happens for many reasons.  Simply because you are always in the middle of your story, you don't understand the importance of seeing a positive ending.  Another thing that stories do is protect you from pain.  They offer chances to frame failures as elaborate plots in which the main character is a victim.  If your stories seem to "happen to you" instead of having you as the instigator, you see yourself as a victim of circumstances and you're giving away your power to be in control.  Stories are sometimes given to athletes by others.  They might be focused on your past, your weaknesses or your latest failure.  Don't listen to those stories and don't adopt them.  If you listen to Johnny Miller on Sunday at a PGA event, he has a story about every miss a player makes.  It is entertaining for us as listeners and might sometimes hit the mark.  However, the stories he tells may or may not be the same story the player is telling himself.  If Zach Johnson mishits a driver, Johnny might talk about how Zach is pressing since he is shorter off the tee.  Zach, on the other hand, probably knows the reason he missed the driver and it most certainly has nothing to do with the big picture of his length off the tee.  Zach Johnson is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses and tells his story through his ability to focus on his own needs, not by listening to what others say about him.

Let's do a little role playing so you can see the power of your stories.  I will tell a bunch of stories that are common for competitive golfers.  I want you to decide if the story is helpful or hurtful, how it will prepare the golfer for a day on the course and how it could be tweaked if needed.

Story #1:  "I'm really struggling with my putting lately."
Story #2:  "I like the way these greens roll."
Story #3:  This course has a lot of holes that don't fit my eye."
Story #4:  "I like this course, because it forces me to hit shots and I love to hit shots."
Story #5:  "We've been out for four straight weeks and I'm ready for a break."
Story #6:  "I get to play one more week before we take a break."
Story #7:  "I played horrible yesterday."
Story #8:  "I learned a lot yesterday."
Story #9:  "I played great yesterday."
Story #10: "I learned a lot yesterday and did a great job of focusing.
Story #11:  "I'm not long enough to compete at this level."
Story #12:  "I'll use my strengths on and around the greens to win."



All of these are common stories out here on tour and at every level of the game.  The odd numbers are stories that will hold you back and the even numbers are stories that will propel you forward.  Let's look at them for their power.

Story #1 is one told by a player focused on what isn't happening instead of what is happening or at the least, what could be happening.  The longer that thought is in the head or on the lips of a player, the more truth there is in the story.  Simply changing the story is the first step to letting go of the problem.  You can change it by focusing on the scene instead of the actor.  For example, tell a story about the course instead of your performance.  You can change it by putting the problem in the past tense, such as "I was struggling with my putting, but I've changed a few small things that have made a big difference."  Remember, it's your story to tell, so write the ending you want to live, not the ending you fear or are working to avoid.

Story #3 is a story by a player who feels challenged by a scenario that she doesn't feel is to her advantage.  Challenges are what make you great, so figure out why you have trepidation and attack it head on.  There is a reason that "Rise to the Challenge" is a phrase used to describe strong behavior in all fields.  It is based on recognition of a tough situation and the ability to overcome it.  This story can be one of so many for competitive golfers.  It can be based on fast greens, slow greens, tight courses, long rough, deep bunkers, high winds, or simply a higher level of competition.  Identify the challenge that gives you pause and come up with a plan.  Make sure the story you tell has a resolution stated after the challenge.

Story #5 is a story told by all athletes in all sports who get worn down.  Being worn down is common for all professional athletes.  Everyone wants to be at the highest level of their sport, but once there, the energy needed to stay there is immense.  Travel, appearances, physical training and competitions all take their toll and there is very little time for rest.  The key to not focusing on the fatigue or weariness is to remain thankful and gracious for the opportunities you have.  Simply starting your story with "I get to....." instead of "I have to....." is a great key to telling a story that keeps you fresh and positive.  Staying fresh and positive in your mind at the end of a long stretch on the road is worth a shot on the field each day!

Sean Burke was a goaltender in the NHL for 19 years and played for 9 teams.  

Stories #7 & #9 are similar in that they are a review of what has passed.  The key for both is to focus on the process instead of the result and take something away from the competition that will help you tomorrow.  Sure, it's great to play great and talk about it, but what was it that made it a great day?  If you simply say it was great, it seems like it just happened to you.  What was your role in the greatness and what did you do to shine?  All results are based on skills, process and attitudes.  On a rough day, instead of beating yourself up for a poor performance, look through your story for what you can learn and then move on.  You can tell a story of challenge, fear and adversity, but you can write the ending to be one of triumph, facing fear and overcoming obstacles.  Maybe that ending doesn't happen until the second round, but it's up to you to write the story.


Story #11 is one of a player focused on a story told to her by others.  Everyone is ready to tell you what you lack, what you need or what you can't do.  Don't listen and adopt the story that others tell you.  Instead, write your own based on what you have, what you can learn and what you can do.

Tell your story with the ending you want.  Great athletes don't get that way without a clear idea of their story with an ending of success.

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