October 24, 2011

How To Focus Your Energy In Golf

How to Focus Your Mental Energy in Golf

One mistake that many of us make in sport (and in life!) is that we spend a lot of our time thinking about the past or looking into the future. Occasional glimpses into the rear view mirror of our current situation can give us information that can be helpful. Occasional glimpses into the future can help us plan ahead to make the right club selection or the best shot to manage the course effectively. 

The key here is that this is a glimpse rather than a stare or an obsession.  “I should have done it differently”. “I can’t believe I screwed that up, it was so easy”. “I’d be one over at the turn if I hadn’t hit that approach in the water on number eight”.   These are examples of backwards looking and backwards thinking that inhibit your ability to execute to the best of your ability RIGHT NOW. 

It is very difficult, if not impossible to perform at a peak level when you are still focusing on something that has passed.  Most of us are not talented or lucky enough to be able to be thinking about the past and still react to the situation at hand in an optimal way.  Similarly, others are so caught up in the future that they forget to take care of this moment. 

“What if” and “I hope I don’t” thinking characterizes this type of dynamic.  “What if I bogie this hole too?” “What if I don’t sink this putt?” “I hope I don’t hit it left here.”  Others will future-think about a positive event: “If I par the next two holes, I’ll post my best score!”  “If I get up and down from here, I’ll win the club championship”.  This thinking, while at first appearing positive, in fact is a distraction from being focused in the present. 

While still performing, the thoughts of winning and succeeding can actually inhibit performance for most people.  To “Be Here Now” means to purposefully bring yourself into the present so that you can put all of your focus on the current shot before you.  This focus is most effectively achieved by dismissing the thoughts of the past and future with an inner dialogue that emphasizes executing the task at hand. 

This “present moment” dialogue would go something like this, “Of course I don’t want to bogie this hole too. “ “I’m not going to worry about score.”  “Right now I want to hit this driver like I know I’m capable, to that target right there.”   “It would be nice to post my best score, but right now I want to put a good swing on this 7-iron shot.”  “Let’s take it on a line toward that chimney in the distance with a slight draw over the center of the green”. This is the dialogue of players “in the zone” and the kind of self-talk that wins championships!

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