October 24, 2011

Stay Motivated To Play Your Best Golf

Does it sometimes feel that no matter how many lessons you take or how much practice you put in, you still aren’t progressing as quickly as that other player that you know?  That player at the fitness center seems to be getting stronger more quickly, and/or those players whom you used to beat are now beating you regularly.  How do these situations impact and effect your motivation?  The answer is up to you.

Ego vs. Task Motivation
There are two major categories of motivation: ego orientation and task orientation.

Ego Orientation
Unfortunately for many of us, we typically measure ourselves and are measured by others through ego orientation.  This involves comparing ourselves to others around us.

One danger in this is that no matter how we measure ourselves, we can nearly always find someone who is doing it better, more efficiently, or more effectively.  Even the best golfers can find themselves getting distracted by the progress of others.  This can result in a significant drain on the player’s desire and motivation.

Ego-oriented thinking is characterized by thoughts like: “I’ll never catch up with him no matter how hard I try”, and “Look how much farther he hits the ball than I do”, and “She has more opportunity to practice and train than I do, I’ve got no chance against her” and “I’m so much better than that guy, how does he beat me in this tournament”.

In junior golf, there are many examples of situations where a young person may have more success simply because of physical growth differences. These physical differences will eventually even out over time.

For a while though, those who have not caught up physically with the “early bloomer” may feel significantly inferior, and constantly be concerned about not being good enough.  This is because they are in a constant comparison to someone bigger, stronger, or more skilled.

On the other hand, these “early bloomers” face the challenge of staying motivated to give 100% effort in training, despite the fact they are winning nearly all of their competitions and/or are the biggest fish in their respectively small pond.

Some of these young golfers are initially successful in spite of poor work habits and/or inefficient developmental training procedures. Regularly, when the rest of the pack begins to catch up (as they often do) far too many of these players struggle with the challenge of staying ahead of the pack and some suddenly drop out of the game.

From a course management perspective, many people get out of their game plan because of an emphasis on what other players are doing, or what they perceive other players are doing.

Examples would be: “Gosh, he’s going for the Par-5 in two, maybe I should too”, “I’ve got to make birdie on this hole, because it’s an easy hole for everyone, and I can’t just make a par or I’ll fall behind them” or, “she’s making every putt she’s looking at, maybe I’ll be a little more aggressive with my stroke to make some too”.

Ultimately, this kind of thinking can lead players to do things such that they are not playing to their strengths and/or making decisions that are unwise.

Task Orientation
Fortunately, there is the alternative option of task orientation.  Task orientation, in contrast to ego orientation, is simply motivation to achieve excellence at a particular task. The emphasis here is pursuit toward the reaching of one’s own goals.  How other people are doing doesn’t matter.  It only matters how I’m doing.

Some ways to become more task oriented are things like: setting personal progress goals, developing specific plans of action, and creating personal measurements by which to chart growth.

Examples of task-orientation thoughts are: “I’m going to make sure and go through my set-up checklist before I hit any shot today on the course”, “I’m going to execute my game plan just like I set it up in the practice round, unless course conditions dictate some adjustments”, or “I’m going to continue to work hard on getting stronger through my fitness program and not worry if he’s stronger than I am or not.  I can’t do anything about what the other guy’s doing”.

Knowing that “I’m getting better every day”, and/or “I’m 50% of the way towards my goal” help players stay on task and help them remain motivated to fight through the natural challenges that are faced by anyone working hard to reach their potential.

In the end, it is normal to measure ourselves by looking at the others around us.  The challenge is to give that type of measurement less power, and to give more weight to the process of “me getting better every day”.

If you are a player striving for excellence, create more powerful, personal, and deep-rooted goals.  These will keep you motivated, help you stay on track, and put the emphasis on the things over which you have influence and control.

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