My greatest fears and frustrations always come through on the golf course. I attempt to maintain complete focus while hitting a golf ball, simultaneously battling with my deepest darkest demons.
Who else wages a mental war with themselves while playing golf? Who else let's negative thoughts sabotage their golfing experience?
The worst part is we are using all our mental might to fight with an idea, thoughts, basically air and most of the time we lose. Usually the negativity and doubt prevail and our joy disappears. If we are playing golf we usually start playing progressively worse. If we are just enjoying an evening stroll we might become lethargic, melancholy and even angry out of nowhere.
When we think about how we let these random thoughts destroy our golf game and our mood, it seems ridiculous. But, speaking from experience, it happens again and again. The negativity prevails.
Part of it is because we trust that little voice in our head. It is the voice of reason, the voice of right and wrong that we came to rely on while growing up. But, we need to realize that is not always the voice that is talking. Often it is the voice of fear, past failures, past mistakes or self preservation.
Luckily there is an easy way to decipher which voice is present. If the information or thought is NEGATIVE in anyway, it is not the voice you should trust or listen to!
All negativity is bad and should have no place in your life or in your golf game.
The reality is those negative thoughts will exist, but we must resist the urge to give them power and allow them to spread like a virus through your mind. Especially while on the golf course negative thoughts arise because we get frustrated with the results of our shots. Instead of releasing the anger and negativity we become consumed by it. This is completely understandable as those feelings are very strong and those thoughts very convincing. We might feel powerless. But we are not; we are stronger than our thoughts and emotions. We have the power, we will always have the power, we just need to exercise it.
Golf is a remarkable game because it is won with your mind, not your physical abilities. Your physical abilities definitely play a role in how you play golf, but the mind is the deciding factor between joy and pain, success and failure.
We need to practice and exercise our mental muscle just as much as we would practice our putting or chipping. One cannot succeed without the other. You can practice putting until your stroke is better than the PGA Tour or LPGA Tour players, but if you doubt your abilities and let negativity creep in while putting during a match, you will very likely miss that putt.
The FIRST thing we need to do is be aware of the negative thoughts. The SECOND thing is to ignore them. This is very difficult and will take constant practice. It is the same idea as lifting weights to build strength, you need effort and repetition. The THIRD thing to do is replace that negative thought with a positive thought, "I am a good golfer."; "I have made this putt before and will do it again."; "I can do it!"; "This golf course is beautiful and I am so grateful to be playing golf right now". You might not believe the thought (since we are so programmed for fight or flight) but say it anyways, repeating it to yourself until your next shot. It's amazing how your body and mind will change, how it will relax and free itself to execute the next shot.
When it comes to golf and life, we are the effort, not the outcome. A chunked 7 iron or missed putt does not define us, but our reaction to it does. We are human and our mistakes in life are just a part of the human experience. The same goes for on the golf course. Mistakes on the golf course are just part of the golfing learning experience. Everything in life that happens on and off the golf course can be used for personal growth. The best part about golf though is we get a smaller representation to put it into practice and experience the growth and improvement.
Accept that life and golf are out of your reach of control and expectations are irrelevant. The only focus should be your efforts and your enjoyment. Let your negative thoughts float away and find beauty and positivity in the present moment. Once you put this into practice you will see a significant improvement in your golf game.