Can You Control Thoughts
And Feelings When You Play Golf?
After the first two articles, perhaps you are starting to see the inherent problems that come with building a worldview, or indeed a strategy for your golf, based on firmly held beliefs, or concepts gleaned from outside sources.
We all have things which we believed strongly in at certain points in our lives, that turned out to be untrue, or false.
Father Christmas? The Tooth Fairy?
So, please don’t feel bad or foolish if upon closer examination, a number of beliefs that you might have about your golf turn out to be false.
This is a process we all go through in our lives.
Indeed it would be unhealthy if we did not let go of certain beliefs. Those that might have served a purpose for a while, but were discarded when their useful life had ended.
This is why regularly examining the beliefs and concepts by which you live your life is a valuable, perhaps essential, part of learning and thriving.
As someone once said, ‘Your beliefs can make evidence transparent’.
Can You Choose What You Think About?
In truth, it’s impossible for a human being to go through life without having beliefs and concepts about the true nature of reality. The key to a healthy, happy day to day experience is always being open to the potential that these ideas might not be true.
In the previous article we explored the belief that perfecting your golf swing is the key to consistent good play and enjoyable golf.
The fact that even the best players in the world sometimes hit poor shots might start to raise some questions as to whether this belief is one worth holding on to.
In this article, we will explore another commonly held concept; the idea that a particular thought or way of thinking or feeling is preferable in terms of golfing performance.
This belief calls into question one of the main strategies that golf coaches and sports psychologists have been advocating for years; that a golfer should attempt to control or manage their thinking and state of mind.
Unfortunately, it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding about how human psychology really works.
It’s a commonly held belief that human beings can control or choose what they think about.
However, when you take a moment to consider this logically, you quickly come to realise that this isn’t true.
If you’ve ever stood on a tee with water down the right hand side of the fairway and out of bounds down the left, you will be all too aware that thoughts come into your head whether you like it or not.
We can’t deliberately choose not to think thoughts we don’t want.
And it takes an awful lot of mental effort to deliberately try to think of different thoughts to replace them with.
If you have ever tried to manage your thinking like this, you probably found that it took on a life of its own and encouraged the very feelings of insecurity, nerves and anxiety you were trying to avoid.
Where Do Feelings Come From?
A much more effective remedy for butterflies in the tummy is to understand why we are feeling nervous in the first place.
(Hint; it has nothing to do with the water or the Out of Bounds.)
This is one of the fundamental tenets of what I help people to learn.
We never feel our situation or circumstances. Our feelings can come and go independent of what is happening around us.
We attribute our feelings to an event with the benefit of hindsight.
So, if you’re feeling nervous or anxious on the first tee, despite how it looks, it has nothing to do with the round or shot you are about to play.
It is simply down to the thinking you have going on as you are waiting. Ideas about what might or might not happen.
Expectations about how you need to play in order to feel OK about yourself.
Look at it logically. If a situation could really be the source of a feeling, you would always feel the same way in that situation.
We know this isn’t true. Our feelings come and go even though our circumstances haven’t changed.
One day on the first tee we feel anxious. The next day we feel energised and confident.
Leave Your Thinking Alone
This is why golf psychology has got so far off track.
Golfers are misunderstanding their thinking about what is in essence, a simple sport.
This misunderstanding compounds feelings of doubt, anxiety and lack of confidence.
These feelings make it much more difficult to swing with good rhythm and timing, (as I explain in more detail in this online learning program.)
Unfortunately, the techniques and strategies offered by most golf psychologists require the golfer to think even more.
No wonder the game can seem so hard!
When you begin to gain a better understanding of how your mind really works, you will see more and more that your anxious feelings are coming from your thinking.
Not from the first tee, the out of bounds or short putts.
You understand that like all thinking, if left alone, it will pass.
You will naturally feel calmer, less insecure, more confident.
In fact, doing nothing, is by far the best solution to first tee, or any other kinds of nerves.
Mainly because there is nothing we can do to stop ourselves from feeling whatever we are feeling.
The good news is we don’t need to.
We have all had the experience of feeling confident but then not playing as well as we had hoped. And we have all had the experience of not feeling great, but then going out and surprising ourselves by playing beyond our expectation.
This is in direct conflict with what most people believe about needing to feel confident in order to play to our potential.
Just getting rid of the belief that your performance can be enhanced or diminished by how you feel is a big factor in your resilience and consistency.
You stop worrying about it and just play.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.
If you’d like to explore another common belief, please follow this link.
You cannot choose or control what you think about or when you think it.
Your thoughts and feelings have no bearing on your capacity to play your best golf
When you understand these first two points, anxious feelings will be less frequent, less troubling and will pass more quickly.