The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something.
That’s the only thing that never fails.
You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds.
There is only one thing for it then — to learn.
Learn why the world wags and what wags it.
That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.
Learning is the thing for you.”
T. H White. The Once and Future King
A Means to an End?
An interesting insight from the responses to a survey I conducted a couple of weeks ago was the relative importance (or lack of) placed on learning when compared to performance or playing well.
Only 13% of those who completed the survey rated learning as a priority when they played.
I can see why this is the case. Learning is seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
But then the same thing could be said about performance?
Most golfers would agree that the reason they value performance, is because they think it brings feelings of happiness, satisfaction or in many cases, relief?
Maybe placing more importance on learning would help golfers get the feelings they are looking for perhaps avoid some of the negative feelings of pressure and anxiety that can arise when focusing mainly on the score?
Poor Golf is a Learning Opportunity
Think back to the last time you played poorly or didn’t enjoy a round.
Did you learn anything from the experience?
If so, did the fact that you discovered something about your golf give you something to take forward to the next round you played?
It’s not often we learn something important from a good performance.
More often, the suffering that we often feel after not playing to our potential gives us cause to ask questions, to explore our experience and to make changes as a result.
As I mentioned in a previous article, many of the golfers who said that performance was the most important thing to them, also said that a big challenge was overcoming the anxiety they felt when they played.
If you were one of those golfers, would the game feel any different to you if you started to see golf as a win / win situation, where you either played well, or you learned something?
Rather than it being a win / lose, where performance was all that mattered.
Something Bigger than Golf
Many top golfers will tell you that some of their biggest disappointments proved to be the learning experiences that eventually led to success.
I know from my own golf, that some of the most enjoyable rounds have been where I learned something.
I may not remember the score or even how I hit the ball that day, but what I learned helped move me closer to my potential.
Where I went wrong for a number of years was focusing too narrowly on fixing my golf, rather than widening my perspective to explore what the experience was telling me about myself.
It was the classic case of not seeing the wood for the trees.
Many golfers have gone down this path. You play poorly. You work on that area of your game. Next time you play the area you worked on is better, but something else lets you down. It took me a number of years before I stopped chasing my tail like this and took a step back.
That was the moment I saw the bigger picture.
It wasn’t a golf problem.
It was a ‘Sam’ problem.
That was the first step on the path to understanding the true nature of my experience, to writing my books and to the work I’m doing now. And to some of the best, most enjoyable golf I have played.
Questions to Consider –
Next time you head to the course, or the range, just check in with your expectations. How are you going to judge your experience? Based on a particular outcome or result, or are there other options?
What’s the one thing that you would like to learn that would make the biggest difference to your game?
What are you learning now that doesn’t seem to be having the effect you hoped it might?
Would framing your experience as a win / win or either playing well or learning something change the way you feel about your game?
Feel free to drop me an email if you have any responses to these questions, or follow this link to arrange a time for a free, no obligation chat about your game.
If you’d like to read another article about learning and how you can improve your golf, please follow this link.