Embrace Struggle, Tips for Improving (Part 5)

Hopefully, you were able to read the last 4 practice tips – Tips for Improving (Part 1, 2, 3 and 4).

In those practice tips we discussed how we work with our students to create new habits rather than breaking old habits. It is essentially impossible to break bad habits (our mind/body is not set up that way) … but we are set up to be able to create new habits and ultimately make changes/create new movements, etc.  we want.

We talked about a book we strongly recommend – The Little Book of Talent / 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyle

It is described as a manual for building a faster brain and a better you. It is an easy-to-use hand book of scientifically proven, field tested methods to improve your skills – your skills, your kids’ skills, your organization’s skills – in sports, music, art, math and business. The product of five years of reporting from the world’s greatest talent hotbeds and interviews with successful master coaches, it distills the daunting complexity of skill development into 52 clear, concise directives. Whether you are 10 or 100, this is an essential guide for anyone who ever asked, “How do I get better?”



The last instructional newsletters (Tips for Improvement Part 1, 2, 3 and 4) we talked about the following tips

1.  Staring at who you want to become.

2.  Spending 15 minutes a day engraving the skills on your brain.

3.  Stealing without apology.

4.   Buying (and keeping) a notebook.

5.  Be willing to be stupid

6.  Choose spartan over luxurious

7.  Before you start, figure out if it’s a hard skill or a soft skill

8.  To build hard skills, work like a careful carpenter

9.  To build soft skills, play like a skateboarder

10. Honor the hard skills

11. Don’t fall for the prodigy myth

12.  How to pick a high-quality teacher

13.  Finding the sweet spot

14.  Take off your watch

15.  Break every move down into chunks

This instructional newsletter (Part 5) we cover the next 5 tips for improving your skills and relate them to you learning/working on your single plane swing and golf game.

16.  Each Day, Try to Build One Perfect Chunk

Remember, a “chunk” is viewed a new habit or part of a new habit you are trying to create.

Many regard practicing as a success. But, the goal is not merely practicing, but rather progressing. As John Wooden put it, “Never mistake mere activity for accomplishment”.

The Talent Code recommends setting a daily S.A.P:  smallest achievable perfection. In this technique, you pick a single “chunk” that you can perfect – not just improve, not just “work on”, but get 100 percent consistently correct. Break down what you are working on into small enough chunks that you are able to improve little by little, piece by piece, rep by rep.

As Wooden also said, “Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvements one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

17.  Embrace Struggle

When we discuss “deep practice”, the emotion/feeling most think of is struggle.

Most of us instinctively avoid struggle, because it is uncomfortable. It feels like failure.

However, when it comes to developing your talent, new habits, struggle isn’t an option – it’s a biological necessity.

The struggle and frustration you feel is at the edges of your ability…. the edges of your ability when pushed – feel uncomfortable.

The struggling/uncomfortable sensation you are feeling is your brain/body constructing new “neural connections”, in other words, the precursors to the new habits.

Dr. Robert Bjork (UCLA psychologist) calls this phenomenon “desirable difficulty”. Your brain works just like your muscles: no pain, no gain.

18.  Choose Five Minutes a Day Over an Hour a Week

With deep/intense type practice, small daily practice is much more effective than once-a-week type practice binges. This is the way our brains grow – a little each day.

Daily practice, even if for just five minutes a day, nourishes this process, whereas long, intense practices spaced far apart makes the brain play catch up.

The key is total focus during the practice session which most can do for short periods of time.

The other advantage of practicing daily is that this type of practice becomes habit forming in itself.

Practice can be indoors, outdoors, with/without training equipment, working on positions, Single Plane Position Trainer drill, leverage bag, mirror work, etc. etc… The key is short practice sessions with “intense” type focus building “chunks” at a time.

According to research, establishing a new habit takes about 30 days (as short as 21 and typically around 30 days) working on the new habit every day. “Working on” meaning short, deep, intense type sessions.

19.  Don’t Do “Drills.”  Instead, Play Small, Addictive Games

This is about the way you think about your practice. The term “drill” evokes a drudgery and meaninglessness. Mechanical, repetitive and boring – as the saying goes, “drill and kill”.

Games on the other hand, are the opposite.

Fun, connectedness and passion. Skills improve faster when looked at this way.

As you are doing your “drills” – turn them into games.

For example – if you are doing the Single Plane Position Trainer drills – count how many times in a row you perform it perfect. Count out loud the different positions and see if you can “hit” those positions in and out of sequence…

Chipping drills – count how many you can get inside 3 feet out of 10. See how many you can get up in down in a row (chip up and one putt in), etc.

In our camps (Build Your Game Camps) quite a bit of time is spent teaching “games” to our students so they can better enjoy working on their drills and this enjoyment will and does greatly enhance their learning process.

20.  Practice Alone

Practicing alone works because it’s the best way to:

1. See out the sweet spot at the edge of your ability, and

2. Develop discipline, because it doesn’t depend on others. If you aren’t worried about what others think, what others are looking at (you), what others are doing, etc. you won’t be worried about making mistakes, feeling uncomfortable, trying to find your sweet spot…

Changes are MUCH easier to make when you are only concerned about yourself. Golfers get too worried about what others are thinking about them, what others are looking at…. It doesn’t matter.  If you are trying to create new habits, the only thing that matters are you are making positive progress.

Small “bites” at a time – but going forward with positive progress is the key. Have enough to worry about with the changes you are trying to make, then be concerned with others around you.

Please watch upcoming newsletter practice tips for additional tips from improving your golf game.

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