By Paul Monahan, GGA Performance Mindset Coach.

It is fascinating to me how MUCH our expectations can negatively impact our experiences…as well as our ability to perform at our best.

While watching the last round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, I heard one of the CBS announcers – I think it was Peter Kostis – comment on the challenging day that John Rahm was having.

After three solid rounds, Rahm began his final series in second place, with a chance to win another event this year after a phenomenal 2017 in which he earned his first victory as well as ten top ten finishes.

But after 16 holes, Rahm was at two-over par when he probably needed to be a 3 or 4 under par to be in contention to win. Rahm’s frustration was pretty evident.

At that point, Kostis commented that he thought Rahm’s biggest challenge in 2018 would be managing his expectations.

What did he mean? Simply that Rahm had such an incredible year in 2017, that he would have to be careful not to create expectations in his mind about the results he would be able to achieve in any given week.

We perform best when we drop our expectations when we metaphorically leave our expectations in the car. These allow us to see our reality (the game, the shots, the putts…etc.) more objectively…and not have our perspective clouded by our stories.

A little over a week ago I had the chance to attend the Graves Golf Academy 3-Day School in Orlando…the inaugural instruction school of 2018.

During this first day of the school, Tim Graves and his staff emphasize the importance of starting the Single Plane Swing process with the shortest of golf moves possible – the putt – by leading a putting lesson.

As I interacted with some students during the putting lesson, I noticed how many were struggling with their mental game. And I know it sounds strange…we were practicing putting.

The guidance from Tim was this: work on matching the putting stroke model and don’t worry about sinking putts. We don’t care about sinking putts; we want to make sure that we are hitting “checkpoints.” If we get good at executing the checkpoints, we will make putts, for sure.

But here’s what I saw: guys were getting frustrated because they weren’t sinking putts. (And some guys were extremely frustrated.)

These were brilliant, accomplished people. They know how to listen and follow direction. But …they were stuck in their expectations.

When we get stuck in our expectations, when we view reality through the lens of hope, the only way we can be satisfied is if those expectations are met. (Makes sense…right?)

But if our expectations are not met then what happens? You guessed it: disappointment – or even worse: apparent frustration.

The guys on the putting green were missing putts they expected to make. And so, they experienced those misses as disappointment and frustration. (They even forgot about the purpose of the practice, to begin with.)

But what if they had been able to set their expectations aside?

They likely would have been able to perform better throughout the exercise and would have:

  • Remembered the purpose of the practice session
  • Not worried about the result
  • Focused on process
  • Worked on matching the putting model
  • Enjoyed the experience
  • Learned
  • …and maybe even been a little more fun to be around

I often tell my clients, the tighter your grip on your stories or expectations about what should happen, the more difficult it is to experience your reality in productive ways…especially when things don’t go as you think they should.

If you want to get better at this game, (or anything) you must learn to drop your attachment to results and instead, stay focused on the elements that produce the desired results. Like; gripping the club correctly, starting with a proper address, and matching the swing model.

When you miss a putt or hit a ball poorly, remember: that is a neutral event. It is neither good nor bad…it is. Learn to see the things that happen in your environment as they are…and not worse than they are. Learn to see them as a chance to learn something and master a new skill. No matter what happens.

Like John Rahm or the participants of our GGA Schools, we all would benefit by loosening our grip on our expectations…or dropping them altogether.

Paul Monahan, PCC is a Peak-Performance coach, member of the International Coach Federation and a certified COR.E Performance Dynamicsä Specialist. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Paula and is the proud dad to three young men. He works with elite-level performers and leaders, helping them to expand their awareness so that they perform at their best more consistently.


He can be reached at paul@paulmonahancoaching.com

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

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