Whenever we endeavor to make a change in our golf swing an immediate by-product for most people is frustration. As we begin to consciously focus on “what” we are doing performance suffers because we have to think our way through things. Imagine trying to take a short walk if you were required to think about each step. “Lift your right foot up and propel forward, land on the heel of your foot and begin to rock forward onto the instep….” Yikes, that would really slow down a walk wouldn’t it? Of course it would, because so much of what we do is stored at the level of unconscious mind, such that you don’t have to be aware of it in order to do it.
Learning is a process of making small distinctions, practicing via repetition and then gradually getting the behavior mapped in your mind/body. Eventually you generalize the behavior, allowing you to think about further distinctions and put your attention to other things. Think about how complex the act of driving is. You actually make between 48-52 minor adjustments per mile if you are driving on a highway. Yet, you can read billboards, talk to others, listen to music and talk on the cell phone at the same time. It is because you have automated the behavior (generalized it), and now have conscious mind space available to pay attention to other things.
When you decide to make a change you bring the activity into your conscious mind and hence performance suffers in almost all cases. This invariably produces frustration and I think one of the reasons people give up making changes as they don’t have an effective strategy for handling frustration. The source of your frustration is generally not living up to your own internal standards for acquiring new things quickly.
Suggestion: When you decide to make a change start with a master program in your mind. That program should include a clear understanding of “why” you want to make a change and a commitment to give yourself an appropriate amount of time to integrate the change.
Understanding “why” is related to your motivation. Why is it important to you to make a change…. why is it important to you to get better? Understanding your reasons will help give you the foundation to both keep working at the changes, and as a reminder to give yourself a break by not over demanding perfection too early.
When you feel the anger building and have the desire to throw a club or engage in self doubt and negative dialogue train yourself to STOP. Take a breath and recall why this is important to you and think about your commitment to give yourself the time.
Winter is a great time to focus on building some new skills, especially for us living in the north. Enjoy the process of making the changes and give yourself a chance by ‘using your brain for a change’.