By Paul Monahan – GGA Performance Mindset Coach

 

College football is so exciting because you never know what is going to happen. You never know how teams will respond to adversity.

I just finished watching one of the marquee college football match ups of the week – and can’t help but think about how well both teams responded to challenges and setbacks.

If you watched the Penn State vs Ohio State game, you know that the Nittany Lions scored on the first play of the game, and added another touchdown only a few minutes later to go up 14-0 early in the first quarter. And they led until just under two minutes in the game.

Penn State has an incredible team, and you could hardly blame the Ohio State players if they felt a little deflated early on. I mean, how do you get back in the game when you are dominated so fully and so early?

What you may not know however is that the Ohio State team has a special resource: a peak performance coach by the name of Tim Kight who teaches resilience – something I believe is a true Super Power when it comes to realizing your best performances. Kight’s goal: to help the OSU football players master a new language and produce supportive self-talk to navigate through setbacks successfully.

Kight’s work is not the only thing that determines the team’s results. And it doesn’t always produce the results they want. But more often than not, his work cultivates a performance dynamic for the players to operate from a productive mindset and play their best, no matter the situation.

Mental and emotional resilience – the capacity to bounce back from challenges, disappointments and setbacks quickly – is such an important part of golf as well.

In today’s column, I will present some concepts that may allow you to think differently about setbacks, and help you to build your own capacity to be resilient while practicing and playing.

I believe that with some intention and awareness, you can build MORE resilience into your practice and play so that this single-plane-swing journey is a lot easier and way more fun.

How? First, we have to start with some basics.

There is only one reason why you experience adversity…but it’s probably not the reason you think.

Here’s how we often process challenges on the golf course…our self-talk sounds like this:

Seems logical. But the truth is actually quite different.

You see, you’re not actually upset because you drove it into the trees, skulled a wedge across the green or missed that easy four-footer on the last green.

You’re mad for a much more fundamental reason…

That’s right. You’re upset because the REALITY you are experiencing does not align with your STORY about what you SHOULD be experiencing.

(Read that again. It’s super important.)

You’re not mad because you drove it into the woods. You’re mad because your STORY says you should be able to hit the fairway…or perhaps that guys like you don’t hit it into the woods.

The stories you anchor to in critical moments shape how you interpret each moment. And when your reality and your story are misaligned, it’s easy to interpret any moment as bad, negative, disappointing, frustrating…etc.

If you played golf with me when I was 20, you’d understand why I threw my clubs all the time…or why I played the game so frustrated.

It wasn’t because I was producing terrible shots. (Though there were LOADS of those!) It was because my STORY and my reality were not aligned. My story was: “I should be able to produce great shots all the time.” And yet my reality was quite different…and it was hard to be resilient.

So what to do?

I believe that there are three easy ways to build more resilience in your golf game.

• Be more aware of your internal mechanics:

Awareness is both a skill and a discipline. When you bring awareness of your own mental and emotional state to the golf course, you can improve how you play and experience the game.

But you need to work at it…and be intentional about it.

Your brain is constantly monitoring your environment looking for nominal conditions. And when situations fall outside of nominal – when reality and story are not aligned – red flags go up and your emotional intensity rises.

But missing a four-footer just means that you missed a four footer. The event itself is neutral. It doesn’t mean anything until you – guided by your internal mechanics – decide it does.

So pay more attention to your own internal mechanics…the part of your brain that signals potential danger – and that can take you out of productive thinking if you are not careful.

And when you are facing adversity ask yourself: Is this really a disaster …? Or is this something more benign?

Take a few moments the next time you show up to practice or play, and try and assess your own mental and emotional state. And work to be more aware of when your internal mechanics are trying to hijack your game.

 

• Learn how the Reality vs Story misalignment impacts your thoughts and behavior.

In order to build resilience, I often challenge my clients to to zero-in on the Reality-Story misalignment, so that they can begin to consider new and more productive stories.

When they do this, they get better at identifying the root cause behind their emotional intensity…and ultimately the also get better at remembering that they have choices about how to respond to adversity.

So the next time you are frustrated on the golf course, simply ask yourself why? Tune in to the equation between Reality and Your Story and see if you can notice how it impacts your thinking AND your behavior.

When you do this, the real source of your frustration will become apparent…that it’s not what happened, but it’s the misalignment with your STORY – and how you respond to that – that matters most.

 

• Write new stories you can anchor to in critical moments.

When you get so frustrated by an errant drive or a missed putt that you find it hard to get back into the game, it is a sign that you may have a tight a grip on your story(s) about what SHOULD be.

In critical moments – when challenges or setbacks arrive on the scene – you need productive stories to anchor to so that you can loosen your grip on your story and stay connected to your full performance potential.

It may not have ever occurred to you that you can re-write the stories that are in your mental library…but you can!

So your old story that says: “I should be able to hit the fairway every time” can be changed to: “I often hit the fairway, but sometimes I don’t. Either way, I am going to survive the moment to play the next shot.”

Or, your old story that says: “I can’t afford to miss short putts.” can be re-written: “I learn important things about my game EVERY time I putt, whether the ball goes in the cup or not.”

The bottom line is that when you are able access more productive stories, you can bounce back to a more productive mental and emotional state and play your best more consistently.

Resilience will keep you calm, get you back to playing your best golf sooner, and help you to enjoy this incredible game a lot more.

A super power, for sure!

Paul Monahan, PCC is a Peak-Performance coach, member of the International Coach Federation and a certified COR.E Performance Dynamics Specialist. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Paula and is the proud dad to three young men.