Fixing my swing (Self-awareness part 2)

Regardless of Cesar Millan, the point of my previous post was that reflecting on Riley’s behavior has caused me to reflect on my own. I am becoming more aware of my body language, my attitude, my tone of voice. I still have a long way to go (as does Riley) but I think this heightened mindfulness can only be a good thing.

Case in point:

On Sunday, Andy arranged for us to play 9 holes of golf with a mutual friend. I prefer not to go out in hot, humid weather, but that day was borderline. (High of 85, mostly cloudy.) Andy encouraged me to chance it. I grumbled and warned him that he might regret it.

As soon as I said that, I thought, “Why am I being so negative? What does that accomplish?”

Andy called me out on it too, saying, “Yes, it might suck. But it also might not. Don’t let a defeatist attitude be the deciding factor.”

So I took a deep breath, relaxed my facial muscles, and told myself to be optimistic.

Despite a decent warmup at the driving range, my first couple holes weren’t great. My current goal is double bogey (par + 2 strokes) for every hole, but I was scoring double par (par x 2 strokes) instead. Normally that would frustrate me, and thus things would continue to get worse. This time, I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders, and told myself to shake it off. “What you just did has no impact on what you do next,” I reminded myself. “Each hole — each swing, even — is a blank slate.”

With that mindset, I was able to improve steadily over the next four holes.

At that point, we had been playing for 2 hours. All I had eaten was a granola bar and some Gatorade. My energy was waning, and as I stepped up to tee off at hole 7, I could tell my drive was going to be bad. When I took my practice swing, there was no strength in my arms. I had run out of juice.

Knowing that, I swung anyway.

It was my worst drive of the day, no question. The ball got no distance, no loft. It only went 2/3 of the way to the green, and this was a puny par 3. I immediately turned to Andy and our friend and whined, “I’m tired.”

Before Andy could even roll his eyes, I caught myself. I was acknowledging a reality, yes, but I was also offering it as an excuse. The former was fine; the latter was pointless.

Another deep breath. Another relaxation of my body. Another reminder: “Be optimistic. Each swing is a new opportunity.”

I salvaged hole 7, and I did fine on 8 and 9. Was it my best game ever? No. But did I manage to play okay and enjoy myself under less than ideal conditions? Yes.

Later, Andy compared it to being a baseball player. When a guy plays 160+ games a year, statistically he’s just not going to have his best stuff every time. A top-notch player knows that, but he doesn’t let it become an excuse. He doesn’t turn to his team and whine, “Sorry, guys, I’m tired. Don’t expect too much from me.” They’re depending on him. So he has to look within himself and ask, What can I accomplish anyway?

To do that, he has to be self-aware.

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8 Comments

  1. Love this; very very true!

  2. Jon

    Later, Andy compared it to being a baseball player. When a guy plays 160+ games a year, statistically he’s just not going to have his best stuff every time. A top-notch player knows that, but he doesn’t let it become an excuse. He doesn’t turn to his team and whine, “Sorry, guys, I’m tired. Don’t expect too much from me.” They’re depending on him. So he has to look within himself and ask, What can I accomplish anyway?

    Yep. Having a “baseball memory” is so important in terms of sports as well as life. That’s my attitude, at least.

  3. Also, sometimes how lousy you feel going into something doesn’t determine how you perform (Willis Reed in 1970, Kirk Gibson in 1988). It’s a factor, but not the only one.

  4. Excellent lesson! I figure if you make yourself do something despite internal setbacks just to see how good you can do, it’ll help put in perspective how much potential you have to be great when you’re feeling better and way more into it. Test all the limits!

  5. Heh, I love how the guys honed in on the sports stuff.

    Mandy-
    Good point! That’s a nice corollary to this lesson, hehe. As is the idea that knowing I CAN do something, even under less-than-ideal circumstances, makes those circumstances less daunting. As a very practical example of that, now instead of thinking, “Ugh, it’s hot, I don’t wanna go out,” I can remember that I HAVE been out when it’s that hot, and though it wasn’t lovely, it also didn’t kill me.

  6. When I did the Landmark Forum, one of the things they try to get you to do is “take your past out of your future” and leave it in the past. Which is their way of making the point you’re making: each new moment is a clean slate; move forward without letting what’s come before mess up what’s to come next.

  7. I’ve been working on this as well. “What can I accomplish anyway?” Is a good mindset to have. There’s usually always something, no matter how tired or busy you are. I appreciate these posts! ;)

  8. Sonje-
    Maybe once I’ve fully embraced that philosophy in golf, it will be easier to apply to the rest of my life? :P

    Tessa-
    So glad to hear it!

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