The shift in professional golfers utilizing the science of psychology can be attributed to the shift in the study of psychology from solely the study of disorders to include the study of positive psychology. The relatively new field of positive psychology is the study of how we as humans (golfers) can improve our lives (games). From this research experts specializing in golf have successfully helped both professional and amateur golfers lower their scores and increase their level of enjoyment in playing the game of golf.
Science has found that positive emotions enhance decision making, allowing you to be more creative and flexible in the way you think. Further, negative emotions like anger & frustration restrict muscle movement while positive emotions free us up to move the best we can. Imagine your tee shot behind a tree 160 yards from the green with a bunker just off to the left side of the green. A negative thinker will focus on what is wrong. Why did my shot end up behind a tree? What if I go into the sand trap? Anger may creep in, restricting blood flow to the muscles and limiting the range of motion of your swing. A positive thinker on the other hand will see the upcoming shot as a challenge to be embraced. They will see the flight of the ball and the ball landing where they want vs. where they do not want.
How do we train ourselves as golfers and people to see the glass half full vs. half empty to give ourselves the best chance for success? Practice! Practice noticing and appreciating the opportunity in the moments that we experience on the golf course. Think about the time you had a less than favorable lie when you missed the green and then chipped in on the next shot. Now if you are one those golfers who came unglued and didn’t chip in, recall another golfer’s success. Just watch the highlight reels. Rarely are these shots from “princess lies” in the middle of the fairway: Bubba’s shot around the tree out of the rough or Tiger’s chip in at Augusta after missing the green to the left of the famous par 3 12th hole. If either of these golfers would have come unglued we would not have seen these fantastic moments in the great game of golf.
To appreciate means to recognize the value of something or increase its value. Champions train themselves to look for the opportunity and not throw in the towel when things do not go the way they hoped. They face adversity head on and make magic happen. It has long been said that what we give our attention to grows. If we spend the winter months trying to develop our “opportunity awareness” over the “downward spiral default,” game improvement & enjoyment will be in our future. Make an effort to notice when something is not going your way and choose not to get caught up in the downward spiral and look for the opportunity. An example might be getting stuck in traffic. Instead of losing your temper try to notice something positive. It might be the sunrays on the snow banks, or the time to take a deep breath and just be glad to be alive. Challenge yourself to make at least 1 shift every day this winter so you can take this skill to the golf course next spring.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that we are thankful for. Take time this Thanksgiving to reflect on what you appreciate about your golf game and practice looking for opportunity. Just as the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest that would carry them through the long winter, harvest your memories of the great game of golf to carry you through the upcoming winter months. Make this a habit that you can bring to your game all season long.