Feel the fear and do it anyway!
A recent comment on a golf course, reminded me of a book I read many years ago by Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Whilst putting out to win a match, I heard the player say, ‘I am so scared of this putt, it literally fills me with fear’.
Now, time first for a little context here; Yes, you want to make the putt, to win the competition or the match… but let’s have a reality check. Fear is not knowing where your next meal is coming from for your family. Fear is being confronted by a potential life-changing incident or a dangerous threat to your life. It's not about missing a putt!
So if that’s the case, why does our brain trigger this ‘fear’ response, at the slightest pressure? Fear has been described as a survival response, created since man first walked the earth. The amygdala, a small, but very important part of the brain, is designed to warn us of potential harm and situations. Of course, things have moved on from the possibility of being eaten by a T-Rex, yet the amygdala will liken, for example, several missed putts to the next opportunity, and start the process of the ‘fear factor’! (This is why momentum is so crucial to great golf). If you’ve missed four 3 foot putts, how will you gain confidence to hole the next one?
Fear itself is not an issue, it’s our reaction to it that matters and how we control it (or not). You’ll agree, that when you feel fearful, tension will build in your mind and body, the swing won’t ‘flow’ as it has done before. Generally timing goes out of the window. That’s when the topped shot, the air-shot, the chip into the bunker rather that over it happens. The old saying of ‘I knew I was going to do that’ comes into play, massively!
So how can/will you react?
- Breath! Breathing is an under-utilised skill, in a range of situations. I should say here, ‘Controlled Breathing’, as you can certainly be the one in control. When you’re fearful or anxious about a situation, then breathing can become more rapid, shallow, etc. NOT letting enough Oxygen enter the bloodstream, which heightens the situation. 2 - 3 long, deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, will start to calm the system.
- Process! Again, I’ve spoken many times about creating and having a successful process and sticking to it. Any potentially ‘fearful’ situation will undoubtedly ensure your shot is executed with more regular success.
- Practise under pressure! Make your practise sessions meaningful. A practise session is totally different to a warm up. You are merely loosening the body to make a good swing on the first tee. A practise session should have 'consequence' surrounding it. i.e ONE ball on the putting green, not 4 hit from the same point (that never happens on the course). One shot with each club, to a known target, rather than smashing balls on the range, etc. Another tip here is to practise skills that make you feel ‘uncomfortable’ (chips over bunkers, 3 foot putts, etc.)
Let me know how successful you have been over the coming weeks, simply drop me a line.
Finally, I’m very proud of the amount of Mind Zone attendees who have reduced their handicap significantly. Many have won competitions and most are taking far more enjoyment from the game in general. What has truly been outstanding are the amount of ‘hole in one’ successes. I’m delighted to say that this time, it wasn’t a Mind Zone attendee, that aced a hole, but it was Yours Truly!! During a Club Competition to boot! Mind Zone at its best. To increase YOUR chances of an ace or to shoot lower scores, using that powerful tool between your ears, simply give me a call.
Have a great golfing month.