‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’ – Wayne Dyer
How is it that two people can walk away from a party telling two very different stories of their experience, or how two people arrive at a golf tournament, one person is full of excitement and adrenaline, the other is full of dread and anxiety – exactly the same external event yet very different internal representations, potentially producing quite different results as a consequence. How we perceive a situation gives us a different outlook, different feelings and in turn, behaviours regarding a particular event or situation. A person’s perception (or perceived reality of a situation) will be influenced by the brain’s ability to internally process the information received. Due to the high volume of information from thoughts the conscious mind receives moment by moment, to cope with the heavy load, the information is internally processed. It is either: deleted, distorted or generalised.
Deleted: Selectively paying attention to certain aspects of a situation and not others
Distorted: Making representations of reality
Generalised: When a specific experience then represents a whole class of experiences
This is all done because the brain filters information. We have various filters that cause any of the above three things to happen. These filters come from our memories, beliefs, values, experiences and attitudes that have developed over the years. Because each person’s filters will be very different, the same information going in will be filtered differently creating a different perception of the same external event. This then becomes their perceived reality.
Let’s put these filters into a golfing context. Your ball lies behind a 30 ft oak tree. You have a good score card in your hand and only a few holes left to play. How you perceive this situation can be crucial. Do you perceive this as the end of the road – ‘Just my bad luck, the wheels had to come off at some point’? Or do you perceive it with excitement – ‘I love a challenge, how can I use my creative skills here?’ These two different perceptions of the same situation will quite likely produce very different results. What is your perception of a certain situation on the golf course and most importantly – how does it influence not only the shot in hand but also your game beyond that point?
How do you perceive a competitive situation? Do you relish the challenge and feel excitement or do you feel fear, anxiety or dread? How do you perceive yourself as a golfer? Do you see yourself as skilled, competent and consistent, or do you feel inferior to your desired handicap, your aspirations or other players?
How do you perceive a challenging shot on the golf course? Do you think, ‘how can I utillise my creative or course management skills’ or ‘Oh no, it’s the end of the road for me, bang goes my good score card?!’
Once you become aware of your thought process and how you perceive a situation, and the awareness really is the initial key, if the automatic default is in some way negative or its not serving you in some way, it’s an opportunity for change. Ask the question, how can I view this situation differently? Begin to break any old patterns and create a window of choice to perceive them in a way that is more beneficial and moves you closer to your desired outcome.
How you perceive yourself as a golfer is highly important and greatly influences your golfing behaviour. Let’s take the example of newcomers to the game who have been playing for a little while, have gained competency and improved, yet still perceive themselves as beginners. It can often be heard in the language being used when describing themselves, such as, ‘Oh I’m just a beginner, put me at the back of the field’, or ‘I’m not good enough to play in competitions.’ They hold on to the perception of being a beginner and in doing so create a road block for moving beyond that and fulfilling their true potential. It can, at times, almost act as a safety net. It applies not only to beginners but any level of golfer who places limitations on their capabilities and who will not allow themselves to perceive their skill set outside of their current ability or expand beyond the confines of their perceived boundaries. Until you can begin to allow yourself to imagine, believe, perceive and feel you are improving, it becomes difficult for it to take shape in physical form and it can at the very least delay desired results.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same’ – Marianne Williamson
Your perceptions will influence your behaviour on the golf course. Awareness to a pattern of thought and perception that doesn’t serve you is the first stepping stone. From here changes can begin to be made. If you can become consciously aware of, acknowledge and begin to positively shift any limiting or negative perceptions you have of either yourself as a golfer or any situations you may find yourself in on the golf course, you will reap the benefits both in results and enjoyment. Remember it is only your perceived reality, any pattern of thought that feels restrictive and one that is holding you back from your true potential in some way, in simple terms just won’t ‘feel’ good. This is your red flag and choice point that signifies the opportunity to make a positive shift, to perceive the situation in a different and more beneficial way, one that is moving you closer to your desired outcome and supports you in your goal. A different internal response and perception can in turn influence a very different outcome.