Perspective can make a huge impact on performance, whether that be a conscious change or one brought on through an experience or an event. I have witnessed several times where students have had an experience that shifted their perspective both in a generic sense and specifically around their game. Sometimes it can feel like we get caught in a loop of frustration and subsequently tension with regards to our game if things aren’t going as we hoped. Once momentum builds in this state it can feel a touch one to pull out of. This is where perspective can make a significant impact and relatively instantaneously. I was working with a gentleman who had reached a good level of golf and attained a very solid 5 handicap. Under his own admittance over the years he had become overly analytical from a technical point of view and had reached a point where he was losing his love of the game. As a sports coach himself he had a natural instinct to deconstruct and analyse things technically, on the plus side very receptive to change, the downside being it can become a case of information overload where there is a constant breakdown of the golf swing. Unfortunately an accident at home caused a serious back injury causing 2 months of very limited movement and a year of not being able to hit a golf shot. The very first shot struck since the accident was during our coaching session together, unsure of how things would feel and if it was even going to be possible to continue to play golf again. Even though it was a very steady start it was very positive and things looked bright with regards to playing in the future. Aside from ensuring the pattern of movement within his swing wasn’t putting undue stress on his body and the affected area within his back a key element form the session became the understanding of how the overly analytical and at times self critical approach had created a stumbling block not only from an enjoyment point of view but also with regards to the consistency of his game. Reflecting back to a time where he was lying on his back after the accident simply hoping that one day he would be able to play golf again it created a complete shift in perspective. This was an opportunity for a clean slate in his approach and thought process. The importance had now shifted from hitting the perfect shot to purely an appreciation of being able to hit a golf shot again, pain free and the opportunity to simply enjoy the game. This reflection could allow him to keep re-calibrating back to that moment and bring the focus back on an appreciation of where he now was compared to where he had been, this alone would make the process of the game far more enjoyable and hands down beat the analytical and critical approach which had taken him to the point of wanting to give up. The shift from critical analysis to appreciation created a big emotional shift, reducing tension and creating an opportunity for a more efficient golf swing, greater consistency and most importantly a more enjoyable experience in the process.
Another example comes from a student who also had an experience that led to a shift in perspective and one that dramatically changed his performance on the golf course. His wife had been particularly poorly and at one point the prognosis was fairly bleak. Thankfully over a period of time things improved and she was given a clean bill of health which was fantastic news. During his wife’s illness he hadn’t understandably played much golf, however once he returned, his first 3 rounds of golf were the best he had ever played and scored since he first took up the game and the upward spiral of this success continued. His focus had shifted, he was happy and relaxed on the golf course, focusing on the things he was thankful for. From here he was playing his golf from a very different emotional set point and state of mind to how things were previously.
From a personal point of view I have a vivid memory of where a conscious shift changed things significantly whilst playing in an event during my earlier years of competitive golf. The Ladies British Amateur Championships was a main event on the Ladies amateur circuit. I remember well the front 9 being a torrid catastrophe of events, playing off a handicap of one at the time, I felt as though I had never picked up a golf club before and I scrambled for dear life to get the ball in the hole in a respectable number. Things felt so awful that I literally wanted somebody to pick me up and take me away, anywhere, other than being on that golf course! I stood on the 10th tee (following another double bogey on the previous hole!) and quite literally in that moment chose to think and feel differently, I’d had enough. I didn’t want to feel such tension and anxiety any longer, surely there had to be a better way! I chose to look around and take in my surroundings, a beautiful parkland course in central England, it was a lovely sunny day, blue skies and perfect summer temperatures. I was in good health and from that moment fully appreciated how lucky I was to be in that situation. From that point on I had made a crucial emotional shift, one that appeared not through trying or battling to find the most positive thought possible, but one that came simply through a conscious decision to change my perspective, appreciate where I was and a desire to feel better. I looked at the bigger picture and at things in more general terms, gaining awareness and an appreciation for what was working. No more thoughts of lack, feeling inadequate to the task at hand or a panic that my golf swing needed fixing, but simply a shift in perspective and an appreciation of my surroundings and the opportunity that lay before me.
After absolutely no conscious technical swing changes on my part, the ball and the centre of the clubface were then happily reunited and the back 9 flowed like a dream! Timing improved and everything felt effortless, I was actually enjoying myself! Unfortunately that back 9 was not enough to take any trophies home that week, but it did provide an extremely valuable lesson and learning curve and one that that has remained with me ever since!
Scientifically, the emotion of gratitude has been proven to reduce the release of cortisol and stress hormones in the body. As cortisol levels go up a chemical called igA (immunoglobulin A) goes down. IgA is a protein and one of the strongest building blocks of life responsible for our internal defense system, our immune system. Reducing cortisol and in turn increasing igA brings health giving benefits. So not only is a shift in perspective (which subsequently creates an emotional shift) good for our game in the form of reducing tension and allowing for a more efficient movement, it’s also good for our health.
A shift in perspective can change everything, our enjoyment, our biology and ultimately our success on the golf course!