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  The LearningMethods Library

Golf In Mind

By David Robertson

Copyright (c) 2008 David Robertson, all rights reserved world-wide

 

INTRODUCTION

This article deals with some of the issues that have come up for me over time as I play and continue to learn about golf. It touches on areas such as how learning and mistakes work, how and why we can sometimes get in our own way, and how we often don't enjoy this wonderful game nearly as much as we could! Although golf is the topic used in the following discussion, the issues that arise are relevant in many other spheres of activity, be they sporting or otherwise.

I believe, in précis, that you will play the very best golf you can play for your current level of skill, when and only when you can approach each shot with a clear visualisation of what you want to happen, and can then proceed to let your golf swing, as you currently understand it, to happen with a clear, empty mind. The extent to which your mind is clouded by swing and mechanical thoughts and other distractions, such as ideas of pressure and importance of the particular shot you are playing, is the extent to which you will interfere with your swing and therefore the extent to which you will play below your actual current potential skill level.

Yet, and this is the crux, to say that you should simply "try to clear your mind", or "try to let the swing happen", without a clear understanding of why extraneous and distracting thoughts come into your mind, is futile, and no matter how good you become at "getting rid" of these thoughts, the fact is that unless you understand why they are there in the first place, what actually causes them to be there, you will never be totally free to let your swing happen naturally and instinctively. And the more powerful the thoughts and the more seeming importance you place on the shot, the greater will be the need to try to "control" the shot and "help out" and "try to make sure" (as if any of these things were actually possible!).

So the real task of the golfer who wants to really learn and improve, is to attain a clear understanding of why destructive thoughts enter the mind. And in order to attain that understanding we must be clear that all these thoughts are simply the symptoms of certain "ways of seeing things" or "belief systems" if you like, many of which have developed gradually through the years, and the apparent validity of which we rarely question, if ever.

I have written this article in the form of a dialogue between myself and another golfer. Many of the questions put by the golfer are the kinds of questions that have come up for me over time, so in many ways this is a conversation between my current and previous levels of understanding! The arguments put forward reflect my present understanding of a number of issues and some are perhaps clearer to me than others, but all are becoming clearer over time, the more I explore this territory. So while everything written here is naturally written from my own perspective, and is a reflection of my own experience, I hope that some of it might resonate with you and be of interest or use to you. For purposes of authenticity, I have used quite a lot of specific golfing terminology, and I apologise to readers who may be unfamiliar with this, however I trust the general meaning and significance of these sections will remain clear. Finally, I apologise to female readers for the almost exclusive use of the personal pronouns he/him etc. This is done simply for the sake of syntactic coherence and the examples given obviously apply to both he's and she's!

  

David:
The first question to ask is, "Why do you play golf?" Is it to win tournaments, for fun, to learn and improve? The answer you give to this question is pretty important, as it will largely determine the thought processes you go through when you practice and play and therefore, by definition, how you play, or at least how you play the game in your head!

Golfer:
I want to win as many tournaments as I possibly can

David:
And to achieve that what would you have to do?

Golfer:
Play my very best golf as consistently as I possibly can

David:
And how do you achieve that?

Golfer:
By practicing lots! And not letting any distracting thoughts get in the way as I play

David:
So let me ask, can you think of a situation you've been in where you've played your absolute best golf, or at least the best golf for the level you are currently at?

Golfer:
It sometimes happens in my practice rounds, yes I can think of a recent practice round where I played a great round of golf.

David:
OK, and now can you think of a situation where that hasn't happened, where you've not been satisfied with how you've played?

Golfer:
Yes, just last week in a tournament.

David:
So we have two situations here and there seems to be an interesting contrast between them. In the first situation you played well and in the second you appear not to have played so well. So what we could do is compare the two situations to see if we can become clearer on a number of things: what were you doing differently or what was happening differently in the first situation as compared to the second?

Golfer:
Well, lots of things!

David:
OK yes, there would of course be quite a lot of differences, some of which may be more important or relevant than others. Perhaps the best thing is to list the two or three differences that you consider most relevant and we can look at those one at a time to see if there is any one fundamental difference or a number of fundamental differences.

Golfer:
OK, the main differences were that in the practice round I was there to learn things and to try to improve and there wasn't so much pressure.

David:
OK, before" we go on to look at the second round you played, I just want to point out that word "pressure". Can you finish that sentence? "pressure" to do what? "pressure" exerted by whom?

Golfer:
Pressure to play well. And I guess that would be pressure I put on myself.

David:
OK, we'll come back to that a bit later. So we've gotten a little clearer as to what was going on for you during that first round, so what about the second round, when you were in the tournament.

Golfer:
Well there I wasn't in learning mode, I was in competition mode, and there was definitely more pressure!

David:
Pressure … ?

Golfer:
To play well!

David:
OK, so of course there may be other differences between the two rounds of golf and they may or may not be as important or relevant as those that you've pointed out but let's take a closer look at what we've got so far. One of the differences you mentioned was that during the first round you were in "learning" mode. Can you say exactly what you mean by that? Learning what exactly?

Golfer:
Learning how to improve my game, things like distance control, course strategy, shot-shaping and so on.

David:
OK, so let's take a second to think about how learning actually works. For example, how do you learn to shape a shot?

Golfer:
Well, personally, I visualise the shot a few times, I work on set-up changes that will promote a draw or a fade or whatever it is that I want to achieve and I repeat that until I've learned to do it!

David:
OK, now let me ask this. In that particular instance do you do the learning or does the learning happen? What I mean is, once you've tried the shot a number of times and made your set-up changes and so on, do you still have to think about things while you actually make the shot or can you let your system take care of that for you? So is it you who learns or your system that learns?

Golfer:
I'm not quite sure I follow!

David:
OK, let's take a slightly different example. Take something like the golf swing in general. Of course there are lots of things to learn about the swing, and some golfers go into great "technical" detail in their search for the "perfect" or most consistent swing. But the question remains, for whatever particular level of skill you have as a golfer, be it a 28 handicap or a tour pro, as you actually swing the club, do you have to continue to actively think of all those individual aspects of the swing that you have learned, or do you let your system swing the club for you?

Golfer:
Well, certainly when I hit my very best shots, I'm not really actively thinking anything at all, so yes, I suppose you could say my "system" swings the club and the thinking part of me is just along for the ride!

David:
OK, now let's look at it a little differently still. Is learning something you do or something that happens?

Golfer:
Hmm, I'm not quite sure I follow again.

David:
OK, let's take an example of a situation where you could definitely say learning has taken place. For example, when you were a kid, or maybe even now (!), and you were playing short game challenges with your friends. Did you specifically think of that as a learning situation or were you just having fun and trying to get the ball in the hole?

Golfer:
Really just having fun, but we did it to learn as well.

David:
Yes, of course, but, and this is important, even if you hadn't been thinking of it as a learning opportunity, if you had only been doing it for fun, do you think you wouldn't have learned anything from the activity at all, nothing about touch and feel and the roll of the greens?

Golfer:
Well, yes I guess I would have learned something, maybe not as much but something.

David:
Of course we can't say for sure, but we can do a kind of reductio ad absurdam with this idea, take it to its most extreme. Think of when you were a toddler learning to stand and take your first steps, for example. Obviously hard to remember exactly what you were thinking, but do you think you were "trying to learn" to walk? Would you have thought of it in those terms or were you just trying to get across the room to give your mum a hug, or to get up to see what was on top of the kitchen bench, just being curious about what was around you?

Golfer:
Well, I suppose I was just being curious about my surroundings.

David:
Yes, and as a by-product of this curiosity you learned to walk. Or to be more precise, your fantastically cool, millions of years evolved learning system learned to walk for you so that once you had learned that particular skill you never really had to think about it again. And really even when you were learning to walk, were you thinking about the position of your legs, which individual muscles to use, how to keep your balance and so on or did your system take care of all of that for you?

Golfer:
Hmm, yes, I didn't really have to think about that at all.

David:
And now that you're an adult do you ever have to think about how to walk?

Golfer:
No, thankfully my system seems to have got that one down pretty well!

David:
Yes, and this applies to all sorts of really extremely complex skills that you have acquired through the years, like talking, whistling, riding a bike, even, dare I suggest, playing golf! So the real point here is that learning is not really something that we as humans have to actually do in the active sense. Learning is really a fundamental human characteristic, in a very fundamental sense we are learning creatures, it is in our very nature to learn. By a happy co-incidence we also tend to learn the most when our curiosity is really stimulated and when we're having fun and being interested in something. Think of how many boring classes you had in school and how difficult it was to remember anything, whereas when teachers were able to make it more fun and interesting you tended to learn more!

Golfer:
OK, I can see that.

David:
So, if perhaps in a rather round-about way, we can begin to get back to some fundamental questions. I initially asked why you play golf, or what you aims were, and you said "to win as many tournaments as I can".

Golfer:
That's right

David:
In order to achieve that we agreed that you would have to practice lots, presumably in order to learn lots, and also to keep distracting thoughts away while you play. Is that right?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
So to look at the first part of that equation, the "practice" part, would you agree that, in order to learn as much as possible, you need to be clear as to how learning in humans actually works. So, for example, a practice session that you make as fun and creative and inventive as possible is going to be giving your brain lots of stimulation so that your system will learn lots, whereas a practice session where all you do is think about swing mechanics and beat golf balls until your brain is really quite bored isn't going to be so productive, as your curiosity and "learning systems" will more or less switch off! Or perhaps more commonly, a practice session where you scold and berate yourself for not hitting the right shots will not be terribly conducive to learning. We might come back to that actually! But in the meantime it is important to be clear about how learning actually works so that you can learn as quickly and easily and in as fun a way as possible. But it is also vital, of course, to be able to make the most of that learning when it "really counts". And, getting back to our comparison of the two rounds, it seems that when you get into a tournament round, in your words you go into "competition mode and there is more pressure".

Golfer:
Yes, that's right

David:
So let's look at that a little more clearly. Can you say what you mean by "competition mode"?

Golfer:
I have to try to play my best

David:
OK, notice the word "try" there. Do you find that when you play in competition you generally do play your best or do you "try" to play your best?

Golfer:
Well, sometimes I play pretty well, but not consistently.

David:
Just to be clear here, not as consistently as when you are playing a practice round?

Golfer:
No

David:
So notice the contrast there. In your practice round do you "try" to play your best in the same way as you "try" in your tournament rounds?

Golfer:
Well, no

David:
And can you think why not?

Golfer:
Well, because it's not so important, there's not so much riding on it

David:
OK, so it seems there are two things to look at here. First, the idea of "trying", or somehow thinking and acting differently in a tournament round as compared to a practice round, and secondly, the idea that a tournament round is somehow more important, which we'll come back to in a moment. So, first things first, when you find that you are trying to play your best, is there anything in particular that you do to achieve this goal of "playing your best"?

Golfer:
I try to make sure my set-up is correct and that I concentrate and focus as much as possible.

David:
OK, now what do you mean by the words "concentrate" and "focus"?

Golfer:
I try to clear my mind of any distracting thoughts, try to clear my mind so I can focus on the shot I want to make.

David:
OK, this idea of concentration and focusing is really interesting. Think for a second of your practice round, that round that went so well for you. Were you trying to "concentrate" and "focus" during that round?

Golfer:
Well, no, I was just really in the zone, for most of the holes anyway.

David:
Can you say what you mean by "in the zone"?

Golfer:
There was nothing else in my mind but the shot, seeing the shot, seeing my swing, and then making the shot.

David:
So, to be clear, would you say you were really focused during that round?

Golfer:
Oh yes!

David:
But were you doing that? Were you actually having to "try" to focus and to concentrate?

Golfer:
No, not at all

David:
In fact were you even thinking about ideas like "focus" and "concentrate" at all? Were you doing that at all?

Golfer:
No!

David:
So can you think why you would have to "try" to focus or concentrate more in the tournament round? Is it that there is something else in your mind that's tending to take you out of the "zone"?

Golfer:
Yes, that's it. There are thoughts that come into my mind that shouldn't be there and so I have to try to get rid of them!

David:
So you see, focusing and concentrating are not something that you do. Rather they are a state of mind where distracting thoughts aren't happening and so your mind can easily stay on the task in hand. What actually happens when you play in a tournament is that there are other thoughts that are in your mind that presumably aren't so much fun to have there, or aren't so useful, and in your words "shouldn't" be there. Is that right?

Golfer:
Yes, that's it.

David:
But do you also then see that, rather than "try to focus", what we should really do is get rid of these distracting thoughts. If they were all gone you would simply be easily able to think about what you really want to think about, your golf game!

Golfer:
Yes, but it's not easy to just "get rid" of them!

David:
Absolutely! And so we're not going to try to get rid of them at all! Rather, we can begin to have a clearer understanding of exactly what these thoughts are and more importantly, why they occur, what's behind them. If we can look at the logic of the underlying ideas and beliefs which lead to these thoughts we'll be able to scrutinise that logic. If it stands up to scrutiny all well and good and we'll have discovered that actually all those ideas do make sense and that those distracting thoughts really should be there and so it really is difficult to focus in a tournament round! Or we may find (and I'm hoping that we do!) that the ideas and belief systems that act as the "drivers" for these thoughts, really don't have any logical basis, and that once this is clear to you, the thoughts simply won't re-occur. The beauty of this approach, briefly, is that it is so different from many strategies and techniques for helping with the mental side of the game, for coping with "pressure" and "nerves" and so on. Most of these strategies are based around "positive thinking", "visualisation" and so on, but they do not address the underlying fundamental causes of "negative" thinking, and so you are left with strategies that you have to keep employing time and again, because until you root out those underlying beliefs, the distracting thoughts will keep coming back time and again.

Golfer:
OK, sounds a bit complicated!

David:
Well, let's start from the start with concrete examples. Let's get back to those two contrasting rounds of golf. In your tournament round you said you were in "competition" mode and that there was more pressure to play well, is that right?

Golfer:
Yes, that's right

David:
OK, what exactly do we mean by the word "pressure", "pressure to play well"?

Golfer:
Hmm, it's a feeling that I have to play well

David:
OK, let's look at that. There are two things to look at here, the "have to" and the "play well". Let's take the idea of playing well first. In your experience, and your practice round might serve as an example here, at those times when you do actually play well, and by play well I'm presuming we're meaning playing to your current skill level (although people do at times expect themselves to somehow magically hit shots that don't even come off very often in practice — yet!) what exactly is it that you are doing or thinking or what is it that is happening at those times as opposed to when you're not "playing well"?

Golfer:
Hmm, I'm no too sure. There certainly isn't usually that feeling of pressure, the feeling of "having to" play well.

David:
OK, well you could of course make some experiments to see exactly what is going on for you at those times, but is it safe to say that, at least in that recent practice round where you played so well, there wasn't a feeling of "pressure" or "having to" play well?

Golfer:
That's right

David:
So notice the irony there that you actually tend to play better golf when you're not actively trying to play well! But more importantly, let's look at why it seems more important that you "play well" in competition, or that you "have to" play well in competition. Before I ask this next question let's just get a little clearer on this idea of "play well". What exactly do we mean by that?

Golfer:
Well, to "play well" is to strike shots the way I'd like to, to hole putts, generally to put together a good score.

David:
So you are saying that whenever your shots work out the way you'd like them to, and the putts drop and so on, then you are playing well?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
Is that a little bit like the recent practice round you mentioned?

Golfer:
Yes, like that

David:
And when things are working out nicely for you like that, are you doing the good shots or are the good shots happening?

Golfer:
Well, when I hit my very best shots, it's like I know I've learned how to do it and so I just get out of my way and let the shot happen.

David:
So do you really begin to see that when you play your best golf you don't actually do very much, in the sense that you're not trying to do the swing or trying to control the swing directly as you actually swing the club. Is that right?

Golfer:
Yes, that's it, but when I'm in competition I don't always feel I can let go like that

David:
Exactly, and that leads me on to that next question which is what is it exactly that is keeping you from just letting the shots happen when you are in "competition mode"? Is it that it all seems more important?

Golfer:
Yes, I feel like we're going in a circle here! I know that trying to control the shots directly doesn't work, I just get in my own way, but I still don't feel able to let go of that!

David:
OK, well this is where we can begin to break out of that circle. You said that when you play in competition there is more pressure because you feel you "have to play well". OK, why?

Golfer:
Why do I have to play well?

David:
Yes.

Golfer:
Well, if I don't play well, I won't have a chance of winning!

David:
OK, two questions arise from that. Firstly, and this may on the face of it seem like a silly question, why is it important to you that you win?

Golfer:
Because that's the whole point of playing!

David:
OK, just to be clear, can you finish that sentence? Winning is the whole point of playing … golf? golf in competition? or what exactly?

Golfer:
Well, competitive golf.

David:
So does this mean that unless you are guaranteed to win there is no point in playing?

Golfer:
No, of course not!

David:
OK, let's look at this then. Are you clear as to why winning is the "whole point" of competitive golf?

Golfer:
Well, I know that if I don't win I feel worse than if I win!

David:
Is that actually true? Can you imagine a situation where you play your very best golf, let's say you play the best golf you've ever played in competition, and you're coming down the stretch needing a birdie on the last to make the play-off. You hit a perfect mid-iron into the green but the wind suddenly gets up and your ball comes back off a false front. You hit a wonderful 40 foot putt that shaves the lip and tap in for par. You shoot a final round 66 but come second by a shot. Are you really saying that there was "no point" to that round of golf?!

Golfer:
Hmm, no, that'd be a pretty cool round to put together!

David:
OK, and by the same token, let's say you play in a tournament where everyone pretty much plays terribly! And you play absolutely terribly by your own standards, can hardly hit the ball straight, but you get some great breaks. On one approach you even shank the ball into the trees but it kicks out and rolls up next to the pin. So you play terribly but not quite as terribly as everyone else, and the tournament sponsors are almost embarrassed to put their name to the trophy, but, hey, you win! Would that be satisfying for you?

Golfer:
Well, hey, a wins a win! But no, I guess I'd rather win by playing my best golf.

David:
Well, let's be a little careful here though. Given these examples, is it actually true that the whole point of playing competitive golf is winning or winning by playing great golf?

Golfer:
Well, winning by playing great golf, because that way you'd really feel like you could repeat it!

David:
Exactly, but as we saw in the example, what would happen if you played some really fantastic golf but came up just short of the win? Think of Rocco Mediate against Tiger Woods in the US Open play-off for example!

Golfer:
OK, I see your point

David:
So it's important to be clear that you cannot ever guarantee that you will win a tournament. All you can do is give yourself the best chance possible of playing your best golf, and if that happens to be good enough to win then so much the better. And as we saw earlier the only way you can give yourself the best chance of playing your best golf is to let the shots happen, without worrying too much about winning and so on!

Golfer:
OK, I feel like we're getting somewhere here, and some of this feels a bit familiar, things like "staying in the moment", "thinking only of the next shot" and so on, but I still really want to win golf tournaments!

David:
Of course, so let's go back to that statement from earlier and try to complete it: "Winning is the whole point of competitive golf because …"?

Golfer:
Because … because if you can win consistently, not just back into a win like in that example before, but win by playing really well consistently, you can consider yourself to be the best golfer.

David:
The best golfer … ever? compared to whom? The best golfer you can be?

Golfer:
I want to be the very best golfer I can be.

David:
And why would you need to play in competitions in order to achieve that?

Golfer:
So I can compare my standard of golf to other players

David:
Well, no, if your aim is to be the best golfer you can be, that really has got nothing to do with anyone else does it?

Golfer:
Well no, but I want to be able to play to the best of my ability even when I play in front of other players, in competition.

David:
So is your aim to be the best golfer you can be, or to be the best golfer you can be in front of others?

Golfer:
The best golfer I can be in front of others, or compared to others.

David:
OK, so we can say that if you win a golf tournament, or as you said, consistently win tournaments, you could rightly consider yourself to be the best golfer compared to the other golfers you are competing against. Is that right?

Golfer:
Well, yes, if the wins were repeated over a period of time.

David:
OK, it's important to be clear here exactly which criteria we are using to determine this label of "best" or "better than". If you play in a golf tournament, and I warn you this may sound patronising (!), which criteria are used to determine who wins?

Golfer:
Well, the player who has the lowest score after a number of rounds!

David:
So if you play the course in fewer strokes than your fellow competitors you win the competition, right?

Golfer:
Right

David:
And we're clear that you would like to be able to do that on a regular basis, right?

Golfer:
Right

David:
Why?

Golfer:
Why would I like to win?

David:
Yes, why would you like to win?

Golfer:
Well, because it feels great!

David:
Feels great compared to what?

Golfer:
Well, to not winning!

David:
Again, why?

Golfer:
Well, lots of reasons, but for one, because it means that I played the best golf.

David:
OK, if we're being really precise, and bear with me here, we're getting to the point of all this in a moment, you played the course in fewer strokes than everyone else and that gives you a better feeling than if you hadn't achieved that. Is that accurate?

Golfer:
Yes, that's accurate

David:
So notice here that by its very nature, a competition or tournament is a way of comparing the skill levels of a number of people in a certain discipline. If you win the golf tournament, or consistently win tournaments, you would say you are the "best" golfer, right?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
OK, so now let's look at exactly what that label "best" means. There are obviously a number of contributing factors which would lead you to score consistently lower than others. What would some of those be?

Golfer:
Em, skill level, mental toughness, strategy, there are probably more …

David:
OK, but broadly we could put them into two categories: skill sets, which would include things like understanding of the golf swing, touch around the greens, distance control, strategy for each hole and so on, and the second would be the ability to bring all these skills to bear when in a competitive situation, or as you called it, mental toughness.

Golfer:
Yes, that sounds right, mental discipline or clarity, being able to think clearly under pressure.

David:
OK, so let's look at these categories one at a time. First we have the various skill sets. Put simply if you have a higher skill level than another player does that make you a better player than them?

Golfer:
Yes, of course

David:
Well, would you agree that it kind of depends who you are comparing yourself to? Obviously your skill level is higher than a six year old kid just starting out, but would you class yourself as "better" than them?

Golfer:
No, well, better in terms of my skill level

David:
Do you see the confusion that can arise with the word "better" though? If we're being really accurate we could say that you have a higher skill level than the six year old, but whether you are "better" or not depends entirely on the criteria you are using to define "better" and "worse". For example, if the criteria being used to make the judgement are "skill level" then of course you are "better", but if the criteria being used to determine who is the better golfer is, say, "enjoyment and fun", then we may well find that the six year old is "better" at golf than you because he or she has loads of fun and gets really excited when they hit the ball twenty yards! So you see it is important to be very clear as to the criteria we are using to determine the "betterness"!

Golfer:
OK yes, but in tournament play obviously the criteria is "skill level"

David:
Yes, of course, but let's think about that for a second. If your skill level is higher than another player does that make you "better" than them?

Golfer:
Well, not better than them as a person, but better as a golfer

David:
Yes, and do you get satisfaction from having a higher skill level than other golfers?

Golfer:
Well, not six year olds (!) but other golfers in the same tournament, yes.

David:
So are you saying that to compare your skill level to a six year old is unfair whereas to compare it to other golfers in a tournament is a fair comparison?

Golfer:
Absolutely

David:
Yes, this is, of course, very important, because if you are going to compare things, be it golfers or really anything for that matter, you must make sure that the things you are comparing are alike enough to actually bear comparison. It wouldn't make sense, for example, to compare a set of high quality forged blade irons with a cheap starter set. Or if you did compare them you would need to be very clear as to what exactly the criteria being used to make the comparison were. If quality and ball control are your criteria, then the blades are "better", but if you're just starting out and can't afford to spend much on clubs, then the starter set is obviously "better". So, to get back to your example, do you feel that you and the other golfers in the field are alike enough for you to be able to make a valid comparison of your skill levels?

Golfer:
Well, yes

David:
Are there a number of factors which contribute towards a golfers "skill level"?

Golfer:
Em, yes, there's talent, practice, discipline, strategy and so on.

David:
OK, let's look at a few of those contributing factors in a bit more detail to see what merit or otherwise they each may hold. Take a golfer who happens to have been born with a real "talent" for golf, so that when he was a little kid it was clear that he had really nice hand-eye co-ordination and a feel for the game. That's obviously going to give that kid a head-start in terms of his golfing skills, but could we say in any way that the child had "earned" or "worked for" that particular talent?

Golfer:
Well, no it would be chance I guess.

David:
So would it be fair to compare that kid to another who simply hadn't been born with the same level of hand-eye co-ordination or the same "talent"?

Golfer:
Well, he would still be better at golf.

David:
Better or more skilled, more able?

Golfer:
Well, no, better!

David:
Better in what way?

Golfer:
Well, more skilled, argh!

David:
So would it still be valid to compare the two kids' "goodness" as golfers if one had, by sheer lucky chance, been blessed with a better co-ordination? Of course the first kid might really enjoy having fun with those skills, but should he feel "proud of himself" for having the higher skill level, even though he had done nothing whatsoever to earn that?

Golfer:
No, not if that's the only factor but there are lots of other things that come into play, like hard work and practice, dedication and so on.

David:
Yes, we'll come to that in a moment, but first it is important to clarify our terms here. When we talk of someone's "skill level", that can be measured reasonably objectively. So child "A" might have a demonstrably higher skill level than child "B". However, to then put that into such subjective terms as better and worse really doesn't make much sense. What I'm saying is, to have a certain skill level is one thing, but to link how good or bad you feel about your golf or indeed yourself because of that skill level is something altogether different. If child "B" were to feel embarrassed while playing golf with child "A" just because his skill level wasn't as high, even though child "A" had done nothing whatsoever to "earn" that higher skill level, but was just "lucky" enough to have been born with it, that embarrassment would be the result of a misunderstanding. Child "B" would not have understood that it is not a fair comparison to make.

Golfer:
Well, it might spur him on to practice and do better

David:
It may or may not, but what we're looking at is the idea of "better" and "worse" and the feeling of embarrassment or inadequacy that can lead to. People don't tend to enjoy feeling like that, and indeed it can be enough to stop us wanting to even try to learn new skills. How many golfers are there out there who perhaps, through family or work commitments, simply haven't got the time they would like to dedicate themselves to improving their golf? Or perhaps they aren't blessed with the same natural hand-eye co-ordination as their golfing friends, or for whatever reason, and through no fault of their own, have a lower skill level than other golfers in their circle. Or perhaps they get nervous because of these thoughts of comparison and the feeling that others are judging them and making comparisons, without understanding how baseless those comparisons actually are! The classic example here is that of the high handicapper who plays in a pro-am and can't help feeling that he needs to berate himself or apologise to the golf pro after almost every shot. These are the golfers who somehow feel they are "at fault", or "stupid" or an "idiot" or "no good" when mistakes happen in their golf. And ironically, it is largely these feelings of comparative inadequacy and self-judgement that stop them actually having fun and learning more about their game.

Now, let's expand our example a little to see if we can move closer towards the situation you find yourself in. You mentioned practice and dedication a few moments ago. Could you expand on that?

Golfer:
Well, say there are two golfers who are born with similar skill levels, so there's no head-start for either (!), if one practices more and learns more quickly, and hence moves to a higher skill level, well then surely you could then safely say he was a "better" golfer.

David:
Well, more skilled certainly, but you would need to look at the circumstances which led to the one golfer practicing more than the other. It's not difficult to imagine a situation where a kid who enjoyed playing golf and had a certain talent for it would want to practice and improve, perhaps more so than someone who did not initially show any great promise. The child may also be lucky enough to be growing up in a supportive and encouraging environment, and may well get a lot of enjoyment out of the attention he receives when he plays well, or just enjoy that feeling of support and achievement. From there it's not a huge leap to imagine how that child might practice much more and "work harder" at his golf than a child who isn't in that very fortunate situation. That's only one example, but hopefully you can begin to see that even if a child practices extremely hard, dedicates himself to golf for years and achieves an ever increasing level of skill, while this may be a wonderful thing for that person as he grows into a competitive golfer, and while it may bring great pleasure, there really isn't any way in which that person would be justified in feeling "superior" to anyone else, as the level of golf he plays at is simply the result of all his very personal and uniquely individual experience.

Golfer:
So has all of this winning and losing thing really got more to do with how we think others perceive us, or how we want them to think of us?

David:
That's an interesting one. Let's say you win a tournament. Would you be quite happy not to tell anyone whatsoever about your win?

Golfer:
No, I'd want to tell some people about it. I'd be quite glad if quite a few others found out about it as well!

David:
OK, to help make sense of why that might be the case, let's think how you would feel if no-one were to ever find out about your win, let's say the biggest win of your career to date.

Golfer:
Hmm, I'd really really want to tell somebody!

David:
Tell them that you won?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
Can you think why?

Golfer:
So they'd know how good I am.

David:
As a golfer?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
Good in terms of … ?

Golfer:
Well, my skill level and mental tenacity

David:
Well, your skill level is the product of a number of things. First, your natural ability, which is given to you by chance, and which you have done nothing whatsoever to deserve. Would you agree with that?

Golfer:
Well, it's a bit harsh but OK

David:
And second, no small amount of practice, indeed you may have practiced very hard to get to the skill level you have attained.

Golfer:
Yes, hard practice

David:
And though we often make a virtue of hard work and hard practice let me ask this. Why have you practiced?

Golfer:
To improve

David:
So that … ?

Golfer:
So that I might win more tournaments

David:
So that … ?

Golfer:
So that people will see how good I am!

David:
So all that hard work and practice is done so that people can tell you that you are a good golfer?

Golfer:
Well, that makes it sound like a very shallow reason. I practice for myself too.

David:
You may do, but you did say that you would find it very difficult not to tell people about a big win. Would this not mean that much of what you are striving to achieve is so that you will gain other people's approval? Is there really much glory in that? Or certainly, as a reason for practicing is that a very "virtuous" or "worthy" reason?

Golfer:
Hmm, well, no, not really

David:
So, if you do win consistently, this may well mean that you have attained a higher skill level than your fellow competitors, or happen to have figured your way through a number of mental difficulties and misunderstandings, putting you in a more favourable position to play tournament golf. But for others to think that that somehow makes you more "worthwhile" or "better" in some fundamental sense is surely a misunderstanding on their part. In fact, if they were to think that you are more worthy of praise because you win a tournament as opposed to coming somewhere further back, so thinking in terms of "winners" and "losers", notice that they too would be labouring under the misapprehension that winning is really the most important thing, and so their own self-esteem and sense of worth may well be dependant on their own winning and losing, and so they would feel pressure to try their very best to win at all costs, and would be harder on themselves if they didn't happen to win. Do you see where we go with this?

Golfer:
Yes, it's kind of like, the people who would think it praiseworthy, or the most important thing to win, would only think that because they would be linking self-worth with skill level and winning, which wouldn't leave them in a very nice place either.

David:
Well, think about it, we can't all win in tournaments, so does this mean that only the winner is allowed to be happy and have fun and everyone else must feel worthless because their current level of skill or clarity of thought aren't quite at that level? Of course that would be nonsense!

Golfer:
So, what are you saying then? That I shouldn't want to win?

David:
Not at all! To want to win, to be competitive is a human instinct, but to link that to how good or bad you feel about yourself just doesn't make any sense. If we truly begin to see that winning is a result, not a cause, we can begin to think more in terms of curiosity, fun, learning, improving, and that way there is no pressure, no need to perform to a certain level. And the more fun you have, the more curious you will be, and the more curious you are the more you will learn, and the more you learn the more you will improve, and the more you improve the more you will win! But do you see that the fundamental thing here is having fun and being happy with wherever you are at the moment with your golf. It is that fun and happiness that will lead to everything else.

Golfer:
Yes, but it's tough though not to think of other people when I play. There are some that I don't want to disappoint, like when I play golf with my dad, or others that I don't want to think badly of my play, like my peers, or others that I don't want to laugh at me, like other golfers or people in the crowd when I play.

David:
OK, that's a lot of people you've got in mind there! Let's take those examples one at a time and look at what, if anything, is actually going on for those people when you play golf. Let's start with the example of your dad. Can you be a little more specific as to how exactly you might "disappoint" him?

Golfer:
Well, when we play together, or if I'm in a tournament, I feel a pressure to play well for him, so as not to disappoint him.

David:
OK, what exactly does it mean to "disappoint him"?

Golfer:
Em, to not live up to his expectations?

David:
Yes, of course if he had no expectations of you it would be impossible to disappoint him. Well, do you know if he actually has any expectations of you, and if so what are they?

Golfer:
Well, I know he wants me to do well.

David:
Do well?

Golfer:
Yes, to play as well as I can.

David:
And you're sure he wants you to do as well as you can, even if that means that you don't enjoy playing so much around him because of that "expectation" or "pressure"?

Golfer:
Well, no, I think he wants me to enjoy my golf too.

David:
Well, we have a contradiction here, and perhaps we can make it clearer by making the example a little more extreme. Either your dad wants you to be happy, in which case he would do nothing to try to make you feel unhappy or uncomfortable or under pressure, or he wants you to win at all costs (perhaps because of how it may reflect on his son?), and to heck with how you feel in the meantime, because winning is the most important thing. The real question is, though, do you actually know what your dad is thinking at all when you play golf?

Golfer:
Well, no not for sure.

David:
So who definitely is having these thoughts about performing well and pressure and so on?

Golfer:
Well, me

David:
So is it that you assume that your dad has expectations of you?

Golfer:
Yes, I do

David:
So, to be clear here, the expectations are definitely yours and may or may not be your father's, right?

Golfer:
Right

David:
How do expectations work? What is an expectation? What would cause you to expect something to happen?

Golfer:
You'd need to have some past experience of a certain thing happening for you to expect it to happen again.

David:
And would that have just happened once, or a number of times, with a certain consistency?

Golfer:
Yes, a number of times

David:
So, how often have you actually played really well in front of your dad?

Golfer:
Really not that often!

David:
OK, so right there, your experience is telling you that, for some reason, you don't play all that well, or at least not consistently well, in front of your dad. So first, do you see that your experience is telling you that your "expectation" is simply unrealistic at the moment. You expect yourself to play well in your dad's presence, or as well as at other times when he is not there, even though experience tells you that that has never consistently happened!

Golfer:
OK, but I want to play well for him!

David:
Yes, of course, and let's look at that. But it is important to be clear on the unrealistic nature of your own expectation. Now, can you think why you don't tend to play as well in front of him as, say, when you are on your own?

Golfer:
Again it comes back to pressure.

David:
Pressure to do what?

Golfer:
Pressure to play well in case I disappoint him! Argh! It's like a vicious circle!

David:
OK, well we've established that we can't be sure if your play actually does or does not disappoint your dad. He may well be thinking about all sorts of other things when he plays along with you, like his own game (!), or that he doesn't want to disappoint his son, or embarrass himself in front of his son! We've got to remember that, just as we spend most of our time thinking about ourselves and our own predicaments, so others tend to do just the same about their own lives and predicaments. But we can actually get to a point where we kind of assume that other people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about us, as if we are somehow more important or special than everyone else! And, of course, to ourselves we are, but it just might be that pretty much everyone thinks the same way too!

Golfer:
Yes, kind of getting so wound up in yourself that you only see others in relation to yourself, not as individuals in their own right.

David:
That's it. Now, however, that doesn't solve the possibility that your dad actually may be disappointed with how you play. We need to address that possibility, just in case! If your dad did feel disappointed with how you play, wouldn't that mean that how you play is somehow important for him?

Golfer:
Yes, he might feel bad for me if I don't play well.

David:
But let's be careful. To feel bad for someone, is that the same as to feel disappointed for them, or disappointed in them?

Golfer:
Well, yes, I suppose to feel bad for them is more to empathise with them, with their own sense of disappointment.

David:
Is that how you think your dad feels when you don't play so well?

Golfer:
Yes, it probably actually is more that way

David:
But again, and just in case, let's say your dad does actually feel let down, that you have disappointed him with how you've played, or maybe even that how you've played reflects badly on him. First and foremost, do you see that if that's actually how he thinks, he would be linking his own feelings, feeling happy, feeling disappointed, with something that you are doing, over which he has no direct control. Again, taking this to the extreme, if someone were to say to you, "it's completely your responsibility to make me happy, if you don't play to the best of your ability then it will be your fault that I'm unhappy and disappointed", would that make any sense at all? Put another way, do you think that anyone else should take responsibility for your happiness? The only person who can be truly responsible for your happiness is you! Just as the only person who can be responsible for your dad's happiness is your dad! Nothing you do can make him happy or unhappy, it is the way he sees things, if indeed that is the way he sees things, that will make him happy or otherwise.

Golfer:
So, what you're saying is that it is impossible for me to disappoint him, the only thing that might disappoint him are his own ideas and expectations.

David:
Yes

Golfer:
Yes, but that whole idea of only being responsible for your own happiness. Isn't that a very selfish thing?

David:
Selfish?

Golfer:
Yes, surely you should want to make others happy too?

David:
Well, let's think. All that time you are trying to make your dad happy when you play golf, how happy does that make you feel?

Golfer:
Well, not very

David:
So does this mean that your dad's happiness is more important than yours? Do you think he'd be happy to see you unhappy?

Golfer:
Of course not!

David:
And similarly, would you expect anyone to make themselves unhappy just so that you could be happy?

Golfer:
No

David:
And would it make you happier to spend time around people who were going out of their way to behave differently than they otherwise would just so that you can be happy, or would you rather spend time around people who are happy in themselves and don't need you to behave in any particular way for them at all? Then you could simply all be happy together and share in each other's happiness, which would probably make you all even more happy!

Golfer:
OK, OK!

David:
But bringing it right back to your own experience. What's the one thing that would make you most happy for your dad?

Golfer:
If he were happy

David:
Exactly, and so it just might be that the one thing that would make him most happy for you would be …?

Golfer:
If I'm happy myself!

David:
Of course, we can't be sure of this, and people do often invest their own sense of well-being in the achievements or otherwise of others, but that really can't work in the long-term. So, at a simple practical level, the only thing you can do that would be of any use at all in your dad achieving his own happiness, not that that is in any way your responsibility, is to be happy in yourself! Anything beyond that he'll pretty much have to figure out for himself!

Golfer:
OK, I think I can begin to see that

David:
Now, you also mentioned not wanting people to think "badly" of how you play. Is that right? Can you explain that a little more?

Golfer:
I don't want them to think I can't play well.

David:
Compared to?

Golfer:
Compared to them or to other players. Oh, I see, we're back into that whole territory of comparison or unrealistic comparison, and how it is that that actually brings about the feelings of pressure.

David:
Right, so, while we can't of course be sure what other people are thinking at all while we play golf, and let's remember they may well be caught up in their own world of thought just as you are (!), what we can be sure of is that if they are judging how you play, by comparing your standard of play to themselves or to someone else, then this means that they think that that is a perfectly valid and sensible thing to do. Notice that this tells us much more about their own thinking than it tells us about you or your golf. What it also means is that if they are caught up in these comparative and judgemental thoughts, it would be likely that they will apply this to themselves as well as to you. So how would that make them feel when they play golf in front of others?

Golfer:
Well, I guess that would put them under a lot of pressure, as they might fear that others would be judging them! Again it's a vicious circle!

David:
Yes, and it's always interesting to me when I see a golfer berating himself, or talking to himself after what he considers a poor shot. I wonder if they tend to do that when they are playing on their own? How much of that talk is to try to somehow justify what has happened, to blame it on something, on luck, or to call themselves stupid for making that mistake, so that others will know that the player himself knows it shouldn't happen that way, or doesn't usually happen that way. You can tell a lot about what's going on for a player from those comments he makes on the course.

Golfer:
Hmm, yes, I do find myself doing that at times out on the course.

David:
Yes, but the one huge advantage that you can begin to have over those you compete against is an understanding of the destructive belief systems that lead to those thought processes. Is that clearer to you now?

Golfer:
Yes, and then there are those people who might laugh at me if I play a poor shot. What about them?

David:
Well, let's think. We can ask a couple of questions here. First of all, if you can think of one particular person who might laugh at you when a mistake happens, would that person laugh at you more when you're with a group of golfers or when it is just the two of you?

Golfer:
Hmm, hard to say, I think more when we're in a fourball, when there are more people around.

David:
So, can you think why it might be that his behaviour would be different in front of these others?

Golfer:
Maybe he's trying to impress them somehow?

David:
Well, we wouldn't know for sure, but certainly if he's laughing and "making fun" of you in a way that you're not enjoying, you can be fairly sure that he's more concerned with the reaction of the others than your feelings. And this would be born out by the fact that if it was just the two of you, he may well simply say "hard luck" or something to that effect.

Golfer:
Yes, I can actually think of a person who does just that. Well, he did laugh once when it was just the two of us, but I think he realised by my reaction that I didn't appreciate it!

David:
It might also be of interest to think about how this person behaves when he plays his own shots on the course. If he doesn't hit every shot perfectly does he tend to get frustrated or behave as we described previously, berating himself and so on, or perhaps trying to make light of it to hide his frustration?

Golfer:
So really what you're saying is, even if someone does laugh at me when I play a poor shot, it really says more about them and how they see things than about me.

David:
Yes, if you like we can look at that for a second.

Golfer:
OK, look at what?

David:
Well, the fact that if a mistake happens when you play, how or why somebody might think that that was worthy of condemnation or was somehow a justification for laughing at you. This brings us into the whole area of what a mistake actually is. So what is a mistake?

Golfer:
It's when you do something wrong

David:
Let's look at that a little more closely. A mistake is "something you do wrong". Is that it?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
Wrong in what way?

Golfer:
Well, not right! Not what you want to happen, not accurate I suppose.

David:
OK, but just notice how powerful that word "wrong" can be. In the case of a golf shot, if accuracy is your criteria, then an "inaccurate" shot, or a shot that doesn't come off the way you intended could be considered a mistake, right?

Golfer:
Yes, that's it

David:
OK, and is a mistake something that you actually do, in the same way you might do something else, like touch your nose. Is it something you do like that?

Golfer:
Well, no, you don't want it to happen, of course

David:
OK, but do you do a mistake or does it happen?

Golfer:
I suppose it happens, and then you notice that it's happened

David:
It's important to be clear on that one. The first moment you notice a mistake is once it has actually happened! So that would make it pretty difficult for you to somehow "make sure" it didn't happen, wouldn't it!

Golfer:
Yes!

David:
So, just to be clear, a mistake definitely can happen but it's not something you do?

Golfer:
Right

David:
And do you intend for it to happen?

Golfer:
No

David:
OK, so maybe our definition of a mistake has changed a little. So, instead of a mistake being "something you do wrong", we've come up with, "a mistake is something that happens that is inaccurate and which you don't intend to happen"

Golfer:
Yes, OK it's a bit long but it will do!

David:
And now that we've changed the definition, do you see that really it would be impossible for you to make sure you don't make a mistake, given that you don't actually make them anyway!

Golfer:
Yes, but I still don't want them to happen!

David:
Because?

Golfer:
Because they're bad!

David:
OK, let's take a look at an example of a learning situation to help us get a clearer handle on the whole "mistake" thing. Think of a young child learning to stand or take its first steps. Would you agree that the child is going to fall over quite a few times before it "learns" to stand or walk?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
So let's take one of these moments where the child falls over on its bum. Did the child intend to fall over?

Golfer:
No

David:
Did the child do the falling or did the falling over happen?

Golfer:
It happened

David:
And if the ultimate goal is, let's say, to stand up without falling over, has the child achieved its goal?

Golfer:
No

David:
So we could say that what has happened is inaccurate in that it's not what the child wants to happen?

Golfer:
OK

David:
So, according to our own criteria for what a mistake is, a mistake has happened. Would that be right?

Golfer:
Well, I guess but you wouldn't think of it as a mistake.

David:
But let's be clear here, what has just happened does fit all our criteria for a mistake?

Golfer:
Yes, I suppose

David:
Yes, I can feel your reluctance here, and I don't want to pick on the poor child! So, would you say that the child falling over is in any way a bad thing?

Golfer:
Well, not really because it will learn from that.

David:
OK well let's look at exactly how the child will learn from that. I'm not an expert here but this is more or less what happens. As the child falls over, the brain receives lots of information or feedback from all the balance and sensory systems and then processes that information so that its next attempt at standing will be a little more "accurate". So basically, without that information the brain would have no way of making its next attempt more accurate. Does that make sense?

Golfer:
OK, yes

David:
And let's say you have a well-meaning mum who doesn't want her child to fall over, or "make mistakes" as it learns to walk, and so uses a harness or stands behind and holds the child up, do you see what the problem would be? Literally the system would be starved of information and therefore couldn't use that information to make further, slightly more accurate attempts at standing or walking. So, quite literally, no learning could take place. Well, the child would learn to lean on its mum but that's about it! So do you see that the falling over and the information gained from that and the processing of that information for the next attempt and so on and so on actually is the learning process. Take away the falling over and you take away the information and you take away any chance of making a more accurate next attempt! The falling over is the learning, the "mistake" is the learning!

Golfer:
Woah! … so why do we think of mistakes as such bad things then?

David:
Well, of course many people do, but, question, do you tend to feel worse about your mistakes when they happen in front of others?

Golfer:
Yes

David:
Well, that could give us a clue. Also, notice that in many areas of our lives, like education for example, we tend to be taught that in order to achieve a goal we've got to "try our best" to directly achieve that goal. We are actually taught to "try not to make mistakes", as if they are somehow a bad thing. But, as we've seen from the example of the child learning to walk, that is a complete misunderstanding of the learning process. Once you have learned a skill, mistakes will not tend to happen when you perform that particular skill (unless of course you get all distracted by what you think the other people around will think if you "make a mistake"!), but it's important to be clear that that "perfect" state of affairs, where mistakes no longer happen, only came about because of all the learning that took place, which only came about as a direct result of all the experience gained and information and feedback gained from all the so-called "mistakes" that happened during the learning process. So to think that you can achieve a state where mistakes no longer happen by simply trying not to let mistakes happen is a complete misunderstanding of how learning actually works. This is bit like the high-handicapper who goes to the driving range night after night and tries to learn how to hit the ball straight by trying not to let the ball go to the left or right, without any real idea of why it's going to the left or right, or even why it happens to go straight once in a while. This, by the way, would easily lead into the whole territory of "frustration" in learning and what that means. Anyway, what we can now see is that anybody who ever laughs at you or makes fun of you in an unfriendly way when a mistake happens is undoubtedly labouring under this misapprehension, and will no doubt feel a great deal of pressure themselves to try not to "mess up" or "make mistakes".

Golfer:
So this whole learning process thing, are you saying that I've just got to let mistakes happen when I play?

David:
Well, in a way, have you ever been able to not let them happen? Do you actually have any control whatsoever as to whether mistakes happen or not?

Golfer:
No, I suppose not

David:
If we look at the example of the child again, that might make it a little clearer. As we've seen, there can often be some misunderstanding between things we do and things that happen. If we take the example of the child learning to stand or walk, we could ask the question, is the child "doing" the learning or is the learning "happening"? This would be a pretty important distinction to make. Does the child think to itself "I've got to learn all these skills like standing, talking, walking etc. or does the learning happen as a by-product of the child's innate curiosity?

Golfer:
I think the learning is happening there, the child's not really having to do anything to make it happen.

David:
And what about all the skills that you have learned over time? Can you see that actually all those skills are really learned by your own built-in learning system? All you need to do is to remain curious about how to improve your game, and every time a shot doesn't come off quite as you'd like you can think about it and examine what you were doing or thinking as you played the shot and what kind of result you got, so kind of get the feedback from the shot, and use all that information to try the shot again, perhaps on the practice ground. So do you see that, if you can begin to think of things in this way, literally every shot you play in golf becomes a learning opportunity, so whether you happen to get the desired result or not, you can still learn something useful from the shot. If, on the other hand, you get all caught up in the result of the shot, where the ball ends up, and get all busy getting upset with yourself, or blaming the wind or the rain or the ground or the crowd or your luck (!), notice that at that very moment you've physically lost the opportunity to actually learn and improve. So you'll more than likely find yourself making the same mistake quite a few more times before you actually learn how to avoid it, if at all.

Golfer:
In that way I'll learn even more quickly and have more fun!

David:
Yes, finally, rather than being stuck in all these "vicious" circles as you call them, you can find yourself in a "virtuous" circle, where literally your only aim is to be curious and have as much fun as possible, which will give your learning nature the very best possible opportunity to express itself, which will lead to an ever improving level of skill, and who knows, even to more victories, which will lead to more fun and curiosity and so on and so on!

Golfer:
OK, this sounds pretty cool!

David:
Yes, and you might want to start experimenting with these ideas on the practice ground and on the course. So, in conclusion, what we've really been looking at here is the true nature of cause and effect. The only cause you can ever really be responsible for and indeed the only one you actually need to be responsible for is the initial cause of how you think. Everything else is, at some stage or another, an effect, or to be more precise, part of a chain of effects that stem from that cause. So clear thinking about the shot you are about to play, and then not getting in your way as you play the shot are the only things you can be responsible for in a causal sense. Everything else like "the ball has to go there", "I've got to make par", "I've got to shoot a good round", "I've got to win" are simply not and cannot be within your direct sphere of control. They are and always will be symptoms or results of those initial thought processes. But the beauty of this is that the more you understand that you cannot make anything directly happen at all, and the more you are simply able to let your system do what it knows how, the more accurately you will play anyway. In effect you can really have the best of both worlds, have your cake and eat it, if you like!

We've hopefully become clearer on how you could actually improve as a golfer, and have lots of fun along the way, and how those improvements will lead to a more competitive level of play, and therefore may lead to more tournament victories. At the same time, however, we can see that while winning is wonderful and great fun, it does not define you. As we saw earlier, one of the most important things for you previously was other people witnessing your victory. That would mean that victory would define you to those people who believe that winning is the most important thing in life, and the main reason they would think that would be because they would believe it would validate them in front of other people. But the only people it would somehow validate them to would be other people labouring under the same misapprehension! Now there's a vicious circle if ever there was one. And if any of that were actually real or true, what about the poor golfer living on his own on a desert island! Would he not be able to enjoy playing golf because he would never have the chance to win anything and therefore to "validate" himself as a player in the eyes of others? Or, might he, in fact, be in the wonderful position of simply playing golf as a game. Playing a game where you get the chance to use your imagination to visualise a shot happening, of creating something wonderful in your imagination and sometimes, just sometimes, seeing it brought into reality by your wonderful human learning system. And having so much fun with it that you play lots and lots and your system learns even more and your imagination becomes reality more and more often. Might he be in a position to play the game for its own beauty, for the joy of seeing a well-struck shot soar through the sky, for the thrill of witnessing your imagination become reality, the same thrill almost every kid who's ever picked up a golf club has had.

Golfer:
The same thrill I had when I first began to play. I'd like to get back to that!

  

CONCLUSION

The examples given in this article have sprung from my own experience. While I have tried to cover as many issues as possible that have come up for me over time, I realise that my experience is just that, my own experience.

However, while the details of those experiences and belief systems may be different from those of others, I hope the process of asking detailed questions and trying to look beyond the simple generic labels we tend to put on our thoughts and experiences will be of use in helping you to figure out some of your own issues, should you have any that you'd like to address!

~~~~~~~

There is a small biography of personal details about the author below.

 Read articles by David Gorman and others
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About the Author

David Robertson is a singer, music teacher, golfer, rugby player, and certificated Alexander Technique teacher who has been studying and applying the LearningMethods work for some years now in his own life and with his pupils.

David Robertson
8 Killyvilly Court, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, BT744DP, Northern Ireland, UK
Tel: +44 (0)2866-328457
E-mail:


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