At the beginning of every hole and every shot it is important to “call your shot” which means to clearly define your intention. The language used is strong, clear and precise (e.g., “down the middle of the fairway with a 10 yard draw to land and roll to the 150 marker”) rather than weak, hopeful, and general (e.g., “well I will try to just hit it in the fairway”). The first language described sends a clear message to the system to create exactly what we would like programmed. The second message begs for forgiveness before hitting the shot. The mind/body system simply wants a set of instructions and it will give us the results the best it can today. Be strong enough to ask for what you want. You may get it!
We are defined by our decisions (Lehrer, 2009)! The interesting news is that our feelings know more than we do. They have access to so much more information (subconscious) than what can be held in the conscious brain at any one point in time. Simple decisions are made by the prefrontal cortex. When it comes to harder decisions we use emotions to help guide our decision making. It is important to verbalize what we are thinking and then sense the feelings that accompany the words. The feel will guide us to a better decision. Thus, we sometimes have battles between logic and emotion yet it is the emotion that knows the whole picture. A brain that can’t feel can’t decide.
A good example in golf is club selection. We come to the par three and go through our routine to select the right club. Everything from logic tells us it is a 7 iron (distance, wind, trouble locations, pin, etc.). Then we get over the ball with our 7 iron and we look out at the target and this little voice is screaming at us – “8 iron”. Which one do we hit, 7 or 8? The correct club would be the 8 iron since the subconscious mind has access to so much more information (how we feel today, the feel of the shot, past experiences, etc.).
In golf we experience every emotion to the extreme. We often feel too emotional and it is the emotions that start running our game. When anything starts running our game (thoughts, feelings, the little white ball, the story of the day, etc.) or our life, we are not in charge and this is not good for performance. The way it works in our system is that the rational brain can’t silence emotions, but it can help figure out which ones to follow. Rational people have fear but they regulate it better with the prefrontal cortex. It is the prefrontal cortex that can hold small amounts of information at a time and make decisions without being flooded with emotions. However, when emotions are running high our system goes into “loss aversion” and this can make us irrational and risk seeking (as discussed previously). We do everything we can to reduce our losses. The anxiety and fear areas of the brain are alerted and we work to minimize loss instead of staying focused on what we want. When we miss a shot and we think we have to make up for it on the next shot we make poor decisions. This is when our hero shots appear. Some of these hero shots work as long as the conscious and subconscious both agree with the decision that is made. Many of them do not work (the conscious and subconscious are not in agreement).
We often use the word “commit” in golf. Once we call our shot we commit to it. We think if we just commit to the shot it will work. This is true as long as our thoughts and feel both commit, not just our thoughts. And we must stay committed to the finish of the swing. Being certain (committed) really means we aren’t worried about being wrong. It is important to continually reevaluate our commitments to determine if they are still serving us well or if a new path is desired. These are challenging decisions but now we know how to make good decisions using our thoughts, feelings and emotions.
The rational brain can distort our sense of reality in golf (Lehrer, 2009). We are good at justifying what we want (driver vs. 3 wood off the tee). In fact, we can justify most anything we want. What happens is that instead of analyzing the facts, we justify the decision we have already made. We find enough support for the decision we want (more distance is always better so hit the driver).Another approach is to use our emotions, and we can trust the emotions we feel. Emotions tell us accurately what we feel without justification. We can justify hitting the driver with our conscious mind (more distance is always better), while the subconscious feels that we will never make it over the trap. We must decide!According to research (Lehrer, 2009), the best way to decide is to look at all the options, then distract yourself, and then decide. The distraction in the middle will get our prefrontal cortex out of the way and any worry and fear will subside. The final decision will be made by our intuition. Intuition knows the best because the thoughts and feelings have been integrated by our mind. Great coaches, teachers, CEOs, directors have a strong intuitive mind and the courage to follow it. A recent study in golf showed that informed choice guided by experience of positive and negative effects leads to better decisions and enhanced performance (Gnagy & Bartholomew, 2012). So look at all your options, access your feelings, distract yourself if possible, and then call your shot in golf.
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