I’ve been pretty athletic for most of my life and have played a ton of different sports. Those who know me well are often surprised to learn that golf is one of them. I know the slow and steady pace doesn’t necessarily mesh with my busy, on-the-go personality. Believe me, the game can be quite humbling sometimes but as frustrating as some rounds can be, I do get a lot out of playing golf. In fact, I seem to learn something new about myself everytime I play. This is probably because the game is as much mental as it is technical.
Here are the 10 Unexpected Lessons I Learned from Playing Golf:
- Slow down to go faster. With golf, you really need to slow down your swing for a good shot. The natural tendency is to swing faster to hit further. It does not work that way. If you go too fast, the ball is most likely not going to go where you want. Instead of getting to the hole in 4, 5 or 6 shots, you will most likely take a zigzag route and obviously, it will take longer. I also think in life, faster and harder is not always better. We often have to stop, assess, regroup and that means slowing down so we can go faster in the right direction.
- Be in the moment. In golf, you really need to be in the present moment. You really need to “empty” your mind when you set up. Ask any golfer, if you remotely have a flash of a thought “oh I should do this ..” or even just your body position, your ball will again most likely not go where you want it to go. In life, I really believe that we also have to live in the moment—as cliche as it sounds—the only thing we truly really have is this moment. We tend to either live in the past or too much in the future. Being able to calm our mind and be present is a great strength at golf and in life.
- Fresh start. Every hole is a new chance to start fresh. You can have a crappy hole but the next one is a fresh start, you get to start back at zero for that hole. In life, it is the same thing, every day is a new day. You may have had a bad day, bad week, or a bad month but that is what is so amazing about human beings, every day we get a new day and a chance to start fresh and make it better.
- What you measure gets done. The first few years when I started playing, I wasn’t counting my score since I didn’t want to stress myself out. This year I decided it was time to start counting and I immediately noticed a big difference in my mindset. I’m still not stressing over my score—I am not aiming to join the LPGA any time soon, but just like in life; what you measure gets done…like when you want to lose 10 pounds or if you want to run a 5 km. We will get results on what we focus our energy on. Caveat: you need to have realistic expectations and not be so attached to the outcome; meaning, you can’t make yourself sick about it either.
- Trust the process. Make a plan and commit! That goes with a lot of things in life but with golf, you measure your yards, you pick your club, your line, your position, you have your pre-shot routine, you empty your mind, be in the moment and trust the process that you’ve done your swing many times and that you will repeat it and then you have all the right elements set-up for success and just go for it. Same thing in life, you have to trust the process when you do all the right things to achieve a goal you are working on.
- Practice makes perfect. Repetition is key. Repetition allows us to engrained in our brain neural pathways. That goes for many things in life, if you want to learn a new skill or if you want to become a better writer or if you want to learn to meditate, its practice. Author, Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, states that 10 000 hours of practice can turn anyone into an expert. I am not sure of that number, but I sure know that the more you practice, the better you get at golf or at anything else you set your mind to in life.
- Nobody really cares about your score. That is so true. But somehow if we play with someone we don’t know, we often tend to get all nervous, “what will they think of me”, guess what, at the end of the day, nobody really cares about your score, only you. What they do care about is that you are a nice person, made them feel good, were positive and encouraging and were pleasant to be around. That also applies to life, people don’t really care about “your score”, they care about how you make them feel.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are going to have bad games, bad scores, bad holes, but I think at the end of the day, you can’t be too hard on yourself. Not to say you should not push yourself but be but what’s the point of living in the past and hammering yourself with “oh I should have done this and this”. As the saying goes, do your best and forget the rest.
- Know when to rest. That goes with everything in life, but if you go play golf and you’re not feeling like it, you are tired or are preoccupied, and I’ve experienced it, you are most likely not going to play well because your head will not be in the game, literally. So sometimes it is better to stay home to rest and recharge and go golfing when you are fully rested and present. This can apply to a lot of situations in life that we say yes to a task or event we attend when we did not feel like it. Sometimes knowing when to say no, to rest and recharge is a much better choice.
- Keep good company. You don’t want to play with someone who is too negative or hard on themselves. Typically, people are not negative with others on the golf course but still, being around negative people can rub off on you. You want to be around someone who is encouraging but also honest. If you just shank a shot in the woods, you wouldn’t want someone to say: “nice shot!” A more realistic comment would be: “it might still be okay to play, let’s go see where you are.” In golf, a lot like in life, when we make a mistake, the last thing we need to hear is advice after the fact telling us what we did right and wrong. The right company will know what to say and when to be silent.
Although I never thought it would, playing golf has truly taught me many lessons that have spilled over into other areas of my life and I am so grateful for it!!
Do you play golf or another sport? What has it taught you? Leave a comment below!