The unique qualities of golf make it a special game for all who strive to master it. It is an eternal balancing act on a singular beam of conditioned beliefs, emotions and behaviors. But true mastery is not realized in moments of glory, it is constant testing of inhibition so one may advance with mind-body fluidity free of constraint and fear. Nothing else matters but confronting that which confines performance liberation.
Elite performance execution occurs in a void of personal confrontation. Begin a purposeful movement of confronting the inhibiting components conflicting your mind-musle memory, and you’ll readily condition reflexes of your elite self. The three-step process below illustrates how you can recover in the midst of a decline in performance with greater focus, confidence, and mind-muscle mastery.
Gary’s search for meaning of his short game decline led him to mentally replay his missed putts. The more he analyzes, the more he embodies negative emotions, furthering his confidence decline. He can be best served by eliminating associations and thoughts regarding outcome-related experiences, so that he can move forward with action-oriented steps and purposeful play. Though this is easier said than done, it is possible.
There’s no clear end when athletes dig themselves into a bottomless hole of negative thinking and emotional responses. Lack of self-awareness spurs irrational thinking, and oftentimes a quest for some magical remedy. For Gary to jumpstart his performance and trigger a confident flow he needs to re-orient himself to the task-specific steps involved with his short game. By re-visiting successful, confident putts earlier in the day Gary will be better able to align himself with a natural flow. He can be reminded of what feels right, have a clear mind and calm body, and perform with confidence.
Re-visiting past positive experiences can be an effective trigger for positive performance execution. But, it must be carefully approached with a clear focus on specific tasks, not outcome. When outcome-related thoughts are at play athletes can lose sight of the specific tasks required for success.
Target mental images of successful, confident performance execution. What are you seeing? Embrace the clarity of your images, and notice the relevant details of cues in your line of sight. Identify how you feel, your posture, and your free-flowing coordination. Are you relaxed, yet powerful in your stance? Is your awareness heightened around the connection between your mind-body, the club and the ball? These are all powerful triggers which enhance confidence, and subsequently performance. When rehearsed with specific purpose this process does not require much time, and can easily be done before your next shot.
Once you’ve amassed mental images of positive and confident thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, build them into task-specific cues. The purpose is to provide your mind with easy to follow steps so that it can direct the body with clear and precise instructions. You’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re simply re-orienting the mind-body flow to familiar, purposeful and confident patterns.
It’s similar to riding a bike. If you take time off from riding, chances are you can confidently jump back on and pedal with purpose and confidence. Your mind directs implicit instructions to the body regarding balance, pedaling, and so forth. If you lose your balance the mind makes mental notes on ways to perform in a balanced state and under control. But, if the mind is overloaded with outcome-oriented, emotional thoughts and feelings, it will have trouble directing the body to do what’s necessary to perform effectively.
In short, liken your mind’s mental images of your successful and confident performances to a highlight video. See these sequences in real time, including detailed information supporting successful performance execution. Identify and utilize positive self-talk affirming desirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and recite them into a functioning stream of performance directives. Associate your self-talk with the identified feelings and behaviors effectively re-orienting your mind-body confidence flow. Done correctly and you’ll establish an effective behavior chain as a workable blueprint to guide you.
Now comes the hard part…
You must trust in yourself, and you must practice this with purpose. After effectively processing this information this is where many athletes stumble, because they often don’t believe that they possess the master key to unlock some of their greatest performance mysteries. It simply requires purposeful practice, which can be done easily outside of competitive play. Simply create a pressure scenario involving specific performance attributes you want to focus on, and test your ability to vividly recall, associate, and integrate past successful performance characteristics into your present state.
Then, all you have to do is trust in the process, trust in your mechanics, and trust in yourself.