The Mental Game

I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day about my golf game. Well, I was mostly talking; he was just listening…I think. As you might have read from my past article, I’ve been trying to pass the PAT (Player Ability Test) to become a PGA Teaching Professional. You must shoot a score of 158 or less for 36 holes to pass. It’s a personal goal and dream to someday (when I am retired) help elite high school and college-age athletes to be even better athletes competing at the highest level. Also, I want to teach my grandkids (which I don’t have yet) and give them access to all the global PGA resources that might come with my credentials. But I keep failing the stupid test. I failed it eight straight times if you are counting. I eventually told myself that on the 10th try, if I still don’t succeed, it’s time to move on. Chalk it up as I tried my best, genuinely put all my heart and effort into it, and be okay with the outcome even though it wasn’t what I wanted. I was beginning to accept the sad but current reality of the situation.

My ninth try was similar to the first eight. I woke up early, drove to the course, signed in, warmed up, shook hands with the players I would be playing with for the day, and went to my designated hole to start the 36-hole marathon. What was different that day was my head space from the book I just finished reading on the mental game of golf. It gave me some new concepts and perspectives to work on and some practical things to focus on while playing. 

One key concept emphasizes focusing solely on the process or the controllable factors within one’s control rather than fixating on the outcome or result. You can only control what you can control, so focus on that and stop worrying about the outcome. The author suggests that athletes should concentrate on executing their techniques, strategies, and mental routines to the best of their abilities rather than becoming overly concerned with winning or losing. By focusing on the process, athletes can maintain a more consistent level of performance and reduce anxiety or pressure associated with the outcome. So, what practical thing did I decide to do? Don’t keep a score in my head. The score is the outcome of my process. So, focus on the process and don’t worry about the score. Be in the moment and take it one shot at a time…and whatever happens, happens. 

I passed.

I shot 158. I shot the exact score to pass. On the drive home, I thought that if I kept score in my head and knew that I had to make the very last 5-foot putt to shoot 158, Would I have made it? There would have been so much pressure to make it, and I would be so anxious and playing in my head how upset I would have been if I had missed it. With all that pressure I put on myself for that putt, I am pretty sure I would have missed it.

I told my friend, who was still listening, “It’s crazy how mental game is so important in the game of golf…some people say it’s 90% of the game, but why is it that we don’t work on it, learn about it or even implement it into our game?” He responded with something that made me want to dedicate our next series to it. He said, “The importance of mental game is not just for sports; it’s for business and life.” Whoa!! 

So, guess what? This is our new series called “The Mental Game.” I want to offer some mental insights that can be applied beyond the realm of sports and directly relate to business and life. For instance, let’s look at the process vs. outcome scenario that helped me pass my PAT. What are some practical examples of focusing on the process rather than fixating on outcomes?

  • Business Sales Targets:
    • Instead of obsessing over reaching a specific revenue target, focus on the daily activities that contribute to sales success, such as making a certain number of cold calls, sending out personalized emails, or attending networking events.
    • Set process-oriented goals, such as improving product knowledge, enhancing communication skills, or building stronger client relationships, ultimately leading to increased sales performance.
  • Career Advancement:
    • Rather than solely fixating on achieving a promotion or salary increase, concentrate on developing new skills, expanding your professional network, and consistently delivering high-quality work.
    • Set process-oriented goals for continuous learning, seeking feedback from mentors or supervisors, and taking on challenging projects that contribute to your professional growth and development.
  • Fitness and Health:
    • Instead of achieving a specific weight or body image, focus on adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, and getting enough sleep.
    • Set process-oriented goals, such as committing to a workout schedule, tracking daily food intake, or practicing stress-reduction techniques, contributing to overall well-being and long-term health outcomes.
  • Entrepreneurship:
    • Rather than being solely driven by the desire for financial success, concentrate on building a solid foundation for your business, nurturing customer relationships, and delivering value through your products or services.
    • Set process-oriented goals related to market research, product development, marketing strategies, and customer satisfaction, which are essential for sustainable growth and success in entrepreneurship.
  • Personal Development:
    • Instead of fixating on achieving a specific outcome, such as becoming fluent in a new language or mastering a musical instrument, focus on the daily practice and consistent effort required to improve.
    • Set process-oriented goals, such as dedicating a certain amount of time each day to practice, seeking feedback from instructors or peers, and celebrating small milestones, which contribute to gradual progress and skill development.

These examples emphasize identifying the controllable actions and behaviors that contribute to desired outcomes and committing to consistent effort and improvement in those areas. By focusing on the process rather than fixating on outcomes, individuals can maintain motivation, reduce anxiety, and ultimately achieve greater success and fulfillment in their endeavors.

See, I told you. Or, my friend told you. The importance of mental games is not just for sports; it’s for business and it’s for life. I look forward to sharing more insights on what I am learning. 

In the meantime, have a great week. As my friend April always says in her email, “Cheering you on!”

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