Ninety days seemed to fly by.
At first I was extremely determined to stick to my training. I thought it was a great opportunity to showcase grit and determination. A chance to be an example of powering through and proving brainpower and hard work can overcome even seemingly impossible tasks.
Sure, from the very beginning I knew there was little chance of getting to scratch, but it couldn’t be too difficult to make a dent in my handicap to show things were going in the right direction.
Boy was I wrong. But I had no idea what I would be wrong about.
I started to summarize my challenge and it began to feel like one long complaint about reality not meeting expectations and how effort doesn’t beget results. Words poured onto the page describing why I was ready to give up on it all, how much of a struggle it was to keep caring, and the frustration of continually being beat.
Is this really the golfer or, even worse, the person that I am?
How upset would I be if I was a 13-handicapper (statistically the largest handicap group for men) and shooting the scores I have been?
Probably not that upset since only two of the last ten rounds would have been slightly worse than net par. My perspective is way off.
In fact in ninety days I went from the top 30% of golfers back to the top 15%. Why am I getting so worked up about my slow progress when I perform categorically better than 85% of recreational golfers? And if I can’t enjoy it here, what hope is there for the other 85%?
Then it hit me. I am never going to get better if I don’t learn to enjoy the game with the skill I take to the course. It’s really as “simple” as that (as easy as counting all the grains of sand on a beach). Quick tips like telling someone to forget a bad shot is like telling them to avoid the bunker, our focus doesn’t work that way. How do you truly forget a bad shot or cultivate an attitude where you won’t get frustrated with bad breaks?
I do want to improve my game, but more importantly I want to improve as a golfer. Instead of trying to be the best I can be, I want to be the best that I am.
In psychology and behavioral terms, my repeated dissatisfaction is the result of hedonic adaptation. As my skills progress, so do my expectations. Which in the end means no matter how good I get, I’ll eventually be unhappy again if that’s my baseline. When I say my game felt as awful at a 4-handicap as it did at a 12-handicap, I’m not exaggerating. I never feel good enough, and that has to change.
All the lessons, tips, and books haven’t taught me how to enjoy the game of golf. Everyone seems determined to fix my swing, but what about fixing my expectations?
At the beginning of the year I wrote down some goals.
Besides the usual professional and personal goals, the lines started drifting toward a sort of personality wishlist.
Goals like “demonstrate the value of perseverance and curiosity” and “be a caring individual” top the list along with “share with the world how I see.” Golf peaks my curiosity and this blog allows me to share my views. My actions and self talk, however, expose a cruel undertone. Most of the criticism directed at the first person I should take care of: myself.
It’s time to start focusing on these goals. To be an example of empathy and self-control, not one of self-congratulations and self-pity.
Nowhere on the list is “be happy”, though I would add “appreciate what you have.” Happiness is not a fundamental, it’s a result. It’s not something you can will, it’s a byproduct of the right environment. An environment I’m looking to grow.
After a little while, I would still like to take my Rotary Swing challenge. First I think I need to get my head in the right space. So for the remainder of October (and likely into November), I’ll attempt to design a routine for myself that focuses on the habits of happiness. Like all things I take an interest in, I’m going to do a little research.
I’ll find out what the experts and science have to say about creating enjoyment. What thoughts or focus points encourage contentment? How can we work on them? What conditions build joy?
Hopefully, in turn, I can share with you the real secrets to getting the most from your golf game. Just the way you are.
Until then, stay safe.
P.S. – I’ve played two rounds since the end of my challenge. While only shifting my focus slightly to enjoying my time and company, I’ve managed to play two of my best rounds in the last month. Coincidence?