Golf State Of Mind Training Program
Developing The Mental Game of A Champion Golfer
module 2: your goals for your golf game
Let’s start with an exercise:
- Divide a sheet of paper into 2 vertical columns. On one half, write down your goals for a round of golf.
- On the other half, next to those goals, write down (with a “Yes” or “No”), whether you have 100% control over whether you achieve that goal or not.
Let’s look at what you can’t (and will never be able to) fully control in a round of golf. The following goals are examples of “outcome goals”:
- The outcome of each shot
- Your score at the end of each hole or end of the round
- Your lie on the fairway, rough or in a bunker
- How many fairways and greens you hit and how many 3 putts you have
- The bounce the ball takes
- Landing in a divot
- The speed of your playing partners
Outcome goals can be broken down further into desirable and undesirable goals. Desirable outcomes goals would be outcomes that you want to happen such as shooting a low score, having a top 10 or hitting a high number or fairways and greens. Undesirable outcome goals are outcomes that you are trying to avoid, such as shooting a high score, disappointing parents, college coaches or teammates, 3 putts or double bogeys. Both types of outcome goals should be avoided – desirable outcome goals can cause you to try too hard to achieve them, and undesirable outcome goals create fear.
Why are outcome goals counterproductive?
Whenever you set goals for your rounds that you don’t have complete control over (whether desirable of undesirable), it’s going to cause you stress and performance anxiety.
Let’s say you’ve got the goal of shooting under a certain score or to avoid 3-putts. Immediately you will feel the effect of those constraints. What happens if you double bogey the first hole or have a 3 putt? You will probably feel deflated and that you’ve failed. A scoring goal implies that you set a target for your success and satisfaction, that you don’t have complete control over.
Outcome goals are uncertain
You can’t say with certainty at the beginning of a round what score you are going to shoot, so why speculate about it?
Trying to predict the future is a common trait among golfers, which leads to performance anxiety. Nobody has complete control over the golf ball – there are far too many variables and unpredictables.
Let’s say you’ve had your best front nine ever. Where do your thoughts go from there? Probably into the future – thinking about both the possible glory of shooting your best score and/or losing such a good opportunity.
With both the desirable and undesirable outcome goals running through your mind, you’ll soon feel nervous and anxious - lose focus, tense up and play worse. This why so many players fall back to their comfort zone when they’re playing well and fail to get better.
The brain doesn’t like uncertainty
The brain prefers comfort and certainty instead of uncertainty. Certainty initiates a reward response, whereas uncertainty initiates the fight or flight response. When your focus is on areas of your performance which is uncertain, your sympathetic nervous system prepares your body and mind to deal with those potential threats. We’ll talk more about the fight or flight response, and how to prevent and control it, in Module 4.
If we can switch our focus from what we can’t control to those things we can control (the process) we are able to keep the brain focused on certainty, which can only help us perform better.
When you’re “in your process”, you’re not thinking about what might or might not happen in the future, you’re focusing on exactly what you are supposed to, in that moment.
Here are some examples of controllable process goals. These are actions and things that you can do in the moment before and during your rounds, which (when added up), make desirable outcomes more likely. Some examples are:
- How you prepare for a round
- Your Shot Routine (where your focus is before, during and after shots)
- Your attitude
- How you deal with adversity
- Your strategy
- Your body language
- Your self-talk
- Staying present
- Being the player that you want to be
- Process focus increases certainty and lowers uncertainty.
- Knowing your process gives you simple things to focus on when under pressure, when it is naturally harder to focus.
- To reach positive outcomes requires paying attention to each step of the process, rather than the end goal.
- Your goals for each round and each shot are now completely within your control, instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the outcome.
- Focusing on your process will keep you in the present moment, instead of thinking about the future.
- Having a process will give you a plan for the variability and uncertainty in a round.
- Knowing the optimal steps of your shot routine, will increase your chances of success with each shot.
- A large part of self-confidence comes from being able to fulfil promises to yourself. If you can set and keep to your process goals - you’ll build trust and confidence.
The entirety of your performance is about executing a series of process goals, or your “Performance Process”. Your performance process gives you certainty for all the phases of a round. These are:
What can you do before your rounds to make you feel confident and prepared?
What is it best for you to focus on as you prepare for the shot?
During the shot
Where is your focus during your swing?
Do you react emotionally or respond positively to the outcome of your shots?
In between shots
What do you focus on in between shots?
How do you review your rounds and measure your success?
What is your practice process?
During this program, we’ll take a detailed look at these stages of your rounds and find out what you need to focus on during each phase to maximize your chances of success.
Your “process goals” for each of these phases will become the measure of success. In Module 5, once we’ve had time to define your “process”, we’ll take a look at how you can use my “Mental Game Scorecard” to track these process goals and measure your success by them.
Why are process goals better than outcome goals?
Divide a sheet of paper into 2 columns. In the first column, create a list for everything that is uncertain about your next round. In the second column, list everything that you can do with certainty.
Write out your current Pre Shot Routine for each type of shot (Full Shot, Short Game Shot and Putt).
In each of the phases of a round, list some things that you can choose to focus on or do.
“Ego Is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday
“Stillness Is The Key” by Ryan Holiday
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
“Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle
“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
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