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1. Notice what you say (to yourself and to others)
When I ask a new student to describe their game or recent rounds, those with a winning attitude for golf will immediately go into the all the positives. There’s a positive tone and lots of positive adjectives. Those that need to work on their attitude, will highlight more negatives and things they don’t currently have in their game – it’s more pessimistic.
2. Define your purpose
Some players don’t have a winning attitude for golf because they don’t know their purpose for playing. If you don’t ask yourself why you are playing golf and how it’s going to fulfill you in the future, it will manifest itself in a poor attitude. Your purpose or “why” and a having a target in mind provides drive and optimism. Ask yourself what this is and write down the answer.
3. Fake it until you believe it!
This isn’t about trying to change other people’s perception of you or pretending to others that you are something that you are not. This is about changing your behaviors by acting in a certain way. E.g. If you want to be a more confident and mentally tough golfer, then act like it! Walk and talk like you are one. Use more positive body language and smile! Over time you’ll start to think and feel more like that person you want to become.
4. Choose to be in a good mood
Your mood is something that you have control over. Those people with a winner’s attitude use the positive energy created by a good mood. The best time to get into a good mood is first thing in the morning. If you haven’t already read my “Killer Morning Routine” article, please do so. I do my best to set myself up for a productive and positive day, by sticking to this routine.
5. Be Grateful
Those with a winning attitude for golf regularly express gratitude for simply being able to play the game, irrespective of the result. Last week I asked one of my Tour player students what his goals are for the week and one of them was to maintain an attitude of gratitude and remind himself about how lucky he is to play this game. When you do this, you’ll immediately feel lighter and more content.
6. Surround yourself with others with a winning attitude
Seek out others with a more positive attitude and do your best to avoid the company of people who have a poor attitude. A winning attitude is infectious – you’ll be inspired and motivated to achieve your goals by spending more time with the people that you admire.
7. Change how you view mistakes
“I never learned anything from a match that I won.” – Ben Hogan
Those with a winning attitude for golf see every round as a learning experience no matter what the outcome, and that any mistakes and failures can be learned from and reduced in the future. This is also called a “Growth Mindset”. The opposite of a Growth Mindset is a “Fixed Mindset” where failure and mistakes are seen as a reflection of ability level, instead of something you can change. Those with a winning golf attitude believe there is no limit to their success – they can keep growing with every round, even if it’s just a little. It’s most apparent whether a player has a winning attitude for golf in the face of adversity or defeat. Winner’s are able to look at defeat objectively, without complaining, blaming or dwelling.
8. Be able to laugh at yourself
Taking yourself too seriously and being too self-absorbed is not a trait of someone with a winning attitude. Research shows that those that can laugh at themselves are generally more cheerful in their demeanor, which is an important attribute for being able to handle stress. By being more cheerful, you are more able to ease tension during intense moments. Part of developing a winning attitude for golf is about having less of a sense of self on the course. Laughing at yourself isn’t about putting yourself down, it’s about realizing that no one is perfect and mistakes happen. Laughter is a powerful tool for improving mental toughness and resiliency. Zach Johnson says: “Realizing bad shots happen is the best way to deal with them. Take the drama out of a bad shot. Use humor or laughter to make it go away, and then move on.”
9. Spend more time in the present
Learning how to stay more in the present moment is great for keeping a winner’s attitude. There are so many benefits to it. Rather than spending time speculating about the future or worrying about the past (which can cause performance anxiety), stay in the moment more often and you’ll see improvement in your attitude.
10. Avoid comparing yourself to others (in the wrong way)
One of the traps that I find many golfers fall into, especially junior golfers, is comparing themselves to other players. They can easily get into that Fixed mindset and be envious of another player’s skills. By being envious about another player’s game, you are essentially telling yourself you are a weaker player. Remember that competition is a good thing – it drives us to get better. Notice whether you are looking at other player’s game for motivation (growth mindset) or envy (fixed mindset).
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Main photo by Simon Lambert.