A couple of years ago I took up golf. It’s a frustratingly beautiful game. You’re only ever one shot away from disaster but, equally, you’re only ever one shot away from thinking you’re as good as Tiger Woods.
One of my friends - who is an exceptional golfer - used to regularly tell me that golf is the most psychological of all sports: If you play in a competition, you’re out there on your own.
You have to handle the pressure and, no matter what the game throws at you, somehow you have to take it on the chin and do your best to turn it into some kind of a positive.
It can be brutally unforgiving if you allow it to be. But if your psychology is right, there’s always the possibility to get something good out of a bad situation.
So…back to the opening line of the post:
“I didn’t realise I had an anger problem until I took up golf”.
It wasn’t actually me who said that. It was a fellow golfer I was playing alongside in a competition a few weeks ago.
He said this right before he stormed off the course in a fit of rage because he’d messed up a single hole.
I think with any activity we engage in that’s important to us, being able to handle adverse conditions is an essential skill.
Maybe it’s an aspect of your career, your business, or a pass-time that you take seriously. If you perform regularly, there will inevitably be times where things don’t quite go your way. How you deal with these times is crucial to your consistency.
Do you manage to dig deep and still pull out a result? Or do you have a meltdown like my golfing buddy? Or perhaps it’s not quite as intense but you still end up experiencing a significant set-back?
There’s a lot said in NLP, hypnosis and the world of personal development about creating a positive mind-set; visualising precise success inside your mind; seeing a situation go exactly the way you would like it go, and then doing everything you can to make this a reality.
It’s great to imagine success. It, obviously, works well to have a positive focus and you do, in general, get more of what you place your attention on in life.
What often doesn’t get much exposure though, is the ability to imagine how we might react and respond when things don't go the way we envision; and to then build in a robustness to still deliver results when conditions aren’t ideal.
Irrespective of what we do, for a whole bunch of potential reasons, spanners can get thrown in the works:
Perhaps we don’t sleep well the night before a big presentation, or we eat something that doesn’t agree with us, or we’ve got some kind of personal problem that keeps fighting for our attention.
A lot of the time, irrespective of the less than desirable conditions we find ourselves in, it IS still important to be able to dig out some kind of positive result. It might not be our absolute best, but - if we want to be professional - we still have to still deliver in some capacity.
I think this is an inevitable part of life and one that is often understated: the ability to deliver in spite of how we feel. Or, to put in a more blunt way: to get results even when things are shit!
There are obviously some experiences that knock us flat on our arse and the best thing to do would be to take a complete break but the lesser, negative experiences are ones we have to learn to deal with; and to do so in a way where we still get manage to get some kind of result.
That’s why - in a weirdly perverse way - visualising negative situations can actually be profoundly useful. Not so much just seeing yourself fail all the time, but seeing a situation NOT go the way you planned and how you could respond to it. It’s a bit like imaginary, Devil’s advocate testing.
When i’m playing golf, i absolutely know that there will be times where it seems like the golf gods are against me. There are just too many variables to contend with. What i do have influence over though, is how I respond to these adverse conditions when they arise.
So, in my mind, when i’m preparing for the mental side of things, I’ll occasionally imagine playing a bad shot, and play about with different ways to respond to it.
Perhaps i’ll see myself just shrugging it off like a zen Buddhist monk, or maybe i’ll imagine being excited by the prospect of exploring what i need to do different.
If you’re storming off the golf course after 1 bad hole in a competition then it’s teaching your brain to give up too easily, and you’re not going to win many competitions.
If you give up on a important project just because it’s not going the way you envisioned then, similarly, you're not going finish many successful projects.
If you give up on a relationship because the person’s not exactly the way you deigned them to be in your dream journal then, again, it’s unlikely you’re going to have many successful long-term relationships.
It’s important to take the bad with the good without melting; to dig deep and find a way to create something useful even when things are shit. That’s where we cultivate our inner resilience.
So what if, as well as imagining your goals and activities playing out the way you’d like them to, why not also add in some adverse conditions; some challenges, and potentially even the odd failure here and there. And experiment, in your imagination, with different ways to deal with them.
By doing this, instead of teaching your mind that life is always like a fairy tale, you’ll be teaching it to be robust, resilient, and you'll also become someone who is flexible enough to change their approach when things aren’t quite going the way you want them to.
A wonderful life is there to be created, that's for sure...but it's also there to be managed.
All the best...