MONDAY MIND FACTOR MISSIVE : CHANGE YOUR STORY FOR THE SEASON AHEAD 12 March 2018
The season is now close to being upon us.
What is THIS year going to be like for you?
Every one of you reading this will carry around with you a story of yourself as a golfer. Yours might be that you would be a darned sight better if you just had a bit more time to practice; it might be that you are a good striker let down by a twitchy short game. Perhaps you consider yourself stuck at your handicap level, or great at matchplay but iffy with the scorecard.
In terms of performance, your story is significant because it has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s because our brains are constantly working to confirm our thoughts.
Inside our heads we have what I call a Thinker and a Prover. The Thinker is the part of your brain that decides you are a poor putter; the Prover then seeks evidence to support the Thinker. The notion you are a poor putter might have come from only one bad round, but from then onwards the Prover will treat every bad putt as confirmation of that conclusion; it will also interpret a good putt as a surprise, an exception. Before you know it you are expecting to deliver a shoddy performance on the greens… with predictably poor results.
However, story editing – a concept created by American social psychologist Timothy Wilson – gives you a chance to redress this stealthy self-sabotage. The process is a simple one: make yourself aware of your story, decide if it is helping or hindering you, and if it’s the latter take appropriate steps to rewrite it.
Make 20 minutes for yourself some time this week to sit down and think through the stories you tell yourself about yourself as a golfer. For some of you this might be a fairly easy exercise; others will find it a little harder. But dig deep to get to the bottom of how you portray yourself.
Ultimately, stories are just made-up versions of reality that can either serve you or work against you. Not every golfer’s story is a negative one; yours might be that you are a strong, competitive player, or that you perform near your optimum most times. But in my experience, most club players will have developed a narrative that accounts for poor performance or scores – lack of time to practice, lessons that never work, missing short putts, succumbing to nerves and limited talent are just a few of the most common stories I hear.
Once you’ve identified your story and grasped how it might be limiting you, your next step is to write down how you might re-work it in a way that will get you closer to the golfer you want to be this season.
As with any story editing, for it to be effective it has to be credible; bad putters can’t of course simply re-label themselves good ones. But what you can do is create the story that you are learning or discovering how to become a better putter.
With that as your new story, the Prover in your brain will start to suggest ways of confirming it – perhaps a new putter fitting, a session with a putting expert, some extra time spent on the practice green. And suddenly, that holed 20-footer is no longer a fluke but evidence of your growing competence.
Similarly, A golfer whose story is lack of time to practice could reinvent himself as a very efficient practicer; after all, working on the right things for just 15 minutes a day can transform your game.
I have observed story-editing to be one of the most powerful and effective ways of improving performance. We are after all culturally conditioned to respond to stories as children, and as we progress into adulthood stories continue to play a key role in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and the world.