Focusing on your own unique abilities and strengths
Look Ahead, Not Around!
I have to pay tribute to my dad for this little gem of golfing advice! As a youngster, during the years where he would tirelessly caddie for me at various events and tournaments, he would every now and then prompt me with the simple four words, ‘Look ahead, not around’. Looking ahead referring to focussing on my own game and how I intended to play a particular round/event. I firmly believe elements of these wise words can benefit both on and off the golf course, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt –
”Comparison is the thief of all joy”
The essence of those four words is to ensure there is a firm focus on your own unique abilities and strengths, rather than on what other people may be doing around you. In a golfing context, when you arrive at the golf course or a tournament, it is essential to feel positive and confident in your own mind that you have prepared to the best of your ability and not be deterred by what may be happening around you. That may simply be acknowledging and prioritising that you are there to enjoy your game, accepting you are giving your best efforts in any given moment. Arriving at the golf course or an event and immediately looking around at what other golfers or competitors are doing in the form of comparison can start to trigger feelings of inferiority and lack or place doubt in your own ability. This has a big impact on confidence levels and self-belief and can have an influence on the round ahead.
You may look around at another player’s practice routine and worry that you are not doing things in the same way or doing the same amount of practice as they are prior to your round. You may look at their equipment and feel that yours does not quite match up, or your clubs are not as good as theirs. These subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) perceptions of what is going on around you can start to affect your game even before you head on to the first tee. Comparing yourself to the environment and people around you in a negative light can greatly affect confidence levels, maybe feelings that you are not good enough or talented enough to be playing in or competing at a certain event.
”The shovel is bigger than the spoon, but it can never ever do the work the spoon does. They both look similar; they both have different sizes but one more thing not to forget is that they are important in their own roles! Each is unique! You are unique too. Take the lead!” ― Israelmore Ayivor
The negative impact of looking around and comparing yourself to others rather than looking ahead and focussing inwards on your own abilities and strengths may also continue out on the golf course. If you try to associate, compare or match your own game to your playing partner, it takes you away from your own unique rhythm, timing, strengths and focus. You may try to change your game, perhaps try to drive as far as your playing partner, hit the same iron on a par 3, change your course management strategy or change your swing in some way. Looking around rather than looking ahead can impact things both technically and psychologically. From a technical point of view, very often when trying to match a tee shot that may have been driven 20 yards beyond our own, we take ourselves away from our own unique timing. If this done in a way that affects the efficiency and sequencing of our own natural motion, it will in fact potentially lose distance and accuracy in the process.
Focussing our attention on our own game enables us to swing within ourselves rather than trying to stretch beyond our own unique technique and timing, ultimately producing a more efficient golf swing. It also allows us to make better course management decisions based around our own unique strengths. It encourages a greater sense of inner confidence which brings with it the opportunity to enjoy the round much more. If you notice the feelings that accompany any form of negative comparison to others, it often comes from a sense of lack. This tends to increase tension and anxiety levels and is ultimately not the ideal platform to play our best golf from.
A great tip I had many years ago is to imagine having a loudspeaker sitting on your shoulder. Whatever thoughts you think will project through the loud speaker and be heard by everyone around you! Let’s look at a potential example of what this may sound like! You arrive at the club for a tournament, corporate golf day or monthly medal and your loud speaker is turned on full with the following:
‘Here goes, I never play well in medals or stroke play, gosh that guy has hit balls already and even has time to work on his short game, maybe I should have done that, I feel bad I should have taken time to practice, ah well he’s probably much better than me anyway. Hmmm, looks like she has the latest equipment, she must be really good, my old 3 wood will have to do, I’m not good enough to warrant a new driver anyway. Now then did I unplug the toaster/ lock the door when I left?! Right I better have a few putts before teeing off!’
Can you imagine playing your best round of golf after such a self negating onslaught and a mind fraught with worry! You are unique in your own right, regardless of what is going on around you. Being overly consumed with what others are doing, takes energy, precious energy that is far better utilised embracing and expressing your own unique talents and abilities. We can ‘acknowledge’ what is going on around us and if we can gain positive insights from our surroundings, great, but the moment it becomes comparison in a negative sense or becomes a feeling of lack in some way, it is time to shift the focus, place attention on the unique strengths that lie within and play to the rhythm of our own tune!
‘Be yourself. Play within yourself. Play your own game!’ – Harvey Penick