To change anything, or to learn anything (which is essentially change anyway) is uncomfortable. There are a number of well-worn phrases that people trot out to remind you of this including the always memorable – “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning”, “you’ve got to get worse to get better” – “you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day,but if you give him a golf club he will learn to feed himself forever”, or something like that
A useful model I came across with this one is the Comfort Zone model. On the inside is the Comfort Zone. The doughnut next ring is the Discomfort Zone and the Learning Zone is around the outside. It does remind you that it’s uncomfortable to learn anything new. It means that to get to the Learning Zone you have to get through the Discomfort Zone. There are no short cuts or tunnels. However it does give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
So, to the lesson. It was uncomfortable. I turned up alongside the fearless youngsters and brand new starters and felt very out of place. I’d been trapped in that comfort zone for too long. My grip was comfortable. My stance was comfortable yet they were so wrong. I knew if I held the club this way I could more or less guarantee it would be straight – well finish fairly straight as I tend to aim thirty yards left of the fairway and it would (fade / cut) back onto the fairway (occassionally) not very long but straightish. Now I’m being told to discard all those comfortable feelings and start again. It really did feel uncomfortable and tempting to go back to the old way.
I learnt that there are no short cuts or secret passages across the discomfort zone. We all know that. We know that all the teaching aids, special balls, magic golf clubs don’t work – or at least they don’t work on their own. We’ve all seen (or bought) that expensive set of aluminium, alloy, enhanced, cavity-backed, nickel platted, NASA designed 3 wood and stood next to a 12 year old girl with basically a long metal stick and seen them hit their tee shot thirty yards further than us.
What did help me though was some wise words I had picked up from a colleague a long time ago about this stress and anxiety.
“Anxiety isn’t pain” he assured me ” It’s the anticipation of pain.”
True enough. The most anxious and stressful times for me has been the waiting for something to start – the dentists, the job interview, waiting by the first tee. Once the action kicks off the stress diminishes a great deal.
“The trick”, he continued, “is to live in the here and now” (he was a bit of an old hippie), but very true. If you concentrate on what you’re doing before a stressful event; eating, preparing, practising, and try to concentrate fully on that you’ll save yourself a fair amount of stress.
So I’m taking the lessons. I’m staying in the ‘here and now’ and things are starting to improve. Not as quickly as I’d like, of course and I do feel that I’m living most of my life in the discomfort zone but… in a perverse way I’m starting to enjoy it (well almost).