Golfing In The Comfort Zone

comfortzone

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 – “Growth demands a temporary surrender of security”, “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning.”  I know this. It doesn’t make is much easier.

A useful tool 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 reinforce 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, I took my trip into the ‘Discomfort Zone’. I booked for some lessons. 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 – not very long but straight. Now I’m being told to discard all those comfortable feelings and start again. It really did feel uncomfortable and very, very 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 golf set and stood next to a twelve years old 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 event 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.

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Golf Philosophy : Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

lookingnotgood

Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

There’s a concept I’ve recently come across in the training room that helps to explain a fair amount of my inability to break 80 with any regularity (I’m currently playing off 18). I learnt this pearl of wisdom attending on a training course run by a psychologist. He was talking to us (a group of trainers, consultants, personnel folk) about management, and more specifically the relationship managers have with staff, customers, etc… In his words (and Freud’s) “It’s all about relationships”. He discussed how the quality of the relationship you have with a client is a measure of the effectiveness with which you do business with them. Which is interesting enough. The particularly relevant aspect to this for me (and my consistency in golf – remember the golf) was the question he asked us about our relationship with our clients;

“What are you committed to? Are you committed to looking good or are you committed to getting the job done?” For me this translates as “Why do I choose a pitching wedge from 3 feet off the green rather than use a putter?” I know a putter will get me closer on 8 out of 10 occasions yet somehow it doesn’t feel right. I feel that I should use a wedge. There’s a pressure on me, a macho, male thing about having to copy the professionals. I can see it in the faces of all my playing partners – they all feel the same. They’d rather lose a hole going for that ‘tiny gap between the trees and fading it around the corner’ shot than adopt the sensible ‘just chip it back on the fairway’ route. Now I know (I’ve come to terms with this at least) that I’m never going to win the Open. I also know that I get a great deal of pleasure by shooting a low score and lowering my handicap. Yet I still can’t quite get that putter out. It’s the same on some tees. I’ll automatically reach for a driver when all the logic in my head is screaming “3 iron! 3 iron!”.

So having attending the training course next time I’m on the edge of a par 5 in 2 I’m going to reach for a putter, lag it up and tap in for a birdie……. well, maybe as long as none of my regular playing partners are watching.

Change is Uncomfortable

Change is Uncomfortable

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).

Attribution Theory, Fred Couples and Golf

Attribution Theory, Fred Couples and Golf

Attribution Theory by Fritz Heider basically says that there are 4 factors that affect your behaviour; ability, effort , luck and the difficulty of the task.

At the start of a round golfers usually tend to be fairly jolly, optimistic and sensible. They congregate next to the first tee swinging cheerfully and joking with the group in front; “Now don’t be embarrassed about calling us through”.

Golfers tend to think that ability and effort are factors they have a fair amount of control over, whilst the difficulty of the task and luck are outside the control of the golfer. For instance if golfers practice they expect they will get better. If they have played regularly they expect to get better. If they are playing consistently well there is a belief they will continue to play well. This is all fairly sensible. However this can often be heightened in times of even the smallest increase in stress or tension.

For instance a golfer will drive well with his glove off a couple of times then he’ll never wear a glove again – ask Fred Couples. Suddenly Fred feels he has power over a factor outside his control – luck. We shall be returning to the concept of attribution theory and luck…. But first ……

One of the most interesting factors about golf and attribution theory concerns handicaps. A 16 handicapper playing with a 24 handicapper will often be amazed if the 24 handicapper out drives them, or hits a really good shot, “bandit.”, “24 ********* handicappers” they may be heard to mutter. In truth however there is only a few shots difference and it’s inevitable a higher handicapper will hit some better shots than a lower handicapper. Attribution theory will kick in however and all the effort the lower handicapper has put in to get their handicap down will feel wasted when the 24 handicapper birdies the trickiest par 5 to get 5 stableford points. Over the course of a round the high handicapper will make more mistakes and end up, usually, with a number of holes with no score. However, the 16 24 handicapper will forget this. This will affect their game as they spend more time worrying about their playing partner than their own game and consequently put less effort into their own game and fail. From experience you know this to be true.

When this happens they tend to not attribute this to themselves but look at their luck, “Trust me to get drawn to play with a 24 handicap 12 year old female bandit.”

Luck, fortune, fate, destiny and providence are very interesting aspects for golfers. In times of stress they can really kick in. Even in times of non-stress it kicks in. For example we use the same coloured tees, the same hat, socks, jumper, underwear, etc. If things are going badly it’s rarely the fault of poor technique, lack of concentration or over-optimistic shot selection. It’s habitually down to luck.

“Just my luck I haven’t got a shot in.” – translation: I shanked one behind a tree

“How come I always get a bad lie.” – “Because you keep hitting it in the rough.”

The difficulty of the task is affected very much by the mood. The difficulty of the task never changes. It is the same golf course for you and all the competitors. It’s the same as it was last week. OK the weather may change but again it’s the same for everyone. You can change, adapt your game, but this never changes – really. So, don’t spend any time worrying about it.

Let’s make it very simply. Of the 4 elements that affect your game only ability and effort are under your control. So go practice.

John Cook marks his golf ball only with US quarters (25 cent coins that feature different US States) that reflect pictures of states in which he has not only played, but played well.

Arnold Palmer’s wife kisses each of his golf balls before he uses them in a game.

Doug Sanders refuses to play golf with white tees as he considers them to be unlucky.

Paul Azinger always marks his golf ball with a US penny, which features the head of Abraham Lincoln. He also makes certain to turn the penny so Lincoln is looking at the hole. he thinks this brings him good luck!

Christina Kim doesn’t step on the edge where the fairway meets the green, as she considers this to bring bad luck to her game.

Dealing With Upset

angry

There are times as a human being, or as a poker player when you will be upset. You may be upset with yourself, your opponents, the dealer, the cards, Lady Luck, just about anyone or anything. The usual time players get upset is when they’ve had a ‘bad beat’;

bad beat n. – comic —  When a very strong hand that is a statistical favourite to win loses to a much weaker hand that hits a lucky draw

Some “bad beats” aren’t really that bad—Your AK v 2 3 sounds like a bad beat, yet, statistically AK will only win 2 out of 3 times.  But sometimes a bad beat is a bad beat and this can, naturally, lead to some form of upset. The upset may take form of an internally (bad mood) or externally (a sulk or a rant). These techniques are rarely satisfactory and do nothing to achieve the objective of getting back “off tilt”.

A very useful way of getting off tilt is to understand why you were upset. It may seem straightforward but it really isn’t.

There are basically only 3 reasons people get upset. By understanding the emotion and rationale behind your upset you will be able to adjust more rapidly.

The first cause of upset is linked to a BROKEN AGREEMENT.

This can be written or unwritten, formal or informal, spoken or unspoken. It will include lies and perpetrations. This tends to occur in personal relationships.

If this occurs during a poker game it is usually best to move away from the poker table and attempt to resolve it in private. I don’t mean a gun fight or anything like that, but a discussion. For instance if you believe a colleague has lied to you or broken some kind of agreement you need to resolve it. If you don’t resolve it there will always be a friction and a difficult relationship between you – a “history”. This will invariably put you on tilt against them.

The second cause of upset is UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS. This would be the situation where you expect something from the game, people in the game, the organisation of the game, etc. that doesn’t happen. For instance you may expect a player to behave in a certain way at the table and they don’t. This will affect you. You now have a number of options:

  1. Address the situation
  2. Leave the situation
  3. Sulk, tilt and lose all your money

The order of the above is the preferred order.  If you can address the situation—do it. If you need to use others to help—use others. It will continue to affect you even if you think it doesn’t. You may not realise it until you’ve left the game and can think rationally about the situation.

The final cause of upset is BLOCKED GOALS. This is the one that is the most personal to you, and the one you can deal with most effectively.

This situation occurs when you’ve set yourself a goal, a target, and you don’t achieve it. Someone, or usually yourself, has stopped you reaching it. In this situation it is tempting to blame external factors for your lack of success: it’s the dealer’s fault, the opponent, the room, my table position, luck.

“Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Once you’ve recovered from the initial upset it would be useful to look at yourself. Did you set a realistic target? Have you the skills to achieve this? Did you just have a run of bad luck? Do you consistently have a run of bad luck? Thinking about questions like these will give you some ideas to improving your game and perhaps adopting a more realistic approach to your game. It may be that you need to improve on some facets of your game in order to reach the next level. Or you could genuinely have had a run of bad luck. This happens.

If you keep having bad luck, and keep losing when you shouldn’t, you need to break out of that cycle. Looking at the cause of the upset will really help. Remember Einstein’s definition of madness:

“Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Perhaps, eventually you’ll be able to handle triumph and disaster as well as Berry Johnston did at the 1985 WSOP Main Event:

“There were three players remaining: chip leader, Bill Smith, TJ Cloutier and Berry Johnston, nearly even in chips. TJ had Berry covered by a few chips, and Berry was all-in with A-K against Cloutier’s A-J,” Mike recalled. “The flop came A-7-3, and a jack came on the turn. TJ won that pot to knock Berry Johnston out of the tournament. I’ll never forget it because Berry handled that bad beat as well as anybody could possibly imagine. He didn’t moan, he didn’t cry, he just shook his head a little bit, ya know? And he got up, shook their hands, and wished them good luck. He walked over to his wife, who wasn’t much of a poker player, and she said, ‘Oh, honey, are you out now?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Oh, good.  Now, do you want to go get something to eat?’”

This article first appeared in Blind Straddle – December 2011

 

Reactance, Transactional Analysis and the Committee

Welcome

Applicants for membership will be interviewed by the Club Captain, Lady Captain or Junior Organiser, as appropriate, who may in their absolute discretion reject or provisionally approve the application. No reason shall be given to any applicant in the event of rejection.

In most golf clubs there are rules, codes, laws, does and don’t. There are things you must do, things you shouldn’t do and things you had definitely better do. It’s all a little childish, don’t you think?

Let me state my reasons;

I am not a 6 year old child. I do not need to be told what I must do on and off the course. As a result of seeing a large notice telling me that I need to go to the toilet to pee my instinct (and I guess I’m not the only one that thinks this way) is to do the opposite. This is not good on any level;

It’s not far off bullying and people (including me) tend to react badly to bullies or to anyone telling them what to do; telling children to eat up their cabbage, telling people they are no longer allowed to take strike action, and telling female golfers they should only use the lounge after 7;30 p.m. All seem to provoke a reaction.

The appropriate length of shorts is three inches or less above the knee. Shorts that fall below the knee are not permitted”

Psychologically it brings in a theory called reactance – investigated by Jack Brehm. Brehm discovered that when you limit the choice of individuals they tend to react against it. In a experiment with people who expressed no preference for either of 2 soft drinks he found that once you prevented people having a choice (you only supplied one type at a vending machine), people would walk a considerable distance to buy the alternate drink. If you restrict people’s freedom they will react to restore it.

You will know this if you have teenagers.

“Have a nice evening” you’ll call as they leave the house,

“Don’t tell me what to do.” They’ll reply as they slam the door.

Or

“I’d take a 5 iron and lay up if I were you.”

“Oh really”

Junior Members are not permitted to play before 11.00am at weekends, except in designated competitions or matches and with the prior permission of Match & Handicap.

So why do golf clubs insist on treating adults like children?

Walk briskly between shots and if possible decide which club to use for your next shot before you reach the ball

Do not take an excessive number of practice swings”

Another psychological theory called Transactional Analysis looks at this. Some people, especially people with self-esteem issues, tend to over compensate in their interactions with people by becoming ‘critical parents’. They tend to adopt the ‘I know better than you’ point of view, which in their mind means ‘I want to prove I’m a better person than you.”. These people behave by blaming, shouting, finger-pointing, belittling, and assuming the air of authority. The natural reaction for people on the other side of this is to turn into children; sulking, door-slamming, disobeying. This is why there is a fair amount of resentment built up, a good deal of moaning, wingeing and whispering in corners and often some quiet heated disagreements.

For me the situation of being told what to do strikes a chord with some childhood experiences. It smacks (no pun intended) of being told off and having to be punished. I remember similar pronouncements from my schooldays – “Children found running in the corridor will be reported to the Headmaster”. “Pupils failing to wear the correct attire for gym will be reported to the Headmaster”.

Guests taking dinner in the evening or late afternoon will be required to wear Jacket and Tie.

My line of thought now tends to be; “How old am I? I’m not that keen on being treated like a five year old child at this time in my life.” Added to this annoyance there would be some reactance kicking in. I’d remember in school where a teacher told me to stop playing with your pen. Even though I had no intention of playing with my pen that’s all I could now think about. Psychologically I’m trying to get that freedom of choice back.

In the golfing situation it would instil the same reaction. I may well obey the instruction though as there will be other factors creeping in. I may well obey a great many instructions for quite a well.. In the short term the problem would be solved.

However there would come a time where there would be a critical mass of resentment built up and there would be problems. Presumably I wouldn’t be the only person on the receiving end of this and pretty soon the morale of the club may well have dropped another notch. There will be more grumblings in corners about ‘nanny states’, ‘those people in their ivory towers’, ‘******* Committee members”, murmur, murmur, mumble, mumble. People don’t forget. These ‘small injustices’ never go away. They stay and come out somewhere, at some time – often inappropriately and usually with a physical, mental or financial cost – e.g. another club opens nearby and you see a mass exodus.

Our staff are empowered to judge whether an individual is acceptably dressed and to take appropriate action.

Now, I’m not advocating anarchy, as such. There are things that I will do; I will not cheat at golf, I will shout ‘fore’ if my drive is heading toward anyone, I will rake the bunker. I will stay quiet while people tee off. I do not need an edict from the Committee to tell me this.

As a suggestion I would just like people to think about the effect of their communication.. In terms of treating people when communicating do you communicate as a Parent, Child or Adult? A more productive ‘adult’ communication would entail some background, an explanation of the problem, the potential implications if the issue isn’t resolved and a suggestion. It would be even better if there was an offer of some dialogue. It’s what you would like isn’t it? It’s treating people like adults. It’s not difficult.

Rules for tipping: Professional staff – Do not tip cash to your country club manager. It’s not only in bad taste, it could be construed as a conflict of interest (because they manage your bills), and they may also be offended at being treated like a servant. It’s not fair because the country club manager is usually the person who works hardest for you each year, but Janet and I just tip with a token gift basket of goodies. (Tipping tip: If you want to tip your club manager with a gift basket, make sure to do it in their office. If the waiters see the git, the country club manager will feel compelled to share it with them).

Background labor– I don’t consider it expected nor required to tip the dishwashers, greens keeper or those creepy hippies who mow the fairways.”

Lost Balls, Poor Swings – Why Won’t We See The Woods or The Trees?

Looking for ball just off green at 14th hole, Pyle and Kenfig

How come you walk straight past your golf ball whilst looking for it in the rough? Yet when your playing partners point it out a few seconds later, it’s sitting up in the rough, clearly visible from space but 20 yards behind where you thought it would be . Perhaps you just don’t want to see it. You want to see your ball 20 yards further on because that’s where you planned it to be. Similarly, I don’t believe in many things. I especially don’t believe in rangefinders. The ‘150 yards’ the SkyCaddie SG 2.5 declares to be the true reading should leave me a 6 iron into the 17th. However, I know it’s an 8 iron, because I’ve always hit an 8 iron from here. OK I’ve always been short but it really is just a flick with an 8 iron;

There is the story of Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the Caribbean islands. It was written that as Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta, approached the islands on October 11 1492, the natives could not see them. One account describes how the shaman of the islanders noticed that the waves washing up on the shore produced an unusual pattern. From this observation the shaman realised that something unusual was happening and looked harder out to sea. Eventually he saw the ships at a fairly close range. He then had to persuade the people to also see the ships. The natives had no concept of large ships and they simply could not recognise them. In a similar vein it’s rare for a committee man to recognise slow play in his own group yet spot a shirt not tucked in 200 yards away.

If we don’t expect something to be there we don’t look. Well we look but we don’t see. There was an experiment carried out by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris that asked people to concentrate on a basketball game. Whilst the game was being played a gorilla wandered through the players (or rather a man in a gorilla suit) and hardly any of the participants noticed. They seemed to be so focused on the game, or it was so extraordinary, that it didn’t compute.

Looking beyond external physical objects how about taking a look at ourselves? Why can’t we see the poor alignment, the short backswing, the half-hearted follow through in our own game? We see this, and frequently volunteer the information, in our friends – although after a while we barely notice even this in regular playing partners.. We are so used to it, so conditioned that it becomes the ‘dead body in the study’ scenario. This is when people are so used to seeing something that they don’t really process it.

For instance, shut your eyes and think about the room you’re in. What exactly can you remember being on the walls? What’s in front of you that you see every single day? I would guess that when you actually open your eyes and look around there will be something there you will be surprised at. We see but we don’t process. In psychological terms this ‘dead body in the study’ scenario refers to a dead body you may have in the study. Every day you have to step over it to pass through the room. Initially you, of course, notice this but before long nobody seems to recognise this until you get a new person that suddenly starts screaming “You’ve got a dead body in the study!”. In golfing terms there is enormous benefit in having an outsider / coach / professional come in to look at your swing. They can actually see things that you can’t.

It’s estimated that the eyes see a billion pieces of information every second. However the brain can only process a fraction of this information – perhaps 4000 or so pieces of data. This means that there’s an awful lot of information going un-noticed. This would explain the Columbus Caribbean experience, the dead body in the study and a fair amount of golfers’ swings.

So, the moral of the story? Basically people tend to only see what they want, or expect, to see. Golfers, being a little like people, have a mental image of themselves. On the outside they may look like an excited octopus with a stick, but inside they feel they are swinging with the style and elegance of a Bradley Dredge.  Occasionally you will need someone, or a camcorder, to let you really look at your game. It’s only when you can see what’s going on that you can see what’s going wrong.