“Why Don’t You Relax And Take Up Golf?”

angry

“Moderate exercise, such as playing a round of golf, may help protect people against future anxiety and stress.”  – a study by the University of Maryland

“Relax and have a game of golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should only be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. A good way to reduce your stress levels is to set yourself realistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and She-Ra to get the 3 wood out of my hand and make me hit me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Rory McIlroy or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are solid, sad, unloved, boring. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (South East valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

Let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. Sometimes you can take this too far; I once saw someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond he followed this us by sending his bag and golf clubs after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only stormed about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to the pond. He walked right past us and into the water. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his golf bag. he unzipped the pocket and brought out his car keys.

This aspect of letting go of  your emotions doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for golfers at Bargoed Golf Club. I know what the groups 3 holes in front of me are doing every shot of their round.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of psychological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So – hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol

Advertisements

Bad Beats – Seneca and Yerkes-Dodson

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

How do you deal with a bad beat? Do you shrug or tilt?

Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth?

Gus Hansen answers the question, “How do you handle a bad beat?”

“Some people don’t, but the best way is to just go ahead with the next hand, don’t worry too much about it, it’s just cards. It happens to everybody and sometimes you take and sometimes you give. Don’t worry too much about it,  just try to play as good as you can the next hand.”

Logically

1. You know you’re going to lose some time

2. You know it’s going to be unfair

3. You know you have been upset in the past when this happened

4. Therefore you are likely to be upset again in the future.

It’s not a surprise that you will have a bad beat at some time.

People will be upset. It has been happening for over 2,000 years;

Is any one surprised that he is cold in winter? That he is sick at sea? That he is jolted about on the highroad?” – Seneca – ‘On Anger’ AD 41

Seneca believed that a great deal of unhappiness was caused by ‘magic thinking’. People refuse to accept the inevitable;

You know something will happen yet still get upset when it does – it’s not rational. Deal with it.

Rationally you should have a process for dealing with this.

Why It’s Not Good to Tilt

 

TheYerkes-Dodson law shows that performance increases as anxiety/ arousal  increases to an optimum point beyond which performance declines rapidly. i.e. you perform better as you deal with a difficult situation until you reach a point where you rapidly decline. You manage the stress and anxiety well – then there comes a tipping point.

A strategy

You need a strategy – a strategy for dealing with failure. The strategy is about honesty and realism. The measure you use is ‘increase the speed of recovery’ – How quickly can you get back to full speed after a setback.

The strategy needs to be about honesty and  realism.

 Managing your anxiety

The more anxiety you can manage the better your performance, the better you can progress along the Yerkes-Dobson curve.

Anxiety is defined as the anticipation of pain. It’s not the actual pain. Poker players get anxious, a lot. The anticipation of a bad beat can often be worse than losing itself. So;

1. focus on NOW. Try not to think about 10 minutes ago or 10 minutes in the future.

2. focus on others – not yourself.

Both these strategies make it easier to take the pressure off yourself. You can regain control of the situation. No-one can  make you ‘tilt’ – only you can do this to yourself.

It won’t be easy – As you and Seneca know you won’t get it right first time. So, don’t be hard on yourself. Try gain – it gets easier.

This article first appeared in ‘Poker Shark’ – November 2011

Top Tips for Reducing Stress – Take Up Golf….. Oh Yeah?

Llanbobl G.C. President on a charge
I’m fed up waiting and I’m coming through.. OK?

I read recently that 3 ‘great tension reducers’ were; golf, swimming and fishing. Well I’m not an expert on water based activities but I can’t really say golf has reduced my stress levels very much over the years.

“Relax and play golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. Reduce your stress levels by not setting yourself unrealistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and Geoff Capes to get the 3 wood out of my hand and give me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Phil Mickelson or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are sad, unloved, boring and their mothers’ dress them funny. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball each in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

This seems to be based on ‘the green shield stamp syndrome’. For those who don’t remember green shields stamps they were the physical embodiment of nectar points. Every time you bought something you were given a few stamps which you put in a book. Then, when the book was full you cashed it in. This was illustrated to mew one day when I was working in London. I was not in my usual bed in Wales I woke up in a hotel ( 1 stamp). I couldn’t find a taxi (another stamp). The day was awful (many stamps). I had to stand up all the way to Newport on the train on the journey home (more stamps). My book is getting quite full now. I go in the house and my partner had bought the wrong cat food for the cat. I went ballistic on her, “You stupid ***, etc etc.” Waking up in hospital I reflected on the dubious merits of cashing in all your stress stamps at one time.

In golfing terms let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. I did see someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow cash all his stamps at one time. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond followed this us by sending his bag and golf club after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only gone about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to us. He walked right past us and into the pond. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his car keys.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of pschological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So,hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol

Oh please….

Executive Stress

First appeared in ‘Financial World’ (UK)
From the late 1920s stress has been defined as a “fight or flight” reaction to a threat, or a perceived threat. This definition by Walter Cannon now appears to be incomplete and research also suggests that the order is wrong.

Jeffrey Gray, amongst others ethologists, redefines the onset of stress as having three distinct stages – freeze, flight and only then fight.

The initial stage, “the freeze response”, is described as a state of hyper-vigilance (being on guard, watchful, or hyper-alert). This “stop, look, and listen” stage is associated with fear. Ethological research has demonstrated that prey that remain “frozen” during a threat are more likely to avoid detection.

Following this initial freeze response, the next response in the sequence is an attempt to get away from the danger. Once that option has been exhausted, there is an attempt to fight. These reactions always occur in this order.

These observations within the animal world are still thought to apply to humans as a hangover from primitive times. When we get into stressful situations the body automatically carries out a number of functions:

  • Firstly it discharges large amounts of adrenalin into the blood stream.
  • It shuts down the digestive system to allow an increased blood flow to the muscles.
  • It thickens the blood so that if the organism is cut, the blood will clot quickly.
  • These chemicals stay in the body and cause the symptoms we associate with stress these days – upset stomach, palpitations, heart disease, depression, etc.

Today a modern financial executive is more likely to encounter stress with a last minute presentation to the board, rather than being attacked by a wild animal. Yet the same stages are involved. We’ve all experienced the freeze response – or denial response, as some psychologists interpret the threat. It takes the form of: “Why me?” This is followed by the flight option. This can be quite tempting at the time, and occasionally the stress is so bad that flight – physically or emotionally – is the only way out.

However, more often than not the final option kicks in. This inevitably manifests itself as the “challenge”. The CFO has to respond as rationally and calmly as possible whilst the adrenaline builds up. Once or twice this is good. However, over a number of months, or years, it can eventually cause headaches, ulcers, etc as well as potential psychological and behavioural problems – depression, sleeplessness, etc.

The timing of stress is different from executive to executive. Graham Beasant, director of Finance and Corporate Resources at theUK’s Central Office of Information (COI), feels stress for him has an almost seasonal element: “I feel more pressure from April to June due to the end of the financial year and the preparation of COI’s annual report. During this time there are deadlines placed on COI by Parliament, the public and auditors.”

Maurice Phillips, finance director, Southdown Housing Association identified different aspects of the job as having more stress: “If you have a chance to work in finance then you will realise that most finance jobs are very busy in any organisation and stress comes with the nature of the work. The higher you go the more demanding and stressful the job becomes.”

Stress isn’t all bad though – we need some stress in our lives in order to perform – those last minute energy rushes to meet a deadline, the adrenaline that gives you the ability to see sharper, hear more and react quicker when placed in uncomfortable situations. We need stress – without it life would be incredibly boring. On the positive side stress is a source of motivation and a necessary component to survival. But it’s this excessive or prolonged stress that inevitably takes a toll on health.

A recent development in the study of stress links to control – the less control people have over their lives the more stress they tend to have. In terms of management within organisations, occupational psychologist Cary Cooper says: “Senior managers have ‘a sense of control’ … they feel they’re involved in decision-making. Research over the last couple of decades has shown that people who feel they have no control, no autonomy over the job they do in the workplace are likely to get a stress-related illness.”

How much control, as employers and managers do we have over these factors? Quite a bit, it would seem. Many of these factors relate to job design and communicating expectations – these are probably within the control of managers. Some organisations seem to take these factors very seriously indeed and many have introduced schemes for managing stress amongst their workforce.

Executive Stress

First appeared in ‘Financial World’ (UK)

From the late 1920s stress has been defined as a “fight or flight” reaction to a threat, or a perceived threat.

This definition by Walter Cannon now appears to be incomplete and research also suggests that the order is wrong.

Jeffrey Gray, amongst others ethologists, redefines the onset of stress as having three distinct stages – freeze, flight and only then fight.

The initial stage, “the freeze response”, is described as a state of hyper-vigilance (being on guard, watchful, or hyper-alert). This “stop, look, and listen” stage is associated with fear. Ethological research has demonstrated that prey that remain “frozen” during a threat are more likely to avoid detection.

Following this initial freeze response, the next response in the sequence is an attempt to get away from the danger. Once that option has been exhausted, there is an attempt to fight. These reactions always occur in this order.

These observations within the animal world are still thought to apply to humans as a hangover from primitive times. When we get into stressful situations the body automatically carries out a number of functions:

Firstly it discharges large amounts of adrenalin into the blood stream.

It shuts down the digestive system to allow an increased blood flow to the muscles.

It thickens the blood so that if the organism is cut, the blood will clot quickly.

These chemicals stay in the body and cause the symptoms we associate with stress these days – upset stomach, palpitations, heart disease, depression, etc.

Today a modern financial executive is more likely to encounter stress with a last minute presentation to the board, rather than being attacked by a wild animal. Yet the same stages are involved. We’ve all experienced the freeze response – or denial response, as some psychologists interpret the threat. It takes the form of: “Why me?” This is followed by the flight option. This can be quite tempting at the time, and occasionally the stress is so bad that flight – physically or emotionally – is the only way out.

However, more often than not the final option kicks in. This inevitably manifests itself as the “challenge”. The CFO has to respond as rationally and calmly as possible whilst the adrenaline builds up. Once or twice this is good. However, over a number of months, or years, it can eventually cause headaches, ulcers, etc as well as potential psychological and behavioural problems – depression, sleeplessness, etc.

The timing of stress is different from executive to executive. Graham Beasant, director of Finance and Corporate Resources at theUK’s Central Office of Information (COI), feels stress for him has an almost seasonal element: “I feel more pressure from April to June due to the end of the financial year and the preparation of COI’s annual report. During this time there are deadlines placed on COI by Parliament, the public and auditors.”

Maurice Phillips, finance director, Southdown Housing Association identified different aspects of the job as having more stress: “If you have a chance to work in finance then you will realise that most finance jobs are very busy in any organisation and stress comes with the nature of the work. The higher you go the more demanding and stressful the job becomes.”

Stress isn’t all bad though – we need some stress in our lives in order to perform – those last minute energy rushes to meet a deadline, the adrenaline that gives you the ability to see sharper, hear more and react quicker when placed in uncomfortable situations. We need stress – without it life would be incredibly boring. On the positive side stress is a source of motivation and a necessary component to survival. But it’s this excessive or prolonged stress that inevitably takes a toll on health.

A recent development in the study of stress links to control – the less control people have over their lives the more stress they tend to have. In terms of management within organisations, occupational psychologist Cary Cooper says: “Senior managers have ‘a sense of control’ … they feel they’re involved in decision-making. Research over the last couple of decades has shown that people who feel they have no control, no autonomy over the job they do in the workplace are likely to get a stress-related illness.”

How much control, as employers and managers do we have over these factors? Quite a bit, it would seem. Many of these factors relate to job design and communicating expectations – these are probably within the control of managers. Some organisations seem to take these factors very seriously indeed and many have introduced schemes for managing stress amongst their workforce.

 

Control Freak or Management Ain’t What It Used To Be

First appeared in ‘CIO’ (U.K.)

Over the past decade this lack of control seems to have become the factor in causing stress across management – maybe it always was this way but I just didn’t recognise it. It inevitably involves people. It is so much easier (well relatively) to manage budgets, security and infrastructure.

People though tend to be a bit like you and me – odd, quirky. There was a time when managers, or anyone in authority, said ‘jump’ and the likes of you and me would jump as high as possible (I was never one of the crazy breed that would answer back with ‘how high?’). What happens now though if you say ‘jump’? You get…
“Why?”
“Has this been agreed by the health and safety jump subcommittee?”
“Is this on my performance evaluation?”
“Piss off!”
There may be others that would ask: “What are you trying to achieve by this ‘jumping’ exercise? Let’s look at the outputs and the process.” You may even get a better way of achieving your objectives in this ongoing ‘jump’ scenario.

The trouble is you just don’t know what the response will be. It’s a bit like waiting for a bus – it’s frustrating because your destiny is in the hands of someone else. You have no control over it. How did this happen in the workplace? Surely as you gain more experience, you get better and have more control, not less? Unfortunately not.

I had a colleague who was a superb manager. He worked 14 hours a day, led by example, took pride in never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. However, he couldn’t progress beyond middle management. Finally someone told him why. “You’ve got to let go and get others to do the work for you. There’s only so much work you can physically do yourself.” He came to the painful realisation that he had to trust people.

The first step in learning to adapt to this is to accept that it’s true. It’s what management really is – there’s a clue in the word.

It’s a bit like being a doctor and complaining about only seeing sick people. As a manager you only deal with people and people are a mess of frustrations, inhibitions and vulnerabilities.

You have to learn to give up control and trust people. In practical terms this will mean they make mistakes. This is the heart of the problem, I think. Underneath do you think that you’re perfect? Perhaps not. Better than others? Well there may be some of that. The bottom-line is it’s not a ‘hands on’ job any longer. When you were a young, enthusiastic programmer you were in control. You could stay and finish some coding if you wanted. If you were really enthusiastic you would stay all night until it was tested and complete. Now, as a leader, what do you say to engender that enthusiasm into your team?

“There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do or check everything. So, take a deep breath and let go”

People like to be trusted. They work better and produce more when they are. It’s not easy, of course, especially in the early stages when you hardly know the new people. But, you really haven’t much choice. There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do or check everything. So, take a deep breath and let go.

This doesn’t mean anarchy. This means a sensible discussion about limits and outputs. You agree the outputs, the parameters, cost and timeframe. From then on it’s a matter of staying away. The biggest challenge will come with the first mistake they make – and you know they will make a first mistake.

If you’ve discussed this with them you will have said all the right things about it being ‘a learning process’ and told them when it happens, ‘to come and see me and we’ll talk about it’. However, that first mistake will be a big one, at the wrong time and they won’t come to you until the last possible minute. The whole team will be looking at how you deal with this. Take another deep breath and do the right things. One false move here and the next mistake will be hidden for longer and will be more damaging. In some respects this is the difference between changing from a manager to a leader. To quote Bill O’Brien: “The problem with managers is that they’re always pulling up the radishes to see how well they’re growing.”