Challenge the status quoNovember, 2011
Stop doing things the same way if you want a different outcome
WE are strange creatures really when you come to think of it. You, me, in fact all of us have a propensity for strangeness that is in many ways unique. We want to improve, we want to change, we want to get better but, above all else, deep down inside of most of us just crave, absolutely crave, the familiar. Not just in golf but in most things that we do.
I know that sounds counterintuitive but I see this phenomenon time after time with people that I come into contact with.
It always fascinates me when I get a group of people together for the first time. I speak for an hour or so and then let the group know that it is time for a break. When they come back I deliberately change the seating arrangements.
When you see the look on their faces, when you see them flap around trying to find ‘their’ spot it is fascinating to behold. I will then ask them to tell me on a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable they feel right at this moment. And how they felt just before the break. Often the pre-break score is seven or eight and now they can be as low as two or three! Just because they are sitting in a slightly different place than 10 minutes before.
How strange is that? That we feel after just a short while that we own a seat. It is safe, it is familiar. If I don’t do that exercise then where do you think people sit for the entire duration of the training? You guessed it, absolutely the same place. We are pretty much wired as an evolutionary tool to seek out the familiar, the safe and then, when we find it, we tend to stick to it.
This is a wonderful survival mechanism but it can be absolutely deadly for your golf and your life. To question the status quo, to dip your toe in the water of discomfort, is to give yourself the best possible chance of becoming a success. Be aware, be very aware of our tendency to do things just because that is the way that it has always been done.
To question the status quo, to dip your toe in the water of discomfort, is to give yourself the best possible chance of becoming a success. With golf there are some absolute classics that fall into this category. The next time that you walk out to play before a competition just observe what people do on the putting green. In particular have a look at how many balls they are using to putt with. Now if you had just been beamed down to earth and had the rules of golf explained to you that you get one shot with one ball to totally different targets then how many balls would you logically think that you should use just before you play? Of course, one.
Yet how many balls do most people have? Three! It is always three, yet if you ask them why they will have no logical answer. They do it because they have always done it and, more importantly, they see others doing it.
And balls come in packs of three. It makes no sense whatsoever but they keep doing it because it is familiar.
We can fall in to the trap of familiarity with the course that we play or the people that we play with. We can easily go on to auto-pilot in so much that we ‘know’ it’s a 6-iron because it is the 12th hole. This auto-pilot tends to drain our creativity and curiosity. Part of becoming a better player is to travel. To play different courses, different terrain, different greens, to give our brain a new puzzle to work out.
Having spent a good deal of time with the 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen it became clear to me that one of the determining features of his progress as a young man was just how much he was prepared to travel and experience different courses.
Our internal repertoire of shots massively increases as we are forced into playing new shots. How many of you now love playing links golf but, when you think back to the first time, it felt little short of like playing on the moon and you really struggled with the lies and the wind and the terrain.
As obvious as all of this sounds it is in many ways a metaphor for so much more in our life. And by getting out and playing lots of different courses with differing challenges it will not only be a lot of fun but it could make you a far better player.