Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Power Of Negative Thinking

[This post originally appeared on Get It Quietly]

I've been meaning to make some golf-related posts so here's a good place to start. I've been practising a lot lately and today I felt ready to burn the course up. First two holes, par par, today's the day ! Now, there was a competition on and the course was unusually busy with people who had waited for all the comp players to tee off. So when I was on the second green, the guy teeing off on the third, who looked vaguely familiar, suggested that I play through. I said there wasn't really any point because there were two foursomes right in front of us but we could play together if he liked. OK, he would wait for me on the 4th.

Third hole, par 3, I hit to the edge of the green and it bounced sideways off the bank and I had to hack out for a five. OK, no problem, unlucky. Then I caught up with the guy and I suddenly realised he was the guy I had referenced in a Facebook update about being happy to play with other people if they didn't constantly talk about negative things ...

Before we were half way up the 4th he was telling me "and one of my other problems is I slice the ball a lot ..." . I held it together, more or less, till the 7th where I managed to 4-putt for a 10. As the third putt rolled 5 feet past the hole the guy was laughing. I stress, not in a malicious way. Just sort of "ha ha, funny old game eh, ha ha". I honestly could have wrapped the club right round his neck. I held it together to play 8 and 9 in one over because he was promising to stop after 9 and then I might get some peace. No such luck though, and after that I played the worst back 9 ever, even after I had made an excuse on the 13th of "having to play these quickly" and left him behind. Which was actually a half truth because it had taken us 2 1/2 hours to play 12 holes, with his insistence on playing two more shots from the same spot every time he shanked one, and going off looking for them all in the bushes. The foursomes actually left us behind.

Now, that sounds like a lot of moaning and of course a good player would tune all this out, but I'm not a good player, I'm still learning (if you ever stop that is) and by the 12th I was on super life tilt listening to this guy. I'm a big fan of Dr Bob, can't recommend him highly enough. And he's a big fan of positive thoughts and words on the golf course. And in life IMO. Now, it's a fine line, you have to be realistic, you don't swagger up to every tee thinking "I'm going to birdie this hole for sure". But you try to put negative thoughts to one side. You play a bad shot, let it go, play the next one. There's a hazard in front of you, just put it out of your mind and swing cleanly through the ball. My golf partner today seemed to go out of his way, at every opportunity, to stress how difficult a hole was, how much he's struggling with a particular shot, even the odd positive thing like when he played a hole well is followed by "I'll never do that again !".

It just seems endemic in our society. There are so many people who seem to think it's impolite to talk about being good at something. Even to be good at something. More than that, that it's impolite not to constantly demean your own ability and success. The main reason I don't play live poker on a regular basis is the negativity of the people you have to play with. Same with watching football. Everyone wants to vent their anger and frustration on people around them, and indeed themselves, instead of actually working to improve themselves and become better at what they're doing. I'm starting to ramble now but if you had told me, at 20 years old, that I could become a professional poker player it would have been like telling me I could be an astronaut. But because I came across the game and loved playing so much I put so much time and effort into improving at the game that, bit by bit, I became better than I ever would have thought possible. The same is starting to happen with golf, I mean lol obviously I'm not going pro and never will, but just through constant practice and thought I am already better than I thought I could ever be.

You might be surprised what you can do if you put your mind to it, that's the bottom line. But I guarantee you that if you constantly run yourself down, and listen to people around you who want to bring everyone else down to their level [1], it won't happen.[1] I should stress that doesn't apply to the golfer today, there was no malice in him whatsoever, he had just, in that English way, taken being self-effacing to a ridiculous extreme.