Chi-Power Golf Part 5 - Paralysis by Analysis?
Since around 2002 I have been helping golfers apply the principles of T'ai Chi to improve their enjoyment of the game, mainly by encouraging them to develop good habits of posture, balance and relaxation, coupled with the ability to stop thinking and get out of their own way.
From my experience of the Eastern style of learning, I feel the biggest mistake golfers make, is that they take on board too much information and then try to take this information out onto the course, where they hope that by recalling one more swing thought, one more tip, one more technique they've picked up from a magazine, the internet, a friend, their coach and so on, their game will dramatically improve.
I understand that the purpose of swing thoughts is to concentrate the mind on one particular aspect of the swing, but I also understand how the mind works best when the body is performing a fluid movement…and it's not the same mind set that a golfer uses either when picking up tips or when practising on the range.
If I could take you for a moment into my first T'ai Chi class at a hall in east London back in 1987, the overwhelming thing was that all the students were learning in silence, as the instructor simply went through the movements of the T'ai Chi form and the class simply copied. If the teacher had verbalised the instruction of just the first few seconds of the form it would have sounded something like this…
'…stand shoulder-width wide, soften your chest, relax your knees, imagine your head is suspended by a thread, look a mile into the distance, make two small circles with the hands at hip height, hollow the chest and relax into the feet, push your palms down, now raise your hands to shoulder height, hollow the chest and relax into the feet, bring the palms down towards the waist, straighten the legs and allow the palms to extend downwards, turn the waist to the right and move your weight to your right foot…'
I'm sure you get the picture and yet this is exactly what happens in golf, where each component part is mentioned, measured, detailed, analysed and scrutinised over and over.
And what's happening on every golf course around the world right now, is that golfers are taking their overcrowded mind, jam-packed with bits of information, out onto the course with them and into their game, and the results are – well we all know the results.
Being able to switch off this conscious/ analytical part of our mind and switch on the zone of relaxed concentration – perhaps when you're in the middle of a round, having had a great first twelve holes and are then tempted to try something new from a tip you've just picked up – is the single, most important inner game skill any golfer can develop.
So let's understand these two mind sets– the one used for learning and the one needed for playing – and give you an action plan so you can start improving in both areas right now!
THE MINDSET FOR LEARNING
The problem with information about the golf swing is that there's just so much of it! You see, the more we think about and analyse something as instinctive, fluid and non-verbal as the golf swing, the worse we get at performing it, because when you become reflective about any such process it undermines your ability and you lose your flow and your instinct. Gathering more and more information (taking lessons, reading expert tips etc)makes you feel more confident in the short-term and yet the irony is that the desire for confidence ends up undermining your own judgment and trust in your swing, and can even hinder the accuracy of your decision- making (what shot to play, how to play it).
SO HOW CAN YOU GET THE BEST FROM INSTRUCTIONAL ARTICLES?
Gi is undoubtedly one of the best magazines available to any golfer who is seriously looking to improve their game, with some of the leading writers and teaching professionals in the game contributing editorial in every new issue. When reading through the magazine, it's a good idea to have a game-plan rather then just thumbing through and picking up a lot of arbitrary tips and techniques along the way. The famous American business guru Steven Covey (author of “The 7Habits of Highly Successful People”) advises that when starting any endeavour we should “begin with the end in mind”. That means you should know what you want to learn, what aspect of your game you are currently working on and use Gi magazine to find information from the experts that relate to these areas.
ACTION-PLAN FOR LEARNING
I'm just here to help you get the best from your mind and believe me it doesn't like to be crowded-out with jumbled bits of information but rather works better in patterns and processes. For instance, we know that in terms of chunking bits of information, your brain (and mine) is happy with '7 plus or minus 2' new ideas/projects/tasks/focuses etc at any one time. Put anymore data into your brain than this, and your mind suffers from information-overload and paralysis by analysis! For argument's sake, let's say half a dozen is the optimum number of things you should be working on in your golf game right now. So grab yourself a notebook, label it your Gi workbook, and write out 6 things you are or will start working on within your game.Make sure to edit not overload by reading and making notes from the articles that can help you achieve the things on your list then practise these things on the range or putting green to reinforce your learning and build into your swing
THE MIND SET FOR PLAYING
Leaving the range now to go out and play, you'll need to switch off the conscious/analytical part of your mind and switch into the zone or flow-state of relaxed concentration. This is a state that you and most other golfers have all experienced at some time or another, when shots seem to go right because you're not trying and not thinking too hard. If you can recall a time this happened to you, chances are you had very few thoughts in your mind, you were experiencing a high-degree of confidence and you were breathing quite deeply. Interestingly, this golfing zone has its counterpart in Buddhist meditation, which seeks to focus mental awareness on the breath, neither denying nor indulging in thoughts as they surface, but just allowing a state of calm relaxation to fill the mind. This is a state experienced both by those who have found peace in the practise of meditation and those who have experienced it in this amazing game.
ACTION-PLANTO REDUCE SELF-INTERFERENCE
So how can you achieve this next time you go out to play?Well, it would be useful to practise awareness of your breathing before walking out to the course, during each pre-shot routine, while addressing the ball and while making the shot – and useful too to maintain this quiet awareness that links your mind to your body, while walking from shot to shot. It sounds so simple, you could easily overlook its value but try focusing on your breathing next time you play and you'll notice a huge reduction in your self-interference as you get out of your own way and just start trusting yourself.
For more information please contact Jayne Storey, PGA Approved Mentor www.chipowergolf.com