Have you lost your nerve on the golf course and gotten frustrated or aggressive? Maybe you kicked your bag, threw your towel or discs, or cursed and shouted. What ever it is you did that you did not like, you are in the process of building a response. Each moment of our lives is, in fact, a process of learning.
Our brains have over a hundred billion braincells, or neurons, all pretty much linked together. Learning works by creating and strengthening pathways through these neurons for impulses of electricity to move through. Between each and every connection in our brains there is a tiny gap called a synapse. For you to learn something new, the impulse must “jump” that gap. When you do something for the first time, your brain builds a foundation of sorts. When you repeat that task, you strengthen that pathway. Over countless repetitions that task becomes easier and easier, until one day it is effortless. If you want a visual image, imagine crossing a ravine, by building a bridge over it. When you start, the task is hard, but with each support structure going in, each pylon being installed, the task gets easier. By the time the bridge is ready, crossing that ravine becomes effortless – you have learned something new.
Ok, so how does this help you to not lose your mind on the course when your drives keep banging trees?
Well, the first step in solving any problem is admitting you have one. Admit that you do not want to react the way you now do. Make a conscious decision that you want to get better.
The second step is realizing what your problem is at it’s core. Your problem is that you have taught your brain how to react to adversity by losing your cool. When you react to anything, you learn. And what you repeat comes easier with every repetition – you know this. But it does not only pertain to the times when you choose to train for something, it is present in our every choice and action. Every time you do something, you learn. And every time you repeat that something, it becomes easier – so when you lose your cool over and over again, it only becomes easier and easier, that neural pathway gets stronger and stronger. You need to stop and start reacting in more positive way.
The third step is correcting the problem. Now you must learn a new skill – you must teach your brain that the correct reaction to adversity is the opposite, the correct reaction is to not mind and to move on. A failed shot should matter to you as much as stepping on grass. It’s a natural part of the game, unavoidable. It can and will happen. You cannot control that. But you can control your reaction to adversity if you put in the hours to learn that new skill. It really is as simple as this: in order to learn to keep your cool when adversity comes your way, you must find that adversity and then every time force yourself to respond in the way you want to. And each time you do this, you will notice it becoming easier and easier, until it becomes effortless, a part of you.
So go out there and play rounds and when that shot fails, stop and observe your feelings. Manage the bad emotions and relax. Do what ever works the best for you to calm down and play on. Remind yourself that each time you do this, each time you keep your cool, you are learning a new skill, becoming a better version of yourself. In a short few months you may already start seeing powerful changes in your behavior if you keep to this. And it is totally ok to feel proud should that happen – pride is your brains way of rewarding you for your success.
One last thing, keep in mind that if you do lose your cool sometimes, do not punish yourself about it. Just promise yourself to do better the next time. Each time you react negatively to anything, you are learning a response you DO NOT WANT. So stay positive, react positive. Keep learning.
Tero Tommola is part of the Team Dynamic Discs Europe