We have all learned to focus our attention by blocking internal and external stimuli in different areas of life. You may be better at this than you think — Have you ever read a book while someone else is watching TV in the same room? Blocked out an airplane flying overhead to make a putt? Or pulled a muscle while playing golf, but pressed on ignoring the pain? These are examples of pushing distractions aside to perform a desired task. The best way to think about most distractions is to categorize them as the things that are within, or beyond your control.
Controllable factors can cause distractions when you don’t realize that they are in your sphere of influence. Such things include your thoughts, nutrition, emotions, and self-perception. It’s important to understand how to manage and leverage them to support your performance. This is where mental game training comes into play. You can also learn how to refine your focus to prevent your thoughts from wandering to the things you can’t change or control. Examples include the performance of other players, wind, environmental noise, and condition of the course. Any of these could distract you from focusing properly on your next shot if you let them. The goal is to learn to play beyond them, since attending to them will only throw you off your game.
Start by increasing your awareness of the things you can and cannot control about your game by creating side by side lists. Then be honest about the things in the uncontrollables list you have been known to dwell on to the exclusion of attending to the things you can control. During play, at the first sign of frustration, fear, or doubt determine the source, and which list it falls into. In the game of golf, remember that you can control the HOW, but not always the WHAT. For example, You can plan to play for the middle of greens (HOW), but not whether you will hit every one of them (WHAT). So manage the list of controllables and don’t waste time or energy on the rest. If you catch yourself drifting off course mentally, and getting distracted give yourself permission to step away from address to reset. By focusing on something as simple as the sound of your breath being sucked in and out when you breathe deeply through only your nose, it will bring your focus back to the present and away from the external or internal distraction you were battling. If you want to play with ease, you cannot forget to BREATHE. Although you can’t always control everything that might interrupt your focus, you can control how you will react. The next post will center on how to control your reaction to the circumstances you face on the course. If you have specific questions about your game, I would be happy to talk to you. Contact Me to discuss how we can move your game forward. For more information on Fine Tuning Your Focus, be sure to check out Part 1 – Gaining Control of Your Thoughts, and Part 2 – Selective Awareness.