In response to the worldwide concern about COVID-19, I felt it was important to talk about how to conquer fear in golf and life. Fear can be insidious at times, pulling your confidence and common sense right out from under you. But fear itself isn’t something I want you to get lost in or feel that you can’t overcome.
In previous posts, I’ve tried to convey a side of fear you may not know. You can use fear as an asset. There are simple ways you can neutralize it on the course, as well as control it before and after a round. The same principles apply to how you navigate fear in life.
Below is a short summary of the main facts around fear that I want you to keep top of mind.
The Facts Around Fear
#1 – There are two types of fear – imagined and real. In golf, your battle is with imagined fear, meaning that what you’re afraid of or concerned about can’t cause you permanent harm. The fear you may be experiencing around COVID-19 can be a combination of real and imagined.
#2 – Your fear is one of your great inner tools. It can act as an early detection system which is very helpful both on and off the course.
#3 – A fear response is often the result of an information gap. When you don’t have all the information you think you need to tackle a situation it can leave you feeling vulnerable to fail.
#4 – Nerves and fear are not the same thing. The initial butterfly sensation you feel when adrenalin has been released into your system is often considered as a sign of fear, thereby signaling a threat.
#5 – Fear often arises when our thinking moves beyond the present. Operating with concern about repeating the past and/or uncertainty about the future can keep your attention centered around the things you cannot control.
While fear on the course can negatively impact your round, in life it can have a greater impact. When you get caught up in fear it can scramble your thoughts and inflame your emotions.
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, fear may be causing you to be more reactive than responsive and proactive. Let me explain what I mean…
The Difference Between Being Reactive or Proactive?
First of all, in no way am I trying to minimize the seriousness of this health risk. Nor am I advocating that your approach to preparedness and prevention be casual in nature.
I encourage you to stay informed through trusted health resources like Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and other top notch health organizations. But use caution when reading the reports and claims that are flooding social media and other news outlets that may be false. Daily, I am seeing claims for preventative products and measures that may be nothing other than people attempting to prey on intelligent, but frightened people. It’s possible to be responsive rather than reactive to the things that scare you.
Signs of Reactivity in Life
If you’ve been to any grocery store, pharmacy, or home improvement store you’ve seen signs of reactivity in the empty shelves and aisles. The current status is similar to what we experience in Southwest Florida at the threat of a hurricane. When a small group of people are seen “stocking up” it can cause a snowball effect that results in more demand than current supply. This is the result of people allowing their fear to work against them.
There are ways to take a more measured and proactive approach to the current health crisis that will help you better manage your thoughts and emotions. Healthy responsiveness is being modeled beautifully by our health organizations worldwide who are offering very practical and actionable advice to help people feel as though they can properly protect themselves, keep their immune system strong, and minimize their risk.
Recommendations include —
- Staying hydrated
- Getting enough rest
- Avoiding junk food
- Washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds regularly
- Regularly cleaning surfaces with disinfecting products
- Avoiding large gatherings
- Limiting travel
We are also seeing companies across the globe taking action to protect their workforce by allowing them to work from home. I know I am grateful that my sister’s company in Chicago instituted a measure this week so she can work virtually and avoid the daily public commute to the city.
Signs of Reactivity on the Course
In golf, it’s easy to be reactive rather than proactive when fear arises in your game. Imagined fear can sometimes feel just as powerful and real fear. Successfully navigating the ups and downs of the game depends on how well you train yourself to respond, rather than emotionally react when the game tests you.
Consider how your thoughts can take a turn after you’ve sliced a few drives, or chunked a handful of short chips. Reactive fear-driven thinking will leave you questioning your mechanics, exclaiming, “I’ve lost my swing!”, or trying to figure out how to avoid messing up further.
In contrast, you can conquer your fear when you choose appropriate responses to varying golf challenges by preventing your emotions from running you down. This means that you put effort into to leading with positive thoughts again and again knowing that your emotions will begin to follow suit.
Since you are the author of your thoughts you can discipline yourself to choose them wisely in response to any challenge if you are determined enough to do so. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can’t. Be honest about why you’re choosing not to.
Following a poor shot a healthy response might be identifying a lapse in your target focus while over the ball or noticing that you’ve been allowing someone else’s slow play to really distract or upset you. The more aware you are of your thought habits, the easier it will be to manage them well during a round. Every time you loosen the reigns on your thinking you may inadvertently open the door being reactive to your imagined fear.
5 Ways to Conquer Fear in Golf and Life
My goal is to teach you how to have your naturally occurring fear trigger a trained mindset immunity response to help you operate with more success in golf and life. So let me illustrate how this is possible by going back to the short summary points I made earlier in this post.
Managing real versus imagined fear
Fear stems from your perception and interpretation of the world around you. It all starts when you come face to face with a stressful stimulus. It could be getting a call from a family member who has just been in an accident or having a playing partner tell you that he’s counting on you to make your putt. Your task is to clearly label the type of fear you are experiencing.
Fear is a physical response to your thoughts and perceptions. Whether you are facing a real threat or just an imagined one, to manage it you must first identify your thoughts and perceptions that are feeding it.
Healthy, real fear is something you want to use to stay safe from physical or emotional harm. But if you are allowing your imagination to run wild and create unfounded fear then you must acknowledge it for what it is and not allow it to hold you back. When you know what you’re dealing with, then you will be in a position to start using fear as an asset.
Using your fear as an asset
Fear can be used as a great tool as long as you know how to interpret the messages. When dealing with imagined fear, it’s important to recognize at its onset that your perception of “danger” is unrealistic or unfounded. After experiencing a blow-up hole you might allow your fear of further struggles to cloud your perspective of what you can do to play well. You may find your thoughts consumed with what’s going wrong and be unable to focus on how to repeat the things that are going right.
Use fear as a wake-up call to help you avoid a dangerous situation in real life or a potentially frustrating situation on the course. You can do this by turning your attention away from the stimulus that’s driving the fear and toward possible solutions. This is the shift that can occur within you to minimize your reactivity and maximize an effective responsiveness to a stimulus.
Filling in the information gaps
A fear response is often driven by a lack of information. It’s impossible to know everything about every little thing. But you can respond to real or imagined fear powerfully when you open your mind to closing the information gap with concrete data.
As I mentioned previously, I think the best source of concrete data on COVID-19 is coming from the top world health organizations, not social media. Seek data from trusted resources who are working rapidly to end the crisis.
When it comes to your golf game, the same strategy applies. Connect with the professionals you trust to help you with your game — your swing coach, your mental coach, your physical therapist, your trainer. Your team can help you gather the information you need to achieve more success on the course. Even you can be a trusted resource when you train yourself to track the right information in your game.
Creating a habit of maintaining statistics on your strengths, your best strategies, your great shot moments, and other success indicators will give you wealth of valid information you can easily fall back on to close any information gap during a round. When fear shows up you can conquer it by recalling great memories to reinforce confidence after a missed shot instead of defaulting to distrust in your swing.
Leveraging nerves to take action
Nerves and fear are not the same thing. When you feel butterflies in your stomach you are feeling the affects of adrenalin in your system. Your brain signals its release to supply you with needed energy for whatever situation you’re facing.
Many golfers experience fear when butterflies begin to flutter because they perceive them as a sign of trouble to come. You can shut down the thoughts that drive imagined fear by changing your perspective of nerves and focusing that energy into excelling at your next shot. The more you proactively keep your attention centered on the present, the easier it will be to avoid fear-driven thinking.
Keeping your attention on the present
Fear can occur when you get wrapped up in poor memories of the past or drift too far ahead of yourself to try to figure out or control the future. Neither of those points in time are under your direct control, and therefore, are distractions that will disrupt your thoughts, fracture your focus, and flare your emotions.
We don’t know how far reaching COVID-19 will spread or how long it will take to turn this pandemic around. Those things are not under our control because they are in the future. Similarly, you could feed your fear by worrying about how scary other viruses have been in the past and allow that to increase your anxiety.
To remain responsive and proactive it’s important that we control the things we can like following the preventative guidelines and not becoming immobilized by fear. You don’t have to take the “sit and wait out the storm” approach and stop living your life.
A great way to stay occupied and productive is to keep playing golf. And if you can’t play golf then get outside for a walk, finish a “honey-do” project around the house, get crafty, or weed your flower beds. There are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy response to the present circumstance by investing in productive, present-centered, and controllable pursuits. Don’t allow your fear of the past or future to prevent you from continuing to thrive.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re doing to stay engaged in your life and your game rather than letting fear call the shots.
If you stepped onto the sidelines of your life or your game I encourage you to get back into the swing of things. You can be smart about how you do this to protect yourself from being exposed to COVID-19. Just don’t let your fear stop you from going after what you want both on and off the course. If you need more ideas just let me know. I’ve got plenty of ways you can keep moving your game ahead.