Have you ever wondered why sometimes the more you don’t want something to happen the more likely it is that it does happen? That’s kind of a strange co-incidence don’t you think? Let’s examine what happens when you try to not do something…
Try as hard as you can right now to NOT think about a giraffe.
What are you thinking about? Aha – a giraffe! Now ask yourself did you see the word “giraffe” or did you see it’s rather long neck?
So what does this tell us about how our minds work? Firstly, in order to comprehend what it is we are trying not to think about we have to focus on what that thing is. Secondly, we tend to picture it rather than think about the letters of the word; an image of it comes into your minds eye. And this makes sense if you think about how you learnt as a child; You’d have a picture book with the words next to the picture, and that’s how you’d learn that that particular word represented that particular picture. The picture has more impact – the picture comes first.
What we can learn from this is that where there is a conflict between your will power and your imagination, your imagination wins.
If you haven’t quite appreciated as yet the extreme power of your imagination, think of the times that you have stood on the tee thinking “don’t go in the bunker” and hey, presto – amazingly that’s exactly where the ball ended up. Your mind is EXQUISITELY TALENTED. Unless you are a pretty low handicap player, for most of us to aim the ball into a bunker that’s 180 yards away and 2 yards in width, we would probably have to have a few attempts before succeeding; and yet, just by THINKING “don’t go in there”, it does. Wow! Isn’t that amazing?
Once again, what can we learn from this? As you think “Don’t” your mind has to comprehend “don’t what?” and will PICTURE whatever the object it. And a “picture is worth a thousand words” to quote a well-known, and insightful, phrase. What we golfers need to do is simply to use this knowledge to our advantage. We can choose to PICTURE exactly where we want the ball to go. Just picture the exact line that you want the ball to travel along, picture the trajectory, picture the ball landing and rolling and coming to a stop. Your mind understands and responds to pictures automatically, instinctively and EASILY.
Sometime soon, why not get out to the chipping area with a friend? Take it in turns to ask your friend where they are going to land the ball, and put a tee there to mark the precise spot. Then ask them how high the ball will travel; hold your arm out to indicate the exact height. This is a quick way of assisting someone to visualise their shot. Then move away and allow them to execute the shot they have pictured. It’s amazing how your visualisation skills will improve as you do this, and in this way you are clearly telling the golf ball what to do – you are chipping with clear intent. The result, quite logically, is that the ball is far more likely to go where you want it to.
Once you have done this, you can go home, put your feet up, get nice and cosy and simply picture the process all over again. You can have a lovely relax on the sofa, simply visualising all those fantastic chips, over and over and over again, thereby strengthening those neural pathways in your brain, creating an expectation that those great chips will come off as you want them to.
You can also use this type of visualisation to become more creative in your short game, visualising different shots, both high and low. Remember, everything in life starts with a thought, including every shot you make in golf. You have to think about it, plan it, visualise it and then it has the best chance of doing what you what it to do. If you don’t tell the golf ball clearly where you want it to go, it will go wherever it pleases…and probably won’t please you!
Here’s a challenge for habitual slicers, which covers, as you probably know, 70% of the golfing population. Be honest now and really think about what thoughts run through your mind when you’re standing on the tee and there’s trees all the way down the right of the fairway. Are you thinking “OK, theres a great spot in the middle of the fairway and I’m going to aim at that particular point”; or do you think “Oh **** trees on the right, I’d better aim further left”? And as you aim further left, do you pick an exact target to aim at, or do you simply think “further left”? And as you aim “further left” do you find that you come across the ball more and slice the ball even further to the right?! Because if you did that your golf ball probably did exactly what you told it to do…Even as you were thinking “further left” were you not PICTURING those damn trees down the right?!
So, the challenge to slicers is to go out there and decide on your exact target and picture the ball’s flight path and trajectory as it flies to that target and then just hit the ball. And if you really want to go for it, set the ball out to the RIGHT and draw it in to the centre, firstly in your imagination, and then notice how your mind really does tell the ball where to go. Your mind is far more important than your technique…try it and see for yourself. (If you think about it, what I’m saying is also very logical – if by intentionally setting it out left, you unintentionally hit a slice, then is it possible that by intentionally setting it out right, you might unintentionally hit a draw?)
And when you are bot on the golf course, you can be visualising your routine and your shots. Whatever you time you vividly image a shot your brain will record it as it it really happened, and so you can strengthen your mind easily in this way. What can be more simple than this type of practice? Practice, of the right things, really does make perfect. The beauty of visualisation practice is that EVERY shot is perfect and so your brain is recording these perfect shots all of the time whilst you visualise. If you were partaking of actual practice, some shots would be great whilst others might not be so accurate – and your brain is recording every shot. This explains why numerous studies have shown that visualisation practice is MORE effective than actual practice.
So if you want to get a HEAD start to your golfing season, get visualising. You don’t have to spend hours at it. Research has shown that just spending 1-3 minutes visualising at a time is optimal for this type of effective practice. To put it in perspective, that’s less time than smokers spend on smoking a cigarette! You could be visualising whilst smoking or even while brushing your teeth. (Or whilst doing lots of other things, come to think of it!)
If you want to get a head start to your golfing season all you have to do is to choose to spend a few of your spare minutes picturing great shots. And if you really want to excel you could go to sleep listening to a golf hypnosis download to embed such visualisations deep into your subconscious mind; Again, what could be easier? You just get into bed, put your golf hypnosis download on and fall asleep. Easy Peasie!
Roseanna Leaton, specialist in golf mind training and golf hypnosis downloads.