I have developed a very special disc golf talent. I don’t know where it came from, but over the last 2 months, I’ve gotten really, really good at it. Only showing up during tournament rounds, this new talent is just awesome. I’m so happy it came into my life. It has made the last two months of tournaments so incredibly enjoyable, I hope it never goes away!
Some how, some way, my brain has decided that in every tournament I play, I will throw 5-10 of the worst shots I’ve ever thrown since picking up a golf disc. I’m not talking about your average, run of the mill grip lock or early release. Oh no. I’m talking about spectacularly bad to the point of being comical. I’m talking about shots that make the people in my group look at me and wonder if I’m playing some kind of joke.
Oh yeah, I hope this new talent never goes away. I hope it stays with me forever, like herpes.
To make it even worse, I’m also throwing some of the best shots I’ve ever thrown in my life. Ya know, just for a nice contrast. Just to mix it up a bit. Just to show how ridiculous those bad shots are in comparison to what I actually know how to do. It would be soooo boring to throw only great shots, wouldn’t it? Who would want that crap?
The really great thing about these bad shots is that they leave me in some of the most interesting places to throw my next shot from. I’m talking bring a machete and a couple of sherpas interesting. Pitching back out to the fairway can sometimes be a three shot ordeal.
I’m an optimist, though, so I’ve tried to make the best of a bad situation. I figure if I’m going to be stuck in the middle of a thorn bush, trying to hit a 12″ gap to get back on the fairway, I might as well try and learn something from it. It’s either that or stay in the bushes and cry a little.[tweetthis]You can either learn from your bad shots, or you can cry about them. #discgolf[/tweetthis]
What you’ll find when you don’t end up playing the hole as it was intended, is that you often have to hit a lot of small gaps to get back out of trouble. You find yourself having to follow up your wildly inaccurate shot with one that requires laser precision. And you have to do it with your confidence severely shaken.
That shaken confidence leads to thoughts that go something like this…
- OK, whatever you do, don’t hit that tree.
- Alright, just miss that bush on the left.
- Don’t short arm this OB.
- Please just make it over the water.
Invariably, you hit the tree, put it in the bush on the left, short arm the throw OB, and deposit your disc directly into the water hazard. It never fails. The question is, why? WHYYYYYYY!?!?!?
Well, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that and the answer came to me in the form of a flashback to an occupational psychology course I took in college. Let me illustrate. Look at this picture:
Now, close your eyes and whatever you do, DON’T picture any ostriches. Pretend like your life depends on it. DO NOT picture any ostriches in your minds eye. Can’t do it, can you?
Let’s try this again. Take a look at this:
Now, turn away and whatever you do, don’t picture any kung fu kittens. Just don’t do it. Come on, I know you’ve got it in you.
Well, actually, I know you don’t have it in you. No one does. It’s not how our brains work. Our brains don’t register positive or negative qualifiers. They don’t recognize words like “do” or “don’t” or “miss” or “hit”. Our brains only recognize the main input we give them. In the above two cases, all your brain heard was “ostrich” or “kung fu kitten”. Because of that, that’s all you could picture. The harder you try to “not” see those things, the more you are putting the image of those things in your head.
This is why we have trouble on the course. “don’t hit that tree” is simply heard as “tree”. “Don’t lose my favorite disc in the water” becomes “favorite disc, water”. “Don’t throw OB” becomes “OB”. It’s just how we are wired. It’s how our software is programmed. The good news is that software can be hacked. If you understand how your brain works, you can make it do what you want.
A while back, I wrote a post about using inputs to control the outputs you want. This is the same idea. Give your brain the correct input, and it will help you produce the desired output. Use this knowledge to your benefit.
When you are trying to hit a gap, think “hit the gap”. When you are trying to stay in bounds, think “in bounds”. When you are trying to make a death put, don’t think about what’s behind the basket, just think “in the basket”.
This is not an easy task. I know this because a big part of the reason I keep throwing these awful shots in tournaments is because I let the thought “don’t throw one of those awful shots” creep into my head right before I throw. It’s human nature to always think the worst. That is something that is hardwired into our brains and takes a lot of work to change.
When we were cavemen and cavewomen, we had to assume the worst or we died. If we mistook a stick for a snake 100 times, no harm no foul. If we mistook a snake for a stick even once, we got bit and we got dead. The people who survived, bred, and passed their genes to the next generation were the pessimists. It’s the people who thought every stick was a snake that lived long enough to make little cavechildren.
This is why most of us see every gap we have to hit as the trees that define that gap. That’s why most of us see every water hazard for the water and not the shore beyond. That’s why most of us think about our come back putt before even attempting our first putt. We are hardwired to see the worst possible outcome.
So how do we fix this? Meditation and visualization. That’s right, the very same meditation I talked about in this previous post. Among many of its benefits, meditation is the intentional practice of controlling your thoughts. Your brain works like a muscle. It needs practice and exercise in order to perform a required task. It needs a lot of practice and exercise to be good at that task. But it can be trained.[tweetthis]Daily meditation can help you to be able to visualize good shots instead of bad outcomes.[/tweetthis]
Without control of the thoughts flitting through your mind, you are subject to whatever thoughts are staring you in the face instead. You are a victim of unwanted suggestions that come in from the world around you. Want to see just how powerless you are to this? Look at this picture of our dear friend Steve, the 3 legged llama.
Now, the next time you put on your shoes (especially if they are those godawful boots that look like they are made from Steve’s cousin, Margeret the Yak), I challenge you to not think of Steve. As you are putting them on, and Steve pops into your head, you will realize just how much you need to start exercising your brain with meditation. It’s your brain, learn to take control of it!
If you don’t, when you step up to throw a shot, you’ll most likely think of the things you don’t want your disc to do. This becomes even harder in competition. Under pressure, your brain reverts back to it’s ingrained habits. In this case, it often assumes the worst. Trust me, I’ve got a string of stupendously bad tournament rounds to prove it.
So take a cue from the ostriches, kung fu kittens, and 3 legged llamas of the world. Take back control of your brain. Start visualizing the positive outcomes you desire instead of the negative ones you don’t. Take 5 minutes every day and learn to be master of your own thoughts. And most importantly, if you are in my group in an upcoming tournament, laugh hysterically if my tee shot goes 90 degrees from its intended line. It’s really pretty funny when you think about it.