Precision, Accuracy,Efficiency, error-free and Perfection are all excellent qualities to possess in many endeavors. However if taken to an extreme, particularly in Golf, the very same qualities that breeds success can cause failure.Perfectionism is a double edged sword. Most Players who are perfectionists,in their efforts to get better, tend to push themselves to an extreme level. The positive side is that they develop an excellent work ethic and a great practice mindset. They are often identified as a coaches’ delight! However, the negative side is that they tend to have an ineffective performance mindset which can interfere with them reaching peak performance.
A perfectionist sets very high standards/goals and high expectations from oneself. This attitude cannot tolerate failure and there is simply no room for errors, misses or anything less than a perfect performance. The game of Golf to add to the woes fosters perfectionism and yet as human beings we aren’t perfect. So, when a perfectionist makes a mistake which is almost inevitable in Golf, frustration set in. This in turn leads to ineffective behaviors such as criticizing oneself & thereby hampering one’s confidence, trying too hard or pressing and trying to control the swings too much -all in order to play at their best & produce desired results. They will be engulfed with a fear of failure and caught in a chaos of anxiety. All this will only snowball further into deterioration of their execution and thereby the performance. .
It’s said that Golf is a game of misses and one who can manage their mistakes/misses effectively will prevail. In this article, I present some ideas for dealing with the negative side of Perfectionism.
Do Away with your Expectations
Expectations cannot exist without upsets. Expectations are always about results and results are not under anybody’s direct control. Placing high expectations on oneself will lead to a win-lose or a success-failure equation. There is no middle ground and therefore whenever one doesn’t reach their expectation, the efforts are viewed as a loss or a failure. Therefore failed expectations almost certainly leads to frustration (a mind-set not favourable for success or peak performance). So, setting attainable goals are a better option and further breaking them down into process & action goals such as hitting certain number of fairways per round, maintaining the swing tempo, visualizing every shot to be played etc. are some examples of process, action / controllable goals.
Emphasize Fun, not Winning
Everyone loves to win and that is the ultimate goal of any sportsman. However, over emphasis on winning or beating others, will result in performance anxiety. When one cannot directly control the outcome of the competition & when everyone is doing their best to win, a better competitive goal is to focus on enjoyment and having fun on the course. When one is having fun, the body is more relaxed, the mind is more open for possibilities. All these conditions will only lead to peak performance and are pre conditions to playing in the ‘zone’& maybe eventually post a winning score.
Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
A perfectionist has a tendency to focus more on his mistakes and the negatives in order to find a solution, eliminate or even worse avoid. During competition, it will lead to a tendency to focus on avoiding failure rather than striving for success. The more we try to avoid failure, the more we fail! .This mind set of dwelling on mistakes is unhealthy. It constantly reminds one of their deficiency or weakness which only erodes ones self-belief and confidence.Research suggests that; one who has the ability to focus on the positives and ones strengths, will be able to bounce back from setbacks and temporary failures. A good strategy would be to make a conscious choice of letting go of errors and develop the ability to remember, recollect and visualize the good shots rather than replaying the bad shots over and over.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes
A Perfectionist comes from a view that anything short of a flawless performance is failure. We know that even the Best of the Best golfers make mistakes. We are only human and prone to making a mistake. One has to accept that errors are bound to occur. So sometimes it helps to give oneself permission to make mistakes. This will enable the player to play on with freedom, confidence and composure, even after making mistakes without ruining ones game.
Most hardworking players think that while competing, the harder they try the better they will play. In Golf especially, the harder one tries, the worse the outcome gets. That’s because when one tries harder, the muscles tense up, interfering with a smooth & natural swing. It’s beautifully summed up saying, “one has to give up control to gain control”. Next time you compete on the course, just trust yourself and let things happen instead of ‘trying’ to make things happen – you may surprise yourself!