It’s that time to look back and reflect on the year, just as we should look back on reflect at the end of each round.  What am I doing well and what do I need to work on?  What do I have to change if I want to improve?  For those of us in the Northeast, it’s also golf’s off-season, so we should devote some of the off-course time to “conditioning” for the coming season.  For those out there getting older, flexibility is a worthwhile investment, literally and figuratively.  Even one degree of increased (or maintained) flexibility will allow for a better golf swing; just as one more degree of added tolerance for other people will allow for a better personal life. 


There are some other basic golf truisms which we should challenge ourselves to integrate. Ben Hogan famously said “The most important shot in golf is the next one.”  Let go of old resentments and the anguish of bad decisions, both of which get in the way of your enjoyment of the next hole, or the next year.  Slow down.  One of the most subtle forms of laziness is to maintain a constant engagement in activities, most of which are pursued with mindless distraction and amount to little overall gain.  An excessively busy schedule provides the illusion of good work and engagement.  Great golfers have learned to slow down – on the way to the course and on the course.  Breathe.  When you are speeding up you are likely to make more mistakes, and cannot draw upon the innate wisdom that requires silence to hear.


A harder task is to figure out what you’re not willing to give up in order to improve.  We all carry around narratives about ourselves – who we are, what we are capable of, what we can or cannot achieve.  Some people see themselves as victims and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Others see themselves as second place finishers.  Becoming aware of your narrative is the first step to re-writing it.  The second step may be harder. Usually there is a price to be paid– that price being you have to give up the story.  Here’s the catch: every story line that you think is getting in your way is also providing you some stability and comfort that you will find hard to part with. 


One of Dr. Rich’s clients talked about her lack of confidence on the golf course.  She was a low single digit handicap, but said “I was the worst three in the region.”  One day she told Dr. Rich about her recent visit to her primary care physician, who told her she had a great exam, that all her lab tests were fine, and that she deserved credit for living such a healthy life style. She mentioned that despite this good medical profile, she felt that her physical health was very tenuous and she was always anxious about some imminent illness.  She believed she was not really healthy, just like she believed she was not really a good golfer.  So, what’s your story?  “I can’t hit it far enough to be a real golfer…I don’t putt well enough…I can’t play under pressure…I can’t hit bunker shots…”   


Go on living out your story if you want to or need to, or wake up and re-write it.  This could be your year to get in touch with your story lines and re-write parts of those programs.  You may be surprised to learn that it is possible to finally get your golf game going in a new direction.  After all, we play golf to be better people, not just better golfers.  

Dr. Rich