Pressure-Proof

I play golf about once a season.  I actually grew up playing and had a better handicap at 16 years old than I do now.  Golf is one of those things where I feel like I haven’t really improved over the years, which doesn’t seem right.

I understand the fundamentals and perform flawlessly when chipping balls in my backyard.  My game is still reasonable when I hit the range.  On the course, however, it’s ironically hit or miss.  The culprit?  It’s nerves.  It’s pressure.  It’s mental.  It’s nothing.

I was thinking about pressure situations and how people respond differently.  It’s so easy to let pressure influence you to the point that it overtakes you and potentially changes the outcome.  It’s easier to perform at high levels when there is no or little pressure.

I’ve had a strategy for years on how to respond to pressure situations.  I always work to remove the mental pressure by outlining the worst-case scenario.  You know, the “What’s the worst thing that happens if I screw this up?” type scenario.  If you can answer that question, for me, it removes much of the stress associated with the pressure to perform.

I used to work with a guy that was the absolute opposite.  He would always raise the bar and fill any situation with as much pressure as possible.  He’d say things like, “If we screw this up, we’ll never recover.”  It would drive me insane.  It created a situation where I could never feel like it went well.  His pressure making ways would create a situation where I found it hard to concentrate.

I asked him once how come he built up situations so much.  He told me that the pressure drew out his best performance.  He’d practiced the idea of pressure.  Over the years he was never afraid of awkward situations and he’d actually go out of his way to create them.

The philosophy was the more comfortable you are in abnormal situations the less likely you are to waiver when all the eyes are on you.  And you could become more pressure-proof by loving awkward situations.  While my golf game hasn’t improved much, I do believe I’ve gotten better at being awkward and maybe that’ll eventually help something.