The beginning of the year is seen by the majority of people as a time for a fresh start or more of the same depending on what it is you are doing. A fresh start implies change for the better. For golfers it could be to play more regularly, improve your game through coaching or win an event.
However lofty your ambitions, it is the habits of action you put in place which are most likely to determine whether or not you go close to or exceed your ambition. Rather than focussing purely on lowering your handicap, focus instead on the things which will ensure you achieve that goal.
If you set a programme of a lesson each month and following a practice plan each week along with one or two rounds of golf, you are headed in the right direction.
I recommend you read this article by James Clear on the difference between setting goals and systems. In the article Clear explains how merely setting a goal and doing nothing more can actually hinder your progress. Consistently following a system or plan is far more likely to result in long-term improvement.
Even more important than setting your plan is your attitude to improvement. What is your reason for pursuing your goal? Thinking about your reason doesn’t inspire you to action immediately and you are likely to struggle as your motivation levels will naturally rise and fall across the year.
Do you truly believe you will achieve your goal for the year? It is one thing to believe that your goal can only be realised with consistent and persistent effort. It is quite another to doubt that you can achieve your goal. There is nothing wrong with the challenge; in fact the greater the challenge, the greater the sense of satisfaction when you achieve your objective. Doubting that you can achieve your goal can be the same as believing that you won’t achieve it.
What is the attitude you need to bring to each practice session? It needs to be one of doing the work which will bring about your improvement, even if you don’t recognise progress from session to session. It means following the advice your coach has provided even if it is different to what you thought was required…this is usually the case. It means persisting with your plan even if you have a couple of months where improvement isn’t occurring as quickly as you would like.
Research findings show that the experience of doing the activities that might lead to goal achievement bring better results than focussing purely on the goal itself. This article by Dr Christian Jarrett explains how gym goers and yoga class participants had greater long-term improvement by enjoying the experience of taking the class and the pleasure of the activity than those who focussed solely on the improvements they wanted.
I have personally found that being present in whatever activity I am doing brings me the most pleasure, whether that is running, riding, coaching or enjoying dinner with my family and friends. The enjoyable sensations might differ in each situation but always leave me wanting to repeat the experience. I do set goals, but then set my mind to the activities required to achieve them. I review my progress and then make adjustments if I need to rather than having a continual focus on the goals themselves.
Which approach works best for you?