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The Golfer’s Character: The Ingredient for Success

Part I:
This article outlines, defines, and demonstrates how the game of golf exemplifies and characterizes life. It points out the good personality traits, or the "do’s," that will carry over into your business and personal relationships. For example, honor, will, strength, and courage — these are a few characteristics that the golfer must have in his arsenal to score well both on and off the course. The article also helps identify the "don’ts," the negative human traits that carry over into everyday affairs and are the demise of success. Which character traits do you exemplify? What does your golf game demonstrate to the other players? How can you live, learn, and grow on the golf course? How can we make the game of golf an experience that teaches us and reinforces character? What rules can you use to enhance your personal growth?

My purpose is to deliver to you some interesting concepts and present some questions that might ultimately enhance and improve your understanding about behavioral patterns of success. These concepts should make your golf game more enjoyable and your life more successful. My definition of “success” is “the ability to maximize your personal potential, and optimize your health and enjoyment of life.” Within this definition, like in the game of golf, the key to success is the mental, not the physical, aspect of your existence. Every day you can create the ambition and drive to enjoy your life and take care of your body from the time you awaken until the time you go to sleep. The essential part of a successful "swing" on and off the course is an inner sense of confidence and self respect. These two attributes can be obtained easier than most people think — if one develops and exercises positive self talk. Tell yourself things like: "well hit," "well struck," "nice putt," "good try," or, "at least I'm still enjoying myself." This will enhance your mental game, which is essential to patterning your mind with good positive thoughts. Carry your golf game mental patterns into your daily lives where confidence, self respect, and strength of character are all essential. You need to practice and exercise these attributes to sustain and access them in times of need.

Another essential mind attribute is to believe that you have the strength to effectively handle adversity and face any challenge that comes before you. A good way to think about mental strength is to imagine yourself as invincible or resistant to desperation and negativity, and strong enough in mind and spirit to conquer any situation you put your mind to. Imagine yourself as a combination of strength and courage and once this happens you can couple these attributes with the essence of compassion and understanding. Be an example of a strong, courageous individual with the gifted nature of forgiveness of others and a noble acceptance of unfavorable outcomes whatever they may be. Realize and be assured that, no matter what the outcome of any given moment, there will be another day, another chance, another opportunity to live and succeed.

Golf professionals seem to universally agree that you should visualize the "perfect ball flight" before contact is ever made. This is based on the complex yet simple theory that the body performs what the mind creates. It makes so much sense to develop and nourish our character not only for our success, but also for our health! Creating skills of the mind such as relaxation and visualization will have positive health effects like reducing stress and lowering blood pressure as well as improving athletic performance. It is just as important to take care of your mind as it is your body. In my practice, I see daily examples of the profound influence the mind has on the muscle tension, joint inflammation, and vital functions of the human body.

Another mind "skill" that we need to develop both on and off the links is sound "course management." This requires mental strength and sound judgment. Thinking the situation through and having courage to execute what you know to be the right "shot" are the keys to this process. In golf and business, we see people "blowing up" in the heat of tension and stress only to realize latter with much regret that thoughtless "knee-jerk" type reactions usually produce unfavorable outcomes. During your game of golf, practice this notion by developing a balanced, calm, focused thought pattern. When considering the necessary shot for any particular situation, stay in the moment and execute. For example, when setting up for a shot, calmly pick your best club for all the elements of your shot. Then, once you have committed to your decision, do not second guess yourself, but rather embrace the opportunity, execute, and let it fly. To quote Jack Lemon in the movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, "the golf game is not meant to win, only to play."

To "play" means to simply focus and perform. It is to your advantage to consider all options and visualize the anticipated outcome but don’t get caught-up or obsessed about the results. The same could be said about life; make good, solid decisions, execute your plan, and let it fly.

Part II:
Keep a solid perspective on life and don’t sweat the small stuff. Golf (and life) would be a never-ending struggle and conflict if results and winning were everything. A big part of personal growth and character is learning how to be happy. A big part of being happy is enjoying "the process."

The "process" is the time spent on or off the course — either practicing, playing, or learning more about the game. Just like life, golf will always present us with never-ending challenges with many highs and lows. This leads to one of golf’s most precious lessons: Your enjoyment and happiness should not be contingent upon perfecting your golf swing or winning. The process, however, can be enjoyed regardless of the outcome and produce a successful experience. Winning can certainly be viewed as a part of success, but I would rather consider it one of life’s bonuses rather than a necessity. If we understand and utilize the lessons that golf can bring to our lives, a stronger character will be certain to evolve. Character is gained and true success is the outcome when we are able to prioritize the concept of enjoying the process.

How often do you find that a person’s character on the golf course mirrors their behavior in a business environment? I strongly believe the answer to be one hundred percent of the time. Success is built upon good relationships. To develop these kinds of relationships among our peers, we begin with gentlemen-like behaviors that naturally instill confidence and trust. Good handshakes, honest scoring, playing by the rules, and kind words of encouragement are just a few of the behaviors that we should be proud to exhibit. Golf builds character which can be an asset to successful business lives.

Another important notion of success is that hard work needs to be balanced with relaxation. Perhaps this might entail a vacation or simply a kind exchange of words with your colleague at the end of the day. On the course, perhaps this means to take a nice deep breath and moment to relax, absorb, and positively reflect on the well-executed shots of your round. Frequent, simple relaxation techniques and positive self talk can enhance your game and life.

Find ways that you can become the person that people respect and enjoy as a golfing partner. What makes a good golfing partner, the "do’s," is someone who enjoys the "process," follows the long-standing etiquette of the golf game, and has an unselfish style and demeanor. One of my favorite sayings is, "You are what you think." In contrast, in an example of the "don’ts," a poor golfing partner’s behavior is one who relies on selfish acts to get through his/her round. They attempt (consciously or unconsciously) to bring other players down to their level to alleviate their own stress and struggles. The selfish, unsportsman-like conduct manifests itself in people who are afraid of being the lowest denominator and have a blurred vision of the difference between failure and true success.

The ultimate and primary goal for golfers on and off the course should be to strengthen one’s character. Just like the golf swing, it may not come easy. You need to exercise your mind in order to sustain positive and productive thought patterns. You can carry this into your daily life and express and exemplify what successful people want as a business partner or employee. You have the skills if you will only practice. What makes you and the game of golf so unique is that while "playing" this great game the way it was meant to be played, you are continually able to exercise your mind with the necessary thoughts and characteristics of a successful individual. You can exemplify the same personality traits to your employer or business partner as you did on the golf course yesterday and be respected for having great character. Here are some guidelines and a summary of the principals:

The Eleven Principles of the Golfer’s Character:
1) Honor, will, strength, and courage are essential to life
2) Believe in yourself and be truthful with others
3) Have direction and accessible goals
4) Live and appreciate each moment as if there is no tomorrow
5) Appreciate the goodness in others and never dwell on negative actions
6) Treat your body as a temple of your soul and greatness
7) Develop strategies and execute your sound decisions
8) Always be positive and remain focused on the present
9) Be diligent with your plans and continually strive to be better
10) Exalt others and be mindful to encourage yourself
11) Be a true gentleman (person) at all times

The creation of a thought is the first step in the process of maximizing our physical actions. The process of drilling a physical action (practice) is the cornerstone for building your game. And, the execution of your plan will create the final score, that being ultimate success in life.

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