I get these questions a lot – “What does it take to excel in your field?” “Which part of my game shall I practice on the most?” “What made you rise to the top?” These are all good questions but, unfortunately, I believe the answers are not as easy as we’d like them to be. In a time- crunched and busy world, it’s natural to look for quick fixes and simple solutions, but in many cases the answers are highly personalized.
Unless you’re one of the extremely rare individuals who manages to catch lightning in a bottle, it takes time to achieve success. The Great Wall of China wasn’t built in a day. The first step is to determine a baseline by looking at where you are today and where you want to go. I’m a big believer in setting goals. Start with short-term goals that can be achieved in the near future. Next up are the long term goals or your future aspirations; for motivational purposes, it’s especially helpful to visualize your end destination.
Crucial to goal setting is having an ability to objectively assess your personal skills and performance. This can be hard as we have a natural tendency to overlook shortcomings or, at the very least, be neutral when assessing ourselves. This is where your support team comes into play. Feedback from your closest confidants will remove a lot of the emotional hurdles inherent in self-evaluations.
During my playing career, I realized that life is like a puzzle. It has many pieces and they all have to fit together to achieve unity and function. The word that comes to mind is “balance.” To play your best golf, you need to have balance of your social, physical, emotional and spiritual self. For example, if you are physically strong and gifted with exceptional eye-hand coordination, you have the ability to drive a golf ball long and straight. But if this is offset by emotional sensitivity that leads to low confidence, you’ll have a difficult time achieving your highest level of performance. Ultimately, we all need balance to perform and excel.
While I believe balance is the foundation for optimal performance, the means by which we learn best and achieve success are highly individualized. Some people are slow starters, others are fast out the gate. Some athletes like to practice as a group, while others like to keep to themselves. There are those who are very stubborn and possess an “I’ll show you” attitude when faced with criticism, while others require extra encouragement and support to reach their goals.
In golf, we’ll see players who rely on their heart and instinct, and others who take a more analytical approach to hitting winning shots on Sundays. One way isn’t necessarily better than the other. For example, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus employed very different methods, as did Greg Norman and Bernard Langer, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, Lorena Ochoa and me. What we all have in common, however, is knowing what tactics work best for us and then following them to play our best.
So, the bad news is there is no stock answer or one particular recipe for success. The good news is there is a way for everyone that focuses on improving your weaknesses, trusting yourself and, most of all, having fun along the way.