How being grateful can help your golf game (and your life)
The 2020-21 PGA Tour season kicked off in Napa, Calif. … and I enjoyed a week away from professional golf. But even though I wasn’t out on Tour, I was still involved in the game. I gave golf lessons for the first time in a long while. I worked with my Columbus State University golf teams. I watched my eldest daughter play in a couple of middle school golf matches, and I enjoyed time at home.
It was a much-needed recharge and, to be honest, I did not watch much of the action at the Safeway Open. However, I did catch a few of the tournament highlights and I was beyond excited to see Stewart Cink return to the winner’s circle.
Cink was obviously emotional after the win and his post-tournament comments were poignant, moving and insightful. (There were also a few golf lessons weaved into his words including):
“I just had a lot of gratitude in my heart … I went over to her (wife, Lisa) and I just leaned in and told her we got a lot to be thankful for.”
As a college coach and an instructor to hundreds of competitive golfers I have preached this message ad nauseam. I truly believe that adopting a thankful outlook, both on the course and off, has a positive and uplifting influence on one’s life, and by extension, performance. My beliefs have been confirmed upon further reading, research, and discussion with multiple leading sports psychologists, including Dr. Bhrett McCabe, Phil Shomo and Dr. Josie Perry (who have been guests on my “On the Mark” Golf podcast).
Consider the following observations from Taylor Montgomery of themvptraining.com:
Gratitude is linked to physical and psychological health
“Grateful people report fewer aches and pains and are more likely to take better care of their health. In addition to physical health, gratitude has positive effects on our psychological health. In fact, research shows that gratitude improves well-being, increases happines, and reduces depression.”
Gratitude improves self-esteem
“When we have low self-esteem it creates psychological baggage that impairs our ability to focus and process information—two things that are vital to a successful athletic performance. Self-esteem refers to an internal belief an athlete has about themself. One way to improve self-esteem is by practicing gratitude. One study found that grateful athletes have an increased self-esteem.”
Gratitude promotes better sleep
“Sleep is a huge part of the recovery process for athletes given the strenuous amounts of physical training. Utilizing a gratitude journal before bed has been associated with better and longer sleep. Some athletes report pre-performance jitters the night before a big performance, resulting in inadequate sleep.”
Gratitude facilitates resilience
“Sports aren’t for the faint hearted. The days can be long, the practices can be grueling, and results can sometimes be frustrating. Practicing gratitude and recognizing everything you have to be thankful for – even during hardships – facilitates resilience. An attitude of gratitude can help reframe a setback and kickstart your way back to optimal performance.”
And probably most importantly (from my point of view) being grateful makes you a better partner and a more fun golfer to play alongside. You have all been subjected that one person who gripes and moans and finds fault with everything from when he or she arrives at the course. Yes, that person you probably try to avoid ever since.
Being grateful, for everything, is a mindset, a discipline and a habit. You can cultivate that habit by trying something my wife, Tracy, put in place in our home. We have a “Gratitude Jar”. This jar is located in our living room with a pen and notecards alongside. Whenever something good happens we note it on a card and drop it into the jar. In the end of the month reconciliation, it is incredible to see how many good events have taken place. Get in the habit of doing this for a little and you will turn your attitude.
Apply said attitude while on the golf course (and even keep a Gratitude Golf Journal), and watch your results improve.