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The secret to golf happiness? Put enjoyment ahead of achievement

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Sometimes things get fuzzy in golf and a reset is exactly what you need.

Very often my phone will ring, or I’ll get an “emergency” text and a player-client will be in a funk. Their focus unconsciously shifts to the many distractions around them. It’s often about things they have no control over. They’re worried about an outcome, their enjoyment disappears, everything seems difficult and the game becomes tedious. This starts the inevitable downward spiral.

In my business, it’s all about achievement — reaching higher and getting to the next level. If I don’t generate the results for a client, and help them find the potential within themselves, I’m out of a job. And, that’s the way it should be. I’m in the high-performance business and performers want results.

The tricky part here is that, humorously enough, focusing on the achievement is not the best way to go about elevating achievement.

In order to get to a high level of performance and reach set goals, there are two primary areas that are important to elevate performance and sustain it. I always refer to enjoyment as the first cog in the wheel and achievement as the second cog. The order is quite important because enjoyment is always a key to sustainable high performance. Can you succeed without it? Yes, for a short period. But, over time, when enjoyment is not at the center of performance, I get the call like the one I mentioned above.

From a young age, many golfers pursue achievement so aggressively and persistently that they actually forget about the enjoyment part. They assume that if they seek achievement — and get it — enjoyment will just follow automatically, but it’s not quite that simple.

I was a direct victim of the enjoyment vs achievement phenomena when I played professional golf. I would practice as hard and long as I could to get better, continually pursuing golf perfection that I thought was needed to play professional golf, and I slowly slipped into a state of misery, not knowing that enjoyment might be important in having a sustainable professional golf career. In retrospect, if I focused more on seeking enjoyment in the game and really enjoyed the journey, and put a central focus on the real reason why I was playing the game (because I loved it and it was fun) and created a plan around that, my career results may have been significantly different. I blindly pursued achievement, but forgot about enjoyment.

So what does that mean for you?

You might consider your perspective of enjoyment and achievement and try shifting the enjoyment to the forefront of your golf experience — no matter what your level. Think about why you play. Is it to enjoy the game or achieve something, or both? For almost all of us it is both. If it is for you, remember the order of importance; enjoyment will support achievement, not the other way around. Making enjoyment a priority will help you in your pursuit of achievement and reaching your potential in the game. Putting achievement first may not help you maximize your golf experience and could put you on a path where your original purpose (your love of the game) may get lost in the shuffle.

So, go ahead and achieve something in the game. Have a plan, work hard and make progress. But don’t lose sight of enjoying the game and your purpose for playing it. If you focus on this balance, sustainable achievement will be possible and you’ll maximize your time in the game.

This is transferable to everything you do. The more you enjoy something, often the better and more consistent you’ll be!

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. more than one way to skin a cat.....

    Apr 21, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Your not shooting the lowest round of your life, try to shoot the best you have ever on the next hole. Or play for good shots and take score outta mental equation if not for money or in tourney. Don’t beat yourself up! Botttom line, you’re on the course. Many others aren’t that wish they could be, and are not for one reason or another. I’m never going on the tour. My index is there for a reference in competitive golf matches. In the end, we all play good sometimes, and bad sometimes. Your golfing, find enjoyment somewhere while at what I consider my home away from home. There is always a way to make it fun, may be the worst round you ever had, but if you keep playing that may be the day your scorecard showing all of your 3-putts, has a hole-in-one is hanging in the proshop proving to you and others you should never give up or let it get to you.

  2. digitalbroccoli

    Apr 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    If you can’t laugh at you own bad shots, you’re playing for the wrong reasons. Until we start making a living shooting lower scores, just enjoy the game.

    • John Haime

      Apr 21, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Hi DB …

      Professionals also need to pay attention to the enjoyment. Perspective can spiral quickly if priorities are not in the right order. This really does apply as much to those making a living playing golf.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. MRC

    Apr 20, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Enjoyed your article John. Eight months ago I set a goal to lower my index the best way I knew how to….Hard work and dedication. In three months, my index went from an eight to a five.
    I was on on cloud 9 so I thought. To play golf consistently at this level wasn’t going to happen. I found myself getting upset on the course rather than enjoying my time playing golf. The fun dried up and I wanted to quite playing this awful time consuming sport. Your article put everything into perspective. I’m playing tomorrow and putting enjoyment ahead of achievement!
    Thanks again!

    • John Haime

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:52 am

      Great comment and I think alot of people feel the same way MRC. Congrats on the drop of the index – but that can be challenging when more time and effort is required to keep getting better. We’re all trying to achieve and get better – but I think the message of the article – putting enjoyment first – insures people will maximize their time in the game, stay with it and improve their level of play with a great attitude toward their game. If the fun dries up, time to change something!

  4. Shallowface

    Apr 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Agree. There is NOTHING enjoyable about bad golf.

  5. Headcase

    Apr 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Actually, this article makes perfect sense. Normally when I hit a few bad shots, the wheels come off the bus and I’ve got no way to right the ship (mixing metaphors, but you get the point). It’s a vicious circle; I’m unhappy with my play which leads to more bad shots, which leads to more unhappiness, etc

    I was fortunate enough to play TPC Sawgrass last Sunday. It was a thoroughly enjoyable round, despite the howling wind. I hit a series of pretty loose shots early on the back 9, but was able to convince myself that it was a nice day and a nice course (in pretty good condition, but not quite ready for primetime yet). After a few holes that were trending the wrong direction, I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s a good day and a fun game. I even managed to play the 3 finishing holes in 1 over (pretty good, for me!).

  6. timbleking

    Apr 20, 2016 at 1:18 am

    What if your enjoyment IS actually achievement while playing golf?

    • John Haime

      Apr 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      This is a big problem with many golfers. If they don’t achieve what they expect – they don’t enjoy themselves. Fine to enjoy and appreciate good play – but carefully prioritize enjoyment and achievement. As you know, you won’t play well everyday – and hit alot of bad shots – so enjoy the journey – good and bad – reflect – and keep building your game.

  7. rory

    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    why not enjoy it anyways….or sell your clubs and stop playin cause obviously you missed every point Haime made…..ijs

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