For golfers, confidence can act like a steroid, allowing the golfer to execute seemingly super-human feats of golfing excellence. Watching a golfer who is completely confident execute a difficult shot is awe inspiring. This is part of the world’s fascination with Tiger Woods.
In the most challenging of circumstances, he pulls off shots that no one else would even attempt and makes them look easy. Tiger oozes confidence in all that he does, but even he is subject to poor golf when his confidence wanes. What causes these down spells? What is confidence and how can you have more of it? Let’s first start with a new definition of confidence.
When most people think of confidence, they think of traits that define someone who is confident such as bold, self-assured and gallant. I like to look at confidence as what it “lacks” rather than what it contains because in my book, confidence is not a state of feeling a certain way, rather it is a state of not feeling a certain way. Allow me to explain.
When you got up this morning and brushed your teeth, did you question whether or not you would successfully get the tooth brush to your target, ie your mouth? Were there any close calls? Did you come close but then jab the tooth brush into your nose?
No, you didn’t. During that time, you were completely “confident” that you would succeed in getting your tooth brush to your target with an amazing amount of precision and you have it done it thousands of times, never once missing your target. Did you have to give yourself a pep talk to accomplish this task? Did you have to think to yourself, “I can do this, I’ve got this.” Did you have to think at all?
Think just how many muscles are required to be coordinated to unscrew the cap off the tooth paste, squeeze the tube at just the right pressure to get just the right amount of tooth paste on the brush, then lifting the brush to your mouth and begin brushing with just the right amount of pressure.
There are countless complex tasks that you succeed at each and every day with astounding proficiency, never once giving them any thought. Every day, you drive your car to work, battling thousands of distractions, billboards, maniacal drivers, traffic signs, road construction, radio blaring, people honking and yet you seem to make it to work every day, never once losing your focus on your task, never letting all these distractions steer you off course.
Yet, put you over a three foot putt for par and your hands turn to stone, your heart races, your mind seems like a wild horse heaving and bucking, trying to throw you with countless thoughts, “I’ve got to save this par,” “I hit a perfect drive off the tee and now I’m going to screw it up,” “This is for my best score ever.”
Such a menial task that a 5 year old can do it, and yet grown men and women tremble at just the thought of it. Living in Orlando, I love to go play putt-putt at our countless mini golf courses. I love to go and watch the children get such a kick out of making the ball go in the hole and I always note how amazingly proficient they are on the short putts. Having never once received a putting lesson, these kids can stand over 3 footers all day and make them all.
Clearly, these children must have some great pre-shot routine right? They must be thinking how confident they are that they will make this putt. They must be concentrating really hard, knowing that they’ll go to 3 under if they make this putt, right?
Of course, you quickly realize that these children are “thinking” nothing. They have “confidence” in their ability because they because they never questioned it in the first place. They have no doubt, no fear, no concern regarding the results, no fear of the dreadful 3 foot come backer if they hit this one too hard.
They are simply in the moment, putting the ball intuitively with no thought. Confidence is not something that you have to spend years developing, it’s available to you immediately just as it was when you were a child. It’s an innate part of our being, but it is only accessible when we learn to “shut off” the critical, thinking, judging, analytical part of the mind.
Think of how “confident” you were this morning brushing your teeth and you will begin to understand how confident you can be when playing golf.