By Ed Tseng
Everyone wants to be "in the zone" more often. We've all experienced it before -- nothing could deter our play -- and we crave the ability to find that place once more. But when we try to get in the zone, it always seems to evade us, and we convince ourselves that the high-performance state is something that simply shows up at random.
What if I told you that's not true? What if it's possible to actually be in the zone naturally? Would you believe me?
I wouldn't. I didn't, until I spoke with someone who's spent the last 20 years studying what makes players get -- and stay -- in the zone.
Ed Tseng is an internationally recognised mental performance consultant who has worked with tennis, baseball, basketball and golf professionals, and helped thousands play their best when it matters the most. I asked him some tough questions about why someone plays bad under pressure and what golfers of every level can do to have a better mindset and, in turn, shoot lower scores.
You can listen to a sample of the audio here. These are the five biggest mental mistakes golfers make, according to Tseng:
1. They think about their thinking.
A round of golf contains a huge amount of thinking time. The problem is not the thinking that pops up in our heads; the problem is that we spend too much time thinking about our thinking. Even the best golfers in the world have insecure thinking, but the difference between the best and the rest is that the best don't concern themselves when those thoughts arise.
2. They blame external sources for their feelings.
Ask 99.9 percent of golfers and they will agree that missing an easy putt, tough weather conditions, and/or their results can affect how they feel. Guess what? NOTHING outside of you can affect how you feel. The only thing that can affect your feelings is your thinking in the moment. Case in point: from a low mood, you may think "How can you miss that shot?!?" So it seems like missing the shot is making you feel angry. But take a different scenario: you are feeling confident and you miss a shot . . . do you react the same way? No way. You will probably say something like "That's just one shot, no big deal." It's not the circumstance, it's 100 percent your thinking about the circumstance.
3. They believe that positive thoughts are better than negative thoughts.
When you believe this paradigm, you are creating a duality and when you do not have positive thoughts, you will stress and search for them, and that will take you out of the present moment. And the present moment is where you play your best golf. The reality is, even positive thoughts can hurt you. Ever think "Man, I'm playing great today" then proceed to witness a downward spiral in your performance? The key is not staying positive and avoiding the negative. The key is staying cool regardless of what thoughts pop up in your head, and therefore coming back to the shot at hand.
4. They focus on the past or the future.
You can learn from the past, and you can plan for the future, just don't live there. Focusing on a past shot is like driving a car only looking in the rear view mirror. Fast forwarding yourself into the future (good or bad) will also take away from quality shots in the moment. We can only experience what we are focusing on in the moment, so if we are focused on the past or the future, we cannot experience flow, satisfaction, or the present.
5. They use techniques, routines and rituals to try and make themselves play in the zone.
People don't realize that the zone is our default, our true nature. Look at young children, they are always in the moment yet they don't use a "strategy" to get there. When we play our best golf, we are not thinking too much and therefore play "out of our mind." So why would we use a technique to make us think more? It doesn't work and it isn't necessary.