A blog about judgment; I hope you approve

That’s me (left) and Howard Glassman on stage at the Toronto Golf Show last weekend. I felt it was OK to use this picture because Howard is in this blog.

Ezine #3—When my boys were in high school, I often suggested they join various clubs and participate in social activities beyond sports. Apparently, however, engaging in such things would be “uncool.”

Of course, I translated uncool to mean, “I’d love to act on your great wisdom dear father, but I’m terribly afraid of being judged by my mean-spirited peers.”

You don’t have to be a teenager to be concerned about what people think about you. Our primitive brains are programmed that way to keep us alive.

Golfers tend to worry about how they will be judged. There’s a seductive payoff, but it can also have a significant and destructive impact on your game as Howard Glassman was reminded recently. On our most recent Swing Thoughts podcast, my co-host admitted that he suffered a mini-meltdown during a winter round in California.

He related that he had been torn between clubs, and changed his mind three times before he finally went ahead even though he wasn’t committed to the shot. Howard called it an “anyway.”

He was quoting U.S. golf coach Joseph Parent who told us that an anyway is any shot taken even though you’re not committed to it. As in, ‘I don’t know if this is the right club, but I’m going to hit it anyway because any minute these guys are going to say, Come on, this isn’t the U.S. Open.’

Of course, he hit it terribly, and got mad—not at the shot, he said, but for not following his process, which is to never hit a shot until he’s committed. He admitted, sure, he was thinking about what the guys his group might say about the time he was taking. Yes, even a radio morning man can suffer these things. Golf is hard.

I know how he feels. When I’ve taken longer than what I consider “normal” to pick a club or decide on strategy, I have started to think: “Oh brother, the guys are going to get impatient. I’m going to get some abuse if I don’t hit this damn thing.”

We all do it. (Ok, if you’re exceedingly selfish, a sociopath or a PGA Tour player, maybe you don’t.)

But seriously folks, how does thinking about what others are thinking about you affect your shot? Do you rush your process in an effort to appease what you assume is your partners’ growing impatience? Are you prone to hit an “anyways” when you are less than 100% committed to a shot?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, or the situation is similar to other experiences, you’re not a wretched and weak human being. You are exceedingly normal.

But it does lead to an interesting question: Do you modify your behaviour and choices because of your concerns—fear might be the better word—about how you will be judged?

It’s not all bad. There is a payoff, potentially. By doing what you think others might approve of, you might not be needled, you decrease the risk that others might talk about you critically behind your back, and chances are you might maintain your status in the group.

Then again, the jerks might abuse you and shun you anyways.

The payoff matters a great deal. We want to be liked—unless you’re that grizzled PGA Tour player—and we want lots of friends to share adult beverages with.

But there are costs. What individual freedoms are you giving up to meet the standards of another person or the group? Are you making choices that are aligned with your wants, needs and values? What are you sacrificing? Are you having an emotional reaction that you repress but still carry around with you?

And, lastly, how does living up to others’ expectations or seeking approval help you live out the life that you seek for yourself? Are you short-changing yourself, living small and following a path that is not fully your own?

Holy cow, heady stuff, I know. You might be thinking—all of that drama when all I’m trying to do is decide between hitting a knock-down six- or a stock seven-iron over a pond?

Let’s pick this up next week. I’m worried you might think this blog is getting too long and I’m self-indulgent. (In the meantime, I’d love to get your thoughts—either publically or privately.)

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a performance coach, an award-winning writer, Head Coach of the University of Guelph golf team and Mental Performance Coach at the ClubLink Academy at Glen Abbey. He is co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and a leader in training in the ManKind Project. He gets all excited when he helps people tap into their brilliance.

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