How to make a difference during a virus lockdown? ‘All you can do is, do your best’

An email to a golf professional friend came back with one of those automated replies. Within his message: “I have been laid off …”
 
Ouch. I know many golf professionals and instructors whose ability to make a living has taken a massive hit.
 
Salaried-professionals are being laid off because golf courses in Ontario are not allowed to open. Professionals who live on lesson revenue are trying to figure out—very quickly—how to earn money with online instruction.
 
They are among millions of people whose lives have been thrown into chaos, uncertainty and fear. Every day, thousands more are laid off. 
 
It’s shattering to read about people suddenly without income, but with rent, mortgages and bills to pay, and food and medicine to buy. I hear about people declaring bankruptcy. A friend told me about an acquaintance who committed suicide.
 
I have been doing my best to share some thoughts through my blogs, social media posts, podcasts, and in organizations in which I belong, and to provide some perspective that could help people deal with their fears and stress.
 
On the weekend, I read about an American couple with two kids who suddenly have zero income, no savings, no relatives nearby and little opportunity to make money in the short term. They are going out of their minds with worry, and they are beating themselves up for putting their family in this position. 
 
There are millions more like them.
 
And I felt helpless. I don’t want to be a hollow giver of advice, which is usually worthless anyway, just a projection of my stuff.
 
What could I write that could make a difference when people are living in a state of fear? Am I arrogant enough to believe that I have anything to offer from my sheltered place in the world?
 
Then, I realized that my worrying and self-flagellation is part of the cycle of stress and worry that is consuming so many people right now.
 
When times get tough, thoughts loop around my head like a train on a circular track. The thought train invariably carries messages and judgments that if I’d been smarter, made some better choices, and prepared myself better, I wouldn’t be in this mess. 
 
Sadly, I’ve carried these same thoughts and judgments like a sack of rocks across my back throughout my adult life.
 
My frustration as a golfer helped me realize my patterns. Despite working endlessly on my swing for decades, I was frustrated, and judged myself mercilessly as un-athletic and undisciplined. I was in a chronic cycle of seeking fixing, hope and fear.
 
This became apparent to me when I started studying the approach of Fred Shoemaker of Extraordinary Golf. At a workshop, Fred’s coaching partner Garry Lester posed this little beauty to me one day: “Do you have a mind? Or, are you your mind?”
 
Understanding that I have a mind—that I was not my mind—provided me with some freedom. I realized I am not my thoughts. 
 
They are just thoughts, ideas, projections, fantasies, mental chatter. Like a never-ending supply of space junk floating up from my past. I generate this junk, but they are not me. 
 
My true self is not defined by thoughts. I don’t even know what my true self—my essence—is, but it’s not a bunch of judgments, comparisons and evaluations.
 
When I view my thoughts as things distinct from me, I can slow the train of thinking, and put the brakes on the judgments that disempower me.
 
And then what? 
 
This mind stuff was a good start, especially for golf, which right now seems trivial as a game, but is very important to me as a coach as a business, just as it is for golf professionals and the entire golf industry.
 
How do I go forward, and do things that will make a difference, especially in such a troubled time? 
 
It came up in a conversation this past weekend with Father Vernon Boyd of Holy Rosary Church in Guelph, where I am a parishioner. 
 
We were talking about the challenge he faces in trying to write a homily that will provide perspective and direction for his parishioners, and about my challenge to write a blog that could provide something beneficial to my readers.
 
He said, “All you can do is, do your best.”
 
It was the same advice I give to the University of Guelph golf team before tournaments. Prepare the best you can, and then, all you can do is do your best.
 
After my conversation with Father Boyd, I realized that core teachings in spirituality and Fred Shoemaker say much the same things. 
 
That is, our true self has everything it needs to prosper, achieve mastery and meet our challenges. It’s not external. Our challenge is to understand that our thoughts, judgments and patterns are the rumblings of our false selves.
 
Whether you believe in some kind of creator or God, or nothing at all, we are all blessed with talents and traits—inner gold—that provide us with the capability to deal with whatever comes our way. 
 
Just go back a few generations, and our relatives have survived world wars, polio, Spanish flu, famines, the Depression of the ‘30s, you name. We are resilient. We will beat this virus.
 
This core conviction doesn’t mean we won’t have thoughts and fears, and that we’ll be shielded from threats to our families, health or financial security.
 
But that conviction allows us to put the brakes on the thought trains and fears—even temporarily—and call upon our inner resources to do our best to deal with whatever we’re dealt.
 
I believe that’s all we can do.
 
If you would like to connect for a complimentary 30-minute coaching session, send me an email to tim@oconnorgolf.ca.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf and mental performance coach, an award-winning writer, and Head Coach of the University of Guelph golf team. He is the 2020 Lorne Rubenstein Media Award, given by Golf Ontario. He is author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story, and co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman. And he plays bass in CID—a punk band!

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