The Gift of Gratitude

Fortunately, I’ve never been one of those people: The folks that race around on Christmas Eve hoping they can still find gifts.

If you’re one of those people, well, hey, no judgment. I can’t stand stores and malls to begin with, so it’s just pain avoidance. I think it’s the same reason I haven’t suffered a hangover in years. Touch wood.

I was thinking of what I could offer on Christmas Eve to you folks kind of enough to subscribe to my blog. Or those who didn’t unsubscribe after I subscribed you.

Here’s what I came up with: The gift of gratitude.

Of course, I can’t give it to you. I’m suggesting you give it to yourself.

Rather than wax on about the features and benefits of gratitude, which many of you already know, I thought I’d share a great story, which fell into my lap last week on the Swing Thoughts podcast that I do with Howard Glassman.

Our guest was Karl Morris, the highly regarded British performance coach who has worked with Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and many more. 

I was turned on to him by Sean Foley about 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve studied Karl’s books, CDS, gone through some of his trainings, and become a big fan of his podcast. He’s become a mentor and frequent guest on our podcast; nine times, actually.

On episode #184 recorded last week, Karl related that a routine medical test earlier this year indicated some trouble. After more tests, it turned out that two heart arteries were 96 to 98 per cent blocked. 

“It was a huge shock,” he said. At the time, Karl said he was feeling great, doing high-intensity cardio and vigorous weight training. “I never felt fitter in my life.”

He felt OK because tributaries had grown in his heart to make up for the blockages. “These kept me alive.”

In September, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery, and he’s had to deal with complications since, even recently. “It’s been tough,” he said. “I’ve played a few par fives into the wind the last few weeks.”

While the experience was scary, it brought him some perspective that has significantly influenced his approach to golf and life.

“It reinforced to me the idea of gratitude and appreciation,” he said. “It can sound trite when you’re buzzing through life and you think there’s always another round to play, then all of a sudden life goes, ‘Uh oh, I have a message for you: Don’t assume you have another season to play.’

“’What if you could be grateful for what you have today?’”

Gratitude is often bandied about in self-help, mindfulness and even in some golf circles, but it’s often scoffed at as soft; something nice to do. Kind of like having a cup of herbal tea and a bath when you can’t sleep.

It’s out of tune with folks who post and pontificate that we should constantly strive to make birdie on every hole, never be satisfied. 

It’s a key part of the happiness formula: I’ll be happy when ___________.

Such as ‘I’ll be happy when I move from a ’25 handicap to 18,’ ‘five to scratch,’ ‘win an event,’ ‘a major, two majors.’ ‘Or I’ll be happy when I get the promotion, that car, a 1,000 followers, a million likes.’

But the ‘I’ll be happy when _____ ‘ formula is a promise that never delivers. 

Think about your own triumphs. They’re certainly great, but in a day or two, a week… poof. This is not to say don’t try to win a tournament or reach any goal. This is just a word of caution that reaching a goal doesn’t turn your grey skies permanently blue. All parts of life—the good and not so good—trudge on.

When Karl related his experience, it led to a discussion on the podcast that one of the wonderful by-products of gratitude is that you’re in the moment; you’re not saying things should be another way. You’re not judging. Or saying ‘If only.’

In a state of gratitude, we’re in the moment… we’re right here…. peaceful…. accepting.

Lest you think this is more gooey-McMindfulness treacle, consider this:

Gratitude is a recipe for playing great golf.

Karl said: “If you’re going to play well, you have to be present to the puzzle that the golf course is presenting to you right now in this moment. That simple concept is very hard to do when you’re constantly thinking, ‘I’ll be happy when I win a major, get enough money.’

“The more I look at it, gratitude is a foundational position for peak performance; the best expression you have on a given day.”

It’s also a wonderful antidote to self-absorption and constantly asking yourself, ‘How am I doing?’ which puts you on an emotional roller coaster, which is not fun nor a recipe for good golf. Simply heading into a round with the intent to feel gratitude is grounding. 

Karl said his health scare and his thoughts on gratitude led him to ask some questions:

“What is real? What will last longer than these outcomes that I thought were going to make me happy? And it comes back to what’s happening today and can I be grateful for it, and appreciate what I have today.”

Wise words from a wise fellow.

I’m grateful that I have people such as Karl Morris and Howard in my life with whom I can learn and speak with. It’s quite a privilege.

And I’m very grateful to you for reading my blogs and listening to the podcast, and for the kind comments that some of you have sent my way.

Thank you.

All the best to you and your family this Christmas season and in 2022. 

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!