The Voice doesn’t go away, but you can pause it

“How do I silence The Voice that is constantly saying negative things to me?”

This is one of most frequently asked questions that I get every year as a coach who is known for dealing with mental stuff. In fact, I was asked twice this week during my Obedience Training For Your Brain webinars.

What is The Voice? It’s the innner dialogue in your head. That constantly barking critic that tells you what to do, and especially what you can’t do. It calls you names. It tells you that you’re not good enough—you don’t have the smarts, talent, experience, and on and on. 

It’s hectors you with all kinds of negative nattering. ‘Don’t hit it in the water again, you idiot.’ ‘You’re going to three-putt this green just like #8.’ ‘Do you really think you can hit this green?’ You can’t close a tournament.’ ‘You suck!’

The Voice is a product of your ego, your conscious mind. It’s the part of your mind charged with keeping you alive, so it focuses on danger, like the backseat driver who never shuts up.

Every golfer is pestered by The Voice. Even PGA and LPGA tour players. But they know how to shut it up when they need to.

The best way to silence The Voice—just for the few seconds it takes to hit a shot—is to distract it. You do that by keeping it busy.

For example, you could use an external target to focus on, such as a letter or logo on your golf ball. Or you could watch the club swing through the ball. You could also have your target in your mind’s eye, such as the flagstick, a tree or a cloud.

By focusing on something external or a feeling in your body, you are keeping your mind busy. It cannot focus on two things at once. (That’s why texting and driving can be fatal.)

While you are, for example, focused on the logo on your ball while you swing, you have, in essence, pressed pause on your thoughts.

By focusing your attention on something that’s physical, you are also in the present moment and concentrating on something real.  

Thoughts are usually just epherma, messages, beliefs and shadows that are based in the past. (More on this soon.)

In golf, your thoughts are most always focused on attaining a future outcome, and on avoiding potential dangers such as a topping your drive off the first tee or missing a very short putt.  

The thoughts in your head are not real. But the ball, club, your body, the environment are real. They are made of physical matter. 

By focusing on what’s real, we stop self-interfereing and allow our bodies to do what they’re capable of innately.

Shutting The Voice up takes training and time. For your next practice session or round, find something that you can focus on while you swing or make a stroke, and commit to it.

You may be surprised at how good you become at silencing The Voice.

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!


  1. Stephen Gunn says

    Great blog. Thanks Tim.