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Practice: learning, enjoyment and performance

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  • Practice: learning, enjoyment and performance

    Back to the Great Game after a long break. I must say the last 3 weeks have been full of experiments, learnings and aha moments. Before my long break I was really serious about golf. I mean too serious. My focus was purely performance and it didn't go that well. Trying too hard comes to my mind.

    I just watched this video from Fred Shoemaker on how to practice and it really spoke to me. Really love this guy by the way. He talks about the 3 points to includes in your practice: learning, enjoyment and performance. I believe this is the PEL triangle from Tim Gallwey.

    Anyway, I realise I now learn of a lot during my practice sessions, experimenting and going out of my comfort zone. I also really enjoy myself. Not taking myself seriously. As for performance, well whatever should happen will happen!

    What about you? How do you usually organize your practice sessions?

  • #2
    A bit more information on the PEL triangle from the Inner Game of Golf by Tim Gallwey.

    Granted, the rules of golf say that the goal of the game is to get around the course in as few strokes as possible. Performance is obviously important in all goal-oriented activity. But is it the only goal? It may be the only goal that is measured and scored. But is it the only result that counts? It is difficult for some golfers to see it any other way. But if you think about it, if all you really wanted was a low score, then the easiest courses would be the most popular. But it is usually the case that the most difficult courses are the most expensive and the most sought after. This is not consistent with a single-minded desire for low scores. "Well, challenging courses are more fun," the golfer replies. Yes. I agree, and often more beautiful. Does that mean there is another goal - fun or enjoyment perhaps? Is that a real result of golf? Or do you consider enjoyment just an incidental by-product of a good score? If you had to choose between having a low score and having a good time, which would you choose? Regardless of your answer, it is a fact that for the four to five hours you are playing eighteen holes of golf you are somewhere between misery and ecstacy. And human beings have a built-in preference toward the enjoyment side of the range of experience. So, almost by definition, enjoyment is a goal that comes with us while we're playing golf.

    These questions are quite relevant to the subject of relaxed concentration. Generally speaking, those who value the inherent enjoyment in a given activity have an easier time finding a consistent focus.

    Thus far, we have established at least two universal goals in golf: a performance goal (to score well) and an enjoyment goal (to have the best possible experience). Is there another? What about learning? Can you learn something valuable while playing a round of golf? Is what you can learn confined to golf, or can you learn things that will be useful outside of golf-like relaxed concentration, or confidence, or self-discipline, or honesty? And is it the person with the lowest score who necessarily learns the most? Obviously not. In any particular round of golf, learning and score are clearly distinct achievements.

    So now we have three goals-performance, enjoyment, and learning-that are all present in golf. In fact, if you think about it, they are present in all activities in play or in work. Now comes an important question. Are these three goals related? Do they belong in a triangle indicating mutual interdependence? The obvious answer is yes. If a person is performing at a certain level but fails at learning and enjoying the activity, what will soon happen to the performance level? Likewise, if a person does not enjoy the activity, it may be possible to keep up high levels of performance over the short haul but not the long one. On the other hand, if learning is happening, it is only a matter of time before it is bound to have impact on performance. Most great athletes and great performers in every field genuinely love what they do because of the experience that it brings them-not just because of the extrinsic results.

    You can take performance, enjoyment, and learning as three mutually supporting aspects of sports or work, a relationship I will refer to as the PEL triangle. Many work teams who get caught up in the performance momentum alone don't get the necessary support from the other two sides of the triangle. This can have serious consequences if you are working in an environment of change. Learning is exactly that capability which enables us to adapt to change. It saves much more time than it takes. Thinking you don't have time to learn from mistakes is very time-consuming. Furthermore, learning from experience doesn't really take time because it happens while you are working. I's more a matter of attitude and personal and cultural priority, not time, that gets in the way. I have introduced the concept of balancing the PEL triangle in many work teams, and in almost every case a surprising improvement in performance has resulted along with the intrinsic benefits of increased learning and enjoyment at work.

    The fact is that these three goals are the inherent goals of Self 2, so the simplest way to balance the triangle in any activity is simply to learn to choose Self 2. Given the chance and just a little encouragement, Self 2 always goes for enjoyment and learning. Its best performance is the natural result. This is inherent, but it is definitively a choice. Every such choice strenghtens your connections with Self 2 and increases the probabilities of spending more time in a state of relaxed concentration.
    A few interesting obstacles to learning quoted below from this article.

    Below is a partial list of obstacles to growing capability:

    The assumption that “I already know.” Professionals often feel that they must present the appearance of already knowing everything and already being perfectly competent. This is an obstacle to learning that young children do not share.

    The assumption that learning means remediation. For many people, the suggestion that they should learn means there is something wrong with them or their level of performance.

    Fear of being judged. We learn this early, through teachers and parents who used judgment as a means to control behavior and effort.

    Doubt. The uncertainty we feel when we face the unknown is a prerequisite for learning. Young children are not embarrassed by not knowing something. However, as we age, we are taught to feel stupid or incompetent if we lack knowledge or experience or are unable to perform up to expectations. We are especially vulnerable to this feeling when faced with the challenge of unlearning something. The prospect of acknowledging that we might have invested time and effort in a perspective that is no longer valid can seem especially threatening.

    Trying too hard to learn and to appear learned. This phenomenon is a derivative of fear and doubt, and leads to constricted potential and mistakes. Our errors then confirm ours self-doubt and bring about the very outcome that we feared.
    Last edited by Ferko; 2 weeks ago.


    • #3
      Took a few days off so going to the range this morning. I'm wondering if I'm not becoming an Obsessive as described by George Leonard! I should not forget to enjoy myself, I should not forget to enjoy myself, I should not forget to enjoy myself... ;-)

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      • #4
        Hi Ferko,

        This is some interesting and insightful stuff you posted here!

        I can see how it would be easy to fall into "The Obsessive" category described above. I've been playing golf for 8 seasons now. As some do I suppose, I started out as "The Dabbler" with sort of a "take it or leave it" attitude, that is until I noticed some nice improvements. Thinking that I might be able to be good at this, I then decided to invest time and effort into golf to continue to improve. But the "trying too hard" and becoming "too serious" as you said can easily follow. And if you don't watch out, for some, it can easily lead to "The Obsessive" pitfall. From there I suppose one could potentially end up in the looney bin if one isn't careful.

        Keeping things in perspective is important. And at some point I suppose everyone individually has to decide how much importance and emphasis should be placed on golf. For me, golf is strictly a warm weather recreational sport that is generally played six months out of the year. And it's not something that I've ever had a desire to compete in. I admire those who can shoot in the 70's or better, but getting to that level really isn't necessary for me. So I decided after last year that shooting in the low 80's is perfectly okay and fine for me. Thus, going by the four archetypes described above, I contently place myself in "The Hacker" category. If I happen to break through this plateau one day fine, but if I don't, that's fine too.

        In the end, for me and golf, I believe the paramount point is just as you insightfully suggested Ferko, "I should not forget to enjoy myself."


        P.S. You know, I've been thinking about this for the last few months, but posting these thoughts here gave me a sense of freedom. Perhaps just this attitude of acceptance has already taken away the self-imposed pressure of shooting in the 70's that I've put on myself the last couple years.
        Last edited by Cally; 1 week ago. Reason: Add an observation


        • Schrodinger
          Schrodinger commented
          Editing a comment
          Ditto - My mind is clear of the WHAT and now comfortable with the HOW. I get into posture, do my PMD/Goldilocks, checking that my 'setup matches the picture' , move that machine , making a judgement of where the ball will be in the way, then just 'let go' and swing to the target. I've resigned myself to the fact that I will not hit fantastic shots all of the time but its a lot more fun than before. But I still study the WHAT because I like knowing whether there is some unanimity starting to formulate across the industry (its mind boggling that there are still so many different theories and beliefs out there).
          Last edited by Schrodinger; 1 week ago.