One of the first pieces I wrote for this blog was about what I learned about life from my golf coach. There are so many things I love about golf. But I had forgotten how many life lessons from golf I continue to learn. Playing a a round reminds me how I can continue to curate and cultivate my own life so that I love it. And, the fact that I get to choose my own happiness as a priority. Many of those lessons surfaced when JB and I got out our clubs and played the first round of the season.
Here are sixteen life lessons from golf to help you create a life you love
One: Dress the Part.
Most golf courses have a dress code (collared shirts, no jeans or cutoffs), so if you show up to play a round, you dress as a golfer. One of the easiest life lessons of golf you can parlay into your own life. Each day we should dress the part of who we desire to be. It’s easy to roll out of bed and just throw clothes on, but choosing to put on clothes that make us feel like who we want to be instills confidence. A professor for the University of Hertfordshire discovered that your clothing has an affect on self-esteem and confidence!
Two: Act as if you know what you’re doing.
Walking into the (mostly) male-dominated golf world was intimidating to me when I first began to play the game. After not playing for over a year, those butterflies were fluttering in my tummy once again. Yet, I walked from the car to the pro shop as if I did it every day. That’s a great one of the life lessons from golf: acting as if I had all the confidence in the world. Doing so shifts your brain. When you decide to be confident, you feel more confident.
Three: Know thyself.
By understanding why you play the game of golf, you’ll always have a successful round. And you’ll leave the course feeling good about your golf game. Knowing your why and defining success on your terms allows you find satisfaction in your life. This also means feeling happier.
Four: Work with what you’ve got.
No one would ever call me “flat-chested” by any sense of the imagination. When I began taking golf lessons, I considered binding my breasts to get them “out of the way”. Fortunately for me, the gent I was taking lessons from gave me some straightforward advice that reminded me of big lessons from golf: you have to work with what you’ve got. For me, that means I set up my grip different from men (and smaller chested women). The same goes in your every-day life. We have to dive into life exactly as we are and stop waiting until conditions are exactly “right”.
Five: Nature lifts your spirits.
Early on, I came to understand that part of the appeal of playing golf, at least for me, was the opportunity to be out in nature on beautifully tended spaces. Nature lifts your mood. In fact, a series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being out in nature made people feel more energetic.
Six: You need to slow down.
When I try to hurry up and hit the ball, I don’t play well. When I slow down, I have an easy, beautiful swing and a (fairly) straight shot. We live in a society right now that has an underlying feel of push-push, hurry-hurry. And all that rushing from here to there and trying to get things down faster just doesn’t lend us quite the same results as the times we just slow down.
Seven: Keep your head down and your eye on the ball.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from golf is this! Yes, you want to see where your ball lands, but you must begin by keeping your head down and focused on the ball as you hit it. It’s easy to look at the pin or at the places other players balls have landed. But to play your best game, you have to stay focused on YOUR BALL. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and get so lost in trying to keep up with them, we leave ourselves behind.
Eight: And yes, keep your eye on YOUR ball.
Even when you’re playing in a scramble where the best landed ball is where each person in your foursome will hit their ball from, the only ball you can control is your own. It’s the reminder to me that the only business I can control is my own. I can’t control what others do nor can I control what they think. The Byron Katie wisdom of business applies: there’s your business, everyone else’s business, and God’s business. Stop trying to control any business that isn’t yours.
Nine: Your game begins in your head.
A missed putt or a crappy tee shot can screw up your whole round if you let it. The thing is, though, you have to shake it off and move to the next shot. Focusing too much on the past shot or telling yourself how much you suck will make your game worse. The same goes with life. We need to learn from our mistakes and move on. We have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to listen to the voice of our inner critic. No, darling, like choosing to focus on the belief that this shot will be great, you can choose your thoughts about life, too.
Ten: You have the same entitlements as everyone else.
Yes, I know that the word “entitlement” has multiple meanings these days, but here’s what I mean. Every person on the golf course has paid the same exact greens fees to be there on the course and play their round of golf. I have just as much right to be on the course as those men who’ve been playing golf for forty years and those young studs who believe they invented the game. The same goes for your life and your dreams. You have just as much right as every other person on this planet to pursue your desires. Love is your birthright.
Eleven: You will encounter pushy, egotistical folks on the course – and in life.
I am a slower player than most men because I just can’t hit as far as they do, and that means I need more time to get through the course. There are those pushy jerks who will hit from the tee box when you’re midway down the fairway just as there will be those pushy jerks you encounter at work and out in the world. They believe that they are more entitled than you, and frankly, that’s their loss. Like any bullies, you can choose to stand up to them, ignore them, or simply invite them to play through so you don’t have to deal with them.
Twelve: Choose to love the game.
When I started playing golf again back in 2008, I made the decision that I was going to play for the pure purpose of enjoying myself. This has taken a lot of pressure off of me every time I step out on the course. Of course I get frustrated when I lose a ball in the water or hit every sand trap, yet no matter how many challenges I’ve had during the game, I leave the course feeling joyful. Choose to love your life. We see so many parts of life as have-to’s, yet when we go into each day with the intention of loving our life to the fullest, we manage the hazards and challenges and can go to bed feeling good about ourselves and our lives.
Thirteen: Go in with the goal to make this round of golf better than your last.
I will never play like Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy, but I can play better today than I did last time. Choosing to create your life from a space of making it better than it was before is about competing with yourself, not against others. I’m not dissing playing the best round for the day or having a best-selling book, but by setting your goals on improving your own life instead of comparing yourself with others will lead to loving yourself and your life more each day.
Fourteen: If I want my golf game to be better, I need to practice more.
We have to be willing to do the work to improve our lives. If I want to putt more accurately, then I need to get out there and practice putting. Even when it feels boring or not-as-productive as playing a round. Same goes for every-day life. If I want my life to be better, I have to be willing to put in the work, whether it’s writing every day, tending my gratitude and mediation practices, or asking myself the hard questions.
Fifteen: Accept that you may need help.
One thing on my list this spring: take some golf lessons to help me tune my game. We all need help sometimes, whether it’s with our golf game, a new skill, or getting some coaching around a mental block.
Sixteen: Last but not least, you have to actually PLAY the game.
One of the biggest life lessons from golf is this: you have to get out on the golf course and actually play. Thinking about golf, reading about golf or watching golf isn’t playing golf. In life, you have to be willing to do the work of living your life. You can think about how you want to change your life. There are all kinds of great books and blogs you can read about living a better life. You can see how others manage their lives so you can learn from their example. But all that thinking and reading and watching others isn’t living life. No, darling, you can’t stand on the sidelines of life, you have to jump in!