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Mindful Leadership

Golf Is the Great “Purifier”

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Anyone who plays golf knows that it can be both exhilarating and frustrating not in a round, but on a single hole! It is a difficult game in the best of times.  Every round is different, every hole is different, and every shot is different.  This sounds very much like “every moment is a new moment” doesn’t it?  And it’s not hyperbole.

Golf tests us completely.  If you want to learn about your patterns and deeply reveal your beliefs, then just play a round of golf.  Jack Nicklaus, holder of the record for most golf Majors in a career, said that when he was playing well, he only hit 3, and at most 5, perfect shots in a golf round.  That leaves plenty of opportunity for potential frustration depending on your expectations and beliefs.

As we play we notice how we react to life in general.  We can witness how we behave when we are winning, when we are losing, when we are embarrassed or humiliated, when we are disappointed, when we are tired. Essentially, every challenge in life arises on the golf course.  And the way we respond or react on the golf course is generally how we react or respond in life.

If we have any shred of a perfectionistic tendency, it will become very evident.  Have you ever expected to hit a great shot every time you address the ball?  That sounds pretty perfectionistic and not an uncommon expectation by many.  How about control?  How do you feel when someone takes several practice swings…on every shot?!  Do you ever feel the need to ask them to “stop it”?!  The reality is that perfectionism and need for control are very big issues that get highlighted on the course.  Our resilience is another issue that becomes very visible.  How we come back from bad shots says a great deal about our resilience in life.

Now, what I am referring to are patterns.  Anyone can behave in a particular way on occasion.  It is when we typically respond in a particular way, that we know it is a pattern.

You also learn a great deal about someone’s values.  If someone cheats on their score, it is likely that they may not be completely honest on other issues.

We can also learn a great deal about positive qualities.  With some people, you will notice that they feel deep compassion when someone is having a difficult round and do what they can for that person, even if it is just sending a positive intention their way.  There is also the way people approach competition.  Some people feel true joy when they see a competitor hit a beautiful or very difficult shot.  Some are very encouraging of others no matter how they themselves are playing.

Now, you may have heard me speak of “purification” in the past.  In the book “Mindful Leadership”, I describe it as dissolving patterns that are not helpful in our lives.  We can do this deliberately through our awareness and presence of mind.  We can make this a habit, to diligently observe those things we don’t like about ourselves and very gently and persistently, through awareness and equanimity, wash away the patterns.

Through personal experience, I have come to the conclusion that golf is a fantastic way to purify.  As all of our patterns, sooner or later, will become evident as we play, we can make a commitment to make golf a Mindfulness practice.

It takes true Mindful leadership to witness our own actions and reactions, moment by moment, and with equanimity, courage, and honesty, we can purify that which gets in the way of being the best we can be.

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