So, there I was, playing golf with my son a few days ago - both of us playing to win. Nothing strange or noteworthy about that. Except my son was a few months shy of 3 years old and the first and only time I have EVER played golf was a month ago and involved more slicing and swearing than a Gordon Ramsay cookery show.
We were attempting to target a small cup with a marginally smaller plastic ball from a range of about 3 metres using a small plastic club designed for someone significantly shorter than my 183cm frame and built to a price rather than a quality - a process, I am reliably informed, referred to as “putting” by the initiated and a pointless exercise in frustration by myself.
After multiple (failed) attempts to get the ball into the cup - again, all part of the process of “putting”, or so I’m told - I started to get a little bit disillusioned. I’d managed to hit the edge or come within a gnats wotsit of it on about half a dozen occasions. Surely the damned thing had to go in sooner rather than later. Then the misses became larger, and larger still.
I even found myself accusing my son of cheating because on his turn he picked the ball up and dropped it straight into the cup! Then it dawned on me that he was discovering something that I’d known for years but needed reminding about.
We need goals in every aspect of our lives - it’s what keeps us excited. Who can say they haven’t felt a little spark of exhilaration as they tick off yet another item on their “to do” list or their life’s “bucket list”? But therein lies the problem. What if the goal is just too far away, too big, too much of a stretch?
Failure isn’t pleasant. It’s nature’s way of telling us that on that particular occasion we sucked. Maybe not by much, but that we simply weren’t good enough to overcome the challenge presented to us. And deep down, that hurts.
We get frustrated. We start to focus on what we’re doing wrong. We get tense. And then of course, we get worse.
As I watched my son dropping the ball into the cup, I realised what was happening within me and chose another way.
Looking slightly behind the cup was a large cardboard box (ok, to my son it was a spaceship, castle or boat as the mood took him) lying on its side. It was also many, many times larger than the minuscule cup I’d chosen originally. I switched focus, lined up on it and let fly. Tiger Woods would have been proud - straight in, first time and the world suddenly seemed a better place. A few more shots like that and I lined up on my nemesis, the plastic cup. Suddenly it seemed just a little bit bigger, and closer too, and the ball sailed straight in with a satisfying hollow, plastic-sounding “pop”.
Goals should stretch us, not break us. Find a way to experience real success every day by breaking down the big goals into smaller, tangible, objectives that provide encouragement and the little endorphin rushes that keep us going on the road to the big prize at the end.
And get golf clubs that aren’t designed for a 3-year old.