In the late 1990s, one of the top-ranked golfers in the world had a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Masters Tournament, one of the most prestigious golfing events on the planet. However, he underwent an emotional and psychological unraveling, and ended up losing the tournament. He never fully recovered from that experience and never again won a major tournament.
In contrast, one of the youngest professional players recently won the U.S. Open Championship, which is also a prestigious event. The commentators made two insightful observations about his victory:
- During the four days of the tournament, he had a stoic, almost monastic, demeanor. He had very little engagement with the crowds. He focused on the task at hand and blocked out the distractions.
- He didn't agonize over each shot but swung within 10 seconds of addressing the ball.
So what's the lesson here? What I take away is the importance of putting on psychological blinders to filter out extraneous events and fully focus on your task. The smart phone, the electronic tablet and all the other gadgets are wonderful — but only if they get you where you want to go. Mindlessly surfing the Internet will never get you where you want to go.
What else can we learn from a courageous young athlete who showed great composure under pressure?
Join the discussion at #Stress.July 20, 2011