‘I expect not to three-putt’
‘I should be able to always find the fairway’
‘I expect to not make a bogey’
‘My friends expect me to win the match’
‘I hit great drives at the driving range. I must do the same on the course!’
‘Based on my handicap, I should always be on the green in regulation’
How does this type of language sound to you? Is it calming? Judgmental? Anxiety provoking? Does it allow you to have a clear and present focus? Would any of the above statements help you focus on the present, or would they awake your sense of frustration and anger if you didn’t meet these expectations?
In general, having strict expectations can result in frustration, anger, a future-oriented focus, lack of trust in your ability, and diminished confidence. That’s what having strict expectations about your game can do to you. And that’s why it is important to identify them and do something about it.
What are expectations? Expectations are demands that you put on yourself. They are usually irrational and judgmental, thus can kill your confidence and create havoc with your game. Beware of words such as: ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’. These are hints or indications that you are dealing with expectations. Statements that include ‘Have to’, ‘must’ and ‘should’ can cause you to focus mainly on results, and take your concentration away from the present shot. Expectations can also be the cause of your performing exclusively within your comfort zone and not giving yourself enough chances (i.e., ‘It’s OK to have two putts. I’ll end up with a bogey, which is still a good result for me’), instead of focusing on what you need to do to give yourself the best chance for a one-putt.
Expectations are known for causing golfers to feel frustrated and lose their cool when not reaching them. The problem with expectations is that it is easy to confuse them with goals. While expectations are demands that you put on yourself, goals are objectives you strive to work on. There is no judgment attached to goals. In fact, they help you to focus on the present. Goals help you concentrate on what you need to do to achieve something. On the other hand, expectations create a sense of ‘if I don’t do this, I am a bad player’ (i.e., ‘I had a few lessons last week. If I don’t find the fairway, I have failed my coach’)
o Think of one expectation you might have
o What happens to you and to your game when you don’t meet your expectation?
o In what way has this expectation been helpful to your game?
o In what way has this expectation been limiting to your game?
o Change this expectation (i.e., ‘I should make this 10 footer’) into a specific and realistic goal (i.e., ‘I will read the line, visualize the putt, take aim, and go’)
o How will focusing on this goal be helpful to your game?
o Try it out and let me know how it goes!