Every year, early in the summer, I meet up with three friends to play the famous Brabazon course at the Belfry in Warwickshire. As many of you will know, The Brabazon was the scene of some great Ryder Cup battles between Europe and the USA’s top golfers and although our game is an entirely social occasion it is always a fiercely contested battle (not least to avoid the forfeit for finishing last of having to pick up the post-match drinks tab) .
For the previous two years, last place and the drinks tab have gone to Mark, much to his obvious annoyance. You see Mark is a good player. He hits straight of the tee, plays good fairway shots and generally gets down in two putts. His weakness is distance. In like-for-like shots he would always be out-hit by the rest of us.
After losing again last year Mark decided he would do something about. In the following months Mark consulted professional swing coaches, bought better clubs, practised hard at the range and constantly measured his progress. As this years game approached Mark was very confident because he had definitely increased his hitting distance and believed he would now out-hit the rest of us.
So cometh the hour we all stepped out on to the first tee of the Babazon and prepared to hit. The first is an inviting opening tee shot as long as you watch out for the bunkers on the right. A good drive will leave a straightforward approach shot to the large green. Mark was up first. He took a beautiful swing with his expensive new clubs and sent a long straight drive down the middle. He had certainly improved. Mark stepped back delighted with his opening salvo and then watched helplessly as, one by one, we all hit our balls even further.
Mark was crushed. His plan had failed, his confidence was shattered and his fate was sealed. By the end of the round we were all sipping drinks at Mark’s expense.
What Mark failed to do was have a back-up plan. He failed to realise that although you can improve your own performance, other people can too and you may have to change your game plan to counter that.
When you expect to perform to a certain level, you can actually set yourself up for failure. Why? Because the moment it doesn’t happen or you make a mistake, you think you’re under-performing or you’ve failed.
Your first step towards achieving success is to mentally prepare knowing that you’ll make mistakes and that things may not go exactly as you intend. Create back up plans that focus on your strengths and capabilities, avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others and keep your focus on what you can do.
Once you’ve accepted these facts and acknowledged that it’s OK, you will stay confident and on track even when things don’t go to plan.