It might not seem like such a big deal--staying present when things are going well. I mean, easy, right? Maybe and maybe not.
“The tension was mounting on the teebox at the par-5 eighth hole at Conway Farms,” PGATour.com reported on Sept. 14, just before Jim Furyk became the sixth player in PGA Tour history to break 60 [The 8th was his 17th hole that day].
As a budding golfer married to one who’s been playing his entire life, I often see glimpses of exceptional play, but the magnitude of Mr. Furyk’s score of 59 for 18 holes was very rare and earned him membership in an exclusive club formed in 1977, when Al Geiberger became the first to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour.
The technical ability necessary to achieve such a score is high, but what struck me most was the focus and presence of mind required to manage the pressure Mr. Furyk must have felt as he made his way toward one of golf’s most elusive goals.
If you know my work in the world, you know I help people regain power under pressure. Usually, we’re looking at situations where things are going badly: conflict, stress, and relationship struggles with employees, partners, and family members. But what about when things are going well--I mean really well? Might it be even more challenging to stay in the moment when we are courting the possibility of perfection?
As a rank beginner, I’m just trying to keep the ball in the air. But experienced golfers often speak of how hard it is to keep it going when they’re playing at their best. The better the round goes, the more the prospect of “the choke” threatens. Suddenly you’re not thinking about the shot you’re playing but of what could go wrong. The better things get, the harder it is to stay focused.
Other sports have similar elusive goals and clutch moments. In baseball everyone, including the fans, feels the tension mounting, inning by inning and out by out, as their pitcher strives for the no-hitter or--even more rare--the perfect game.
When Life Is Good
What about when life is going well? Do you have difficulty enjoying the flow state, knowing that, inevitably, things will change? Are there moments when you find yourself waiting for what might go wrong? I’ve written about the challenges of being “publicly happy”. Maybe one reason is that we fear we might choke and ruin it all by talking about it.
Mr. Furyk said that to stay present that day “was a mental battle and a mental grind.” To take the pressure off, he talked with fellow golfer Gary Woodland, who joked about football. Laughter and the easy banter lightened the moment, and Furyk was able to stay loose and remain focused.
Can we apply the same technique to life--not take things so seriously, but rather be aware and grateful for what’s happening now? When conflict and problems arise, and they will, they invite us to appreciate even more the days when energy flows freely.
Don’t think about the next shot. Stay present to this one. Live, laugh, and let yourself be here now, in this ki moment. It’s the only one you really have.