I am not a great golfer. I keep the ball moving forward and keep the pace of the game, but despite occasionally having a nice drive or sinking a putt, I know that unless I want to devote a LOT more time to practice, my (rather high) handicap will not change substantially. And I am fine with that. I have other priorities that bring me more satisfaction and growth in the areas that are more important to me.
Yet I love the game. The sound of a ball well hit. Walking around on a well-manicured surface. Sunshine on me (some of the time). The whizzing sound of (some other golfers’) balls hurtling through the air. The snap of the pin flag in the wind. The plink of the ball in the cup. And the constant hope that I can and will do better on the next hole.
It’s easy, both in golf and in life, to fixate on what you did “wrong” and to beat yourself up about not having done better and to let negative self-talk take over (e.g. “I’m a terrible performer,” “No one will want to play (or work) with me,” “Why do I even bother?”).
There is nothing I can do to change how I performed on the last hole. And there is certainly value in reflecting on why you performed the way you did so that you can do better on the next hole (e.g. “Did I follow through on my swing?” “Did I pull my head up?” “Did I take enough time to properly set myself before taking the swing?”). But reflecting and learning is different than dwelling on it. Recognize what you did, see if you can identify why you did that, decide what you will do next time and move on.
This is where hope comes in. Because in golf, each hole is a brand new opportunity and full of hope for a good outcome. You take them as they come. You try to apply what you learned from the last hole. You try your best. And you see how it turns out. And then you move to the next hole.
And if that works for golf, think of how much more of an impact it can have in your personal and professional life. We all stumble, and stumble even more when we are extending ourselves and growing. It’s both a sign of growth and an opportunity to grow. What’s key is that when you stumble, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and look towards what’s next. Yes, learn from what happened before and adjust, but focus on forward momentum; don’t dwell on the past. When you take time to reflect and then put the past behind you, you are free to embrace the possibilities that the future offers. To realize that there is hope for a better outcome next time. And that by reflecting, you can increase the chance that you’ll do better the next time. Or that you can choose an entirely different direction.
Developing a habit of hope for the future coupled with learning from previous experience will propel you forward towards continuous improvement and growth.