This past week, at the PGA Masters in Augusta Georgia, we all had the opportunity to witness some of the greatest exhibitions of Mindset training ever in sport. As a Mindset student and coach, there was so much to comment on, and even better, so much that applies directly to business leaders.
Through 3 unbelievable rounds, Rory Mcllroy, a bold and confident 21 year old golfer from Ireland, built up a substantial lead. He was fearless, he was focused, and he was demonstrating many of the Tignum Mindset traits we teach to executives. No where was this more evident then on his 33 foot putt on the 17th hole to secure a 4 shot lead going into the final day. In an interview after he completed his 3rd round, he was asked if he was thinking about Tiger and the other golfers since he could hear the crowd roaring on the other holes. With calm confidence Rory replied, "If you start thinking about anyone else here, if you let your mind wander at all, it can cost you a couple of shots. I focus on my targets and focus on where I want my ball to go on the greens, and that's all I can do. I don't really care what anyone else does." Imagine this type of focus in a meeting or negotiation. Imagine how good you could be if under the greatest pressure to perform you could stay calm, focused, and in control like this.
Of course all of this changed on the final day. On the back nine, after making the turn for the championship, Rory's focus waned and so did all chances of winning. He finished with an 80 for the day, the highest final round for the final day leader since 1956. How did this happen? In the interview at the end of the tournament Rory commented, "I started thinking that I could win this thing and before I knew it I was hitting the ball into the crowd. And then the harder I tried, the worse it got." In a flash he let his focus go to the things he couldn't control. Winning at age 21, achieving what his boyhood idol Tiger Woods had done, all things that took him away from being in control. Even worse, as his anxiety started to rise he didn't take the time to reset and to refocus. This is similar to an executive having one bad meeting and then rushing into the next meeting and then into the next until he/she has shared chaos and destruction throughout the company.
But what about the winner, Charl Schwartzel from South Africa, what did he teach us? On a final day where no less than eight players shared the lead at some point, he used another technique that we teach at Tignum. Every time he heard the crowd roaring he imagined that they were cheering him on. Instead of feeling the pressure, he used the energy to create laser like focus. He smiled and didn't take himself too seriously, he took each shot as just one shot, and in the end he won by 2 strokes with four straight birdies (one under par) on the final four holes. What a difference a Mindset makes. Imagine your most pressure packed day, and instead of allowing thoughts of being overwhelmed into your head, you take that pressure and your prepare yourself for every key event and you focus on the intentions you set. You act like a leader who loves pressure and you remain calm, confident, and in control.
So what happened to Tiger? In glimpses, Tiger demonstrated his old magic but in the end he couldn't sustain it. He tried too hard, he couldn't balance his autonomic nervous system so he could remain loose. In the biggest moments he let the pressure of trying to be the old Tiger consume him. How often do you let the pressure to win fool you to think that relaxation under pressure is for the other guy? When the heat is on, finding your perfect performance state is critical. Using breathing and laughter to relax, as well as mental imagery and clear intentions to focus, is the ultimate oscillation necessary to win.
In the end, even after all the emotions of a such a big tournament have faded, the lessons for all of us will still be here. First, take each moment one at a time, regardless of whether you're winning or losing. Take a breath, set your intentions, visualize success, and then let it happen. Second, choose to use pressure to your advantage. Turn this powerful energy into enthusiasm rather than anxiety. Third, a big win is made up of lots of small wins. It's the little things that add up and collectively make a big difference. In the case of Tignum, its the total integration of small things in Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery that really make the difference. So what about Rory Mcllroy? How could he ever recover from this? Actually it's simple - but that's for another blog.
By Scott Peltin
Founder & Chief Performance Officer