My Golf Instructor

The Power of Positive
Does thinking good thoughts help you?

Thinking you will make it, helps you make it!Visualize Making the Putt

Can you "think" your way to a better round? Or even "think" your way to playing worse? Lots of coin has been made around the world from renowned motivational speakers promoting positive thinking. From Tony Robbins to Deepak Chopra to Zig Ziglar the teachings of the power of the mind/body connection by these motivational gurus has changed the way people compete and perform. Whether it be in their job, their home life or their sport, positive thinkers swear that their thought processes are what have brought them success.

Can too much positive thinking be harmful or backfire though? Like me, I'm sure you've all witnessed the parent who pumped up their child from the time they were born with excess compliments telling them they were the "greatest" at everything they did. Then when the child grew up and faced some real competition they suddenly found they weren't the best and life wasn't always that easy. Some of these kids end up very depressed, on drugs or simply just quit and give up. How about the opposite though? How about the kid whose told he's no good or can't win? The one who comes from the slums like Rocky. He may have a lot of negative thoughts, but yet deep down believes in himself and ends up a champion.

Recently there was an article by Oliver Burkeman in the New York Times titled "The Power of Negative Thinking". In it he starts by citing that 21 people were treated for burns on their feet by walking on hot coals during a Tony Robbins seminar. The positive thinking didn't quite protect them from physical harm. Here is an interesting excerpt from his article:

"According to research by the psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. She rendered her experimental participants dehydrated, then asked some of them to picture a refreshing glass of water. The water-visualizers experienced a marked decline in energy levels, compared with those participants who engaged in negative or neutral fantasies. Imagining their goal seemed to deprive the water-visualizers of their get-up-and-go, as if they'd already achieved their objective."

Very interesting. I think what we can learn about this for golf which is considered the most "mental" game of all is to keep our expectations realistic. No one would argue with you if you said positive thinking is better and less draining than negative thinking, but in my opinion, unrealistic thinking can be draining and nothing more than disappointing in the end.

The correlation between thinking well and making successful shots is not 100 percent. But the correlation between bad thinking and unsuccessful shots is much higher. - Dr. Bob Rotella.

Anyone who has played the game knows how mental it can be and how losing faith in yourself or losing sight of your goal never helps. It is a difficult enough game as it is so you don't want your brain to be your biggest handicap.

Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears. -Bobby Jones

After all, you've probably never heard golf champions say that they were thinking about something totally unrealistic and unattainable like holing out every shot, but what you have heard them say is that they had positive thoughts, set goals and stayed within their game plan.

Missing a short putt does not mean you have to hit your next drive out of bounds. - Henry Cotton

Clearing your mind of the past and staying focused positively on the shot at hand is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself.

The most important shot in golf is the next one. - Ben Hogan

My favorite win came at the 2002 Illinois Open because for the first time I not only committed fully to my game plan and never varied from it, but I also forced myself to completely ignore any bad shots and focus only on the upcoming shot. It was a difficult task as I was used to over analyzing what went wrong with the previous shot probably from years of analyzing my student's swings. Once I was able to turn that off however, I opened with a 69, played a steady second round and held tight in the third round which was plagued by winds in the 30-45mph range. I had a game plan for the wind and played almost the entire round with knock downs which was something that the other players didn't do. I believe the strength of my plan and my committment and stubbornness to not vary from it is what won me the title.

The Situation:

You want to make your thinking more positive on the course.

The Solution:

Start by setting realistic goals and establishing a game plan. Know your limits, your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan that is attainable. Once on the course stick to the game plan even if things aren't going your way. Stay positive on your goals because after all, you've set ones you know you can achieve. Deleting the bad shots from your mind and giving 100% of your energy to the shot at hand will keep you in a positive frame of mind.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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