Everyone has blundered, including the new king of golf, Rory McIlroy, winner of this year’s PGA Championship. In fact, his was a monumental meltdown at the 2011 Masters.   He started the final round with a 4-shot lead, but by the time he turned for home on the final nine, Rory completely lost his game. He hooked his tee shot on No.10 into the trees and made a triple bogey.  From then on, it just got worse, as he began to hit his shots all over the Augusta National golf course.  He shot a 43 on the back nine for a score of 80 for the day, ending in a tie for 15th.   But, anyone who has reached the mountaintop will admit that success comes not from your failures, but from your response to those failures. Rory is now on top of the golfing world because he learned a harsh lesson about the challenges of finishing out a major when in the lead. McIlroy sheepishly stated of his final round collapse, “I was trying to be too focused, too perfect. I was very insular instead of embracing the situation.”   Out of bad comes good – with the right perspective. Anyone following what has happened in golf in the past year knows that his Masters fiasco was a valuable lesson. In the very next major, Rory dominated the field to win the 2011 U.S. Open, and again blew out the field at this year’s final major, winning by 8 strokes.   An ancient Buddhist proverb says, “The arrow that hits the bull’s eye is the result of a hundred misses.” Unfortunately, most people are not willing to take a direct hit to their ego and honestly critique their work. They avoid thinking about their failures at all costs.   The irony is that the more you fear failing, the more mistakes you will make. This fear causes nervousness, which in turn can diminish performance. However, with some reframing, your fear about failure will diminish and so will your mistakes.   Here are a few suggestions to flip the switch and help your students to fail forward:   Depersonalize Failure   Erma Bombeck, author of humorous books such as The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits, was not always a best-selling writer. Erma has stated she failed many, many times, with one being a play that never saw the lights on Broadway, and another was a sitcom she wrote that lasted as long as doughnuts in her house.   Erma said that one of her keys to defeat failure was to depersonalize it. She always told herself, “You are not a failure. You just failed doing something.”  This viewpoint helped her to overcome life’s many challenges and bounce forward into being one of the all-time great comedy writers.   When your students have a terrible round or tournament, help them to believe that the situation was a failure, and situations are only temporary.   Create a failing forward journal   Mahatma Gandhi was exemplary in his attitude toward seeing failures as a positive experience. Gandhi saw his life as a set of experiments, with each experience helping him find his path to self-realization. He reflected upon each failure, learned from it, shared what he learned with others, and then jumped into his next action with even more vigor.   Help your students do the same by encouraging them to create their own failing forward journal. In this journal, they write down five mistakes they made at an important event. Then, they use introspection and examine why they made those mistakes.   Have your students ask important questions such as:   Why were you nervous? Why did you not perform at your best? Why did you have those negative thoughts? Why did the audience throw you off your game? Were you focusing on being too perfect?   Just as Rory McIlroy was honest with himself to overcome a total meltdown again, you too need to look inward for a true realization about your mishaps. But this is the first step.To hit your bull’s eye in life, you must take action. As the legendary coach John Wooden once said, “Failure is not failure unless it is failure to change.”   By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, USGTF Sport Psychology Consultant
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