The Golf Practice Paradox: How to Have Fun and Make Progress When You Believe You Are Stuck on a Plateau
We live in a fast paced world where information is available in an instant, and the thought that we would have to wait for a result, an outcome, or even skill improvement is seen by many as completely unacceptable, especially by the younger generation brought up in the information age.
In-fact many see waiting for improvement as part of a medieval belief system, an anachronism, a part of history that should remain locked away in the dark ages.
So an intolerance for waiting for improvement to manifest itself is a common place mind-set for many golfers today.
And since there is little to no tolerance for waiting for improvement to manifest itself, what we find is that many of the younger golfers we work with in our programs at Pro Tour Golf College don’t see the pleasure in persisting with skill development, especially when they perceive themselves to be stuck on a performance plateau.
But the good news is that you can learn to gain immense pleasure from golf skill development—especially when you believe that you are stuck on a performance plateau.
And the even better news is that even though you believe you are not making progress whilst on the plateau, in-fact you are.
How Can You Be Stuck and Yet Still Make Progress?
Now this will seem to many readers of this article as a paradox or contradiction in terms, because the very idea that you are “stuck” means that you are not progressing, that there's no growth or development of your skills...
But this is simply not true, because you are always making progress even when you believe you are stuck on a plateau.
And here's a very helpful way of thinking about this...
Your Perceived Plateau is on a 3D Not a 2D Playing Field
Learning and improvement is simply a case of perspective. So rather than thinking about learning as something that happens along a relatively straight 2 dimensional line, think of it more as different positions in space (Like chess pieces) just like the image above describes, imagine learning and growth and the required time and effort taking place in 3 dimensional space.
You are at different places or locations in your learning and development on playing field and what you feel is a low point in your learning is simply a different place on the playing field to where you previously were.
Now the real question you need to ask yourself is this; “how have you come to recognize or know that you aren’t making progress in your golf skill development?”
What are the key indicators for you?
Just because your scores or your handicap seem stagnant, or your golf skill development appears to be stuck, the simple fact is that you are almost certainly improving your skills, but your idea of how quickly you should assimilate and acquire the skill you are practicing is very different to Natures.
"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."
The Nature of Progress - You Are Growing a Skill
That’s right, you are more than likely making progress, it’s just that the progress is so small as to not be recognized by you as progress. Nature plays by its own rules when it comes to learning skills, it isn't playing by yours.
So what you perceive as failure to make progress, is still learning as far as Nature is concerned.
Think of a newly planted tree for a moment and ask yourself what that tree needs to grow into a 50 foot tall tree.
It needs certain elements to reach its potential and so do you. If you desire skill improvement and you are genuinely working on your improvement with your instructor, then understand and appreciate that you are literally growing a new version of a golf skill.
You see you are in-fact acquiring a new learning experience on a physical plane. This is opposed to the way you acquire knowledge, such as having to remember an historical fact like remembering when the Magna Carta was signed (June 15th, 1215 in case you were wondering).
This type of learning is vastly different to the way you learned how to brush your teeth.
With skill learning, what started out as a disoriented and dysfunctional attempt at cleaning your teeth with toothpaste, became an efficient non-conscious physical movement that you can perform with your eyes closed almost the same way every time.
A little bit of consistent, persistent and thoughtful effort goes a long way to developing skills that can last you a life time.
Let me offer you one way of thinking about persisting with your progress along the plateau with a simple Zen story...
The Four Horses - A Zen Story
“There are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones.”
“You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn to run.”
“When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse.”
If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best.”
“But this is a mistake, when you learn too easily, you’re tempted not to work hard, not to penetrate to the marrow of a practice.”
From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Persist Don't Resist
Your goal should be to truly enjoy your efforts to improve your golf skills by embracing your struggle to make progress.
Remember there is growth, it might be almost imperceptible to you, but it is certainly happening.
See your time on the plateau as the only way to learn the right way, and that all learning is happening on a plateau. Your high's and low's are really just different places in space.
Enjoy the process of transforming yourself, don’t resist the learning—persist with the learning!
Remember that you are transforming yourself to be a different version of the golfer you are currently are by persisting and enjoying your journey on the plateau.
It is only through persistence and determination that you can learn your new way of doing something that is important to you.
Also it is also helpful to understand that there is really no other way to learn a physical skill to the level of mastery.
To completely trust your golf skills in any situation you face on the golf course is the highest level of learning, and this requires the paying of a price, and this price is the constant physical work of performing thousands of repetitions.
However the benefits are many, if you will just keep working towards your goal, so embrace the resistance with lots of persistence, grit and determination.
And remember to keep smiling and remain upbeat on your journey to mastery.
Your new golf skill is just over the hill, so don't stop now when you are so close.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College
The Professional Golf Tour Training College