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Emotions | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan | Golf Mental Game

Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode#7 / Golf Mental Game

Rick, back again for another episode, I can’t wait to discuss today’s emotions. I wanted to go into this because emotions are such an important part of performance, and I feel like there’s different areas in which your emotions become vital and that’s priming.

So making sure that you prime your emotions for performance, ensuring that you know how to manage your emotions in the moment when things are, things are coming at you, curveballs are thrown at you. How do you manage that situation?

And then also actually post performance. How do you manage some of the emotions of certain situations you’ve had to deal with? So I want to start off with that priming, and I’m sure you’ve done a lot of work with various players on priming your emotions, priming your state for optimal performance.

So what are some of those techniques and tools? And if you have any stories as well, that’d be great to hear. Sure. I think the key thing is for everybody to understand that emotions do play an important part in performance.

Emotions will affect our focus or our ability to focus in the present moment. And when we think about golf, your emotions will affect how your hands feel, right? Is there tension? Are we relaxed or calm? Our decision making, if I’m frustrated, will tend to be faster and riskier.

And so when we have emotions, yes, it’s something a feeling in my body. But it also will affect our cognitive abilities too to be in the present moment. So most people, which we will talk about here in a moment, think of emotions as something that happens after something after a bad shot, after a good shot after that. And you and I both know that, yes, you should work on that, and there’s their skills and tools to do that. But why don’t we ask a better question? What is the emotional state you want to be in when you play golf?

And that’s more that priming that you and I talk a lot about is instead of people kind of, I say, being like, Well, I hope I am confident. I hope I am. And now let’s just see how the round starts.

To me, that’s not being proactive and really training what emotions are, which is you do have a choice in how you feel. And you and I talk a lot about pre round routines, right? And you know, when I work with very good players, sometimes they’ll build up.

This is such an important event. Oh, am I got to do this? And they’re already maybe talking themselves into stress or fear or excitement. No excitement seems positive, but do you want to be on the tee?

Really, really excited. I don’t know. I don’t know. For golf, I’m not sure. So you have to know one to be very, very clear. What is the best emotional state for you to play in? Right? That could be everything from passion to excited to engaged to focused and confident to calm to peaceful.

There’s a lot of different emotional states. Think back when you played your best golf? What emotional state? So that’s kind of the first question. Then, as I backtrack with some of these players, I mean, it could be Colin before the open championship, right?

He knows he’s in the final group. You know, those type of things. Yet you don’t do anything different because you’re in the final group or winning a major championship. You would do the same things you did on Thursday, Friday, Saturday to get you into Sunday.

And I think that’s what he does quite well and manages his state before the round begins. So many of us do not have pre round routines built around emotional states, and so sometimes it’s very simple, but it does require some discipline. First, identifying the emotional state you want to be in is what could trigger that. So it could be as simple as listening to your favorite music as you drive to the course, which puts you in a different emotional state. Some of it could be. I visualize myself in that state on the first tee.

Sometimes it can be stuff on the range that is happening 30 minutes before my first tee shot, where I’m not only hitting a shot. I experienced it. I’m visualizing your shot and taking that in. There’s a lot of things that we can be very proactive about or, you know, being able to be conscious of the shift in emotion. 

So, you know, I don’t know about your ideas about priming, but I think it’s identifying it first. We have different auditory triggers, we have breathing, we have different ways. We use our body to help us get into that emotional state.

So I think priming is something that is lost on a lot of the players. Absolutely. I think you said something really important that it brings in actual self awareness because there’s various players that will have totally different emotional states that they perform at the highest level.

So you look at someone like, I don’t bring in Ian Poulter in the Ryder Cup. He’s known for delivering being the postman when he shows up to the Ryder Cup in that kind of emotional state. That is the excitement that is the kind of intense state.

But then there’s also other people. You look at the tigers, you look at it and actually it’s this calm, it’s this relaxed. It’s this kind of focused relaxation state that brings the highest level of performance out in them.

So I think first of all, there’s that self-awareness point. Go back to when you played your best stuff. As you said, find out the state that allows you to perform the best and don’t quite try and just copy other people because you’ve seen what they do, what works best for them?

Work out what? What. Space for you. And then find the routines, the techniques that are going to help you get to that position. And I think, like you said, there’s tons of different ways, one of them. And I remember hearing a story guy called Simon Kahn.

He won the BMW Championship. I remember what year it was at Wentworth. Phenomenal golfer. Coach is actually a lot of the players I work with now as well. And I remember hearing the story of him showing up to the final round to the BMW, BMW, PGA Championship, and it was actually running a bit late, so he didn’t have time to fully prepare on the driving range for his final round. So he decided, instead of panicking too much about that, he prioritized his emotional state over his, to some extent, his preparation, physical preparation on the technical side.

And he went into the changing rooms, looked in the mirror and just said some affirmations to himself, said some words, reminded himself that he was capable and ultimately primed his emotional state for that performance. He went out. I think he hit a bit of a dodgy first tee shot, but ultimately went on to win the competition.

And I think that is where some people need to really think about what’s more important. And in my opinion, it’s the state that you’re ready to perform more so than some of the other elements that we tend to focus on.

So really, really vital there. And there’s tons of ways, like you said inside the platform. We’ve got the cognitive mindset, we’ve got the reframing methods, we’ve got the breathing exercises, whether that’s slow breaths, whether that’s dolphin breaths with a breakout, they can be really, really powerful ways to increase this deep relaxation and actually help you with that focused relaxation state as you step onto the golf course. Yeah. And I think just the simple question is, how do you want to show up to the first tee right in and of itself? You and I talk about pre shot routines, about being clear on the shot you want to play.

Now we’re asking to be clear on the emotion you want to be in and the feelings you want to have. And I think that helps people get clear on what they want instead of what they don’t want. And if that’s the intention to show up on the first tee, we already have our first goal, a process goal, but

We have a goal that we want to achieve based on an emotional state. How do you want to show up to the first tee, I think is a great framing of the round of golf. Absolutely. And it’s actually something you hear so many successful people across the board.

This isn’t just golf, but that priming of your emotional state is absolutely vital in whatever you’re trying to do because it’s often not about the but just the showing up. It’s actually about how you show up. And this is the same away from competition as well, right?

This is the same in training. This is the same in various other ways or areas in which you improve your performance and your development. If you’re at the driving range, the question is, yeah, of course, you may show up as many people that are showing up, but how were you showing up?

I think that’s a yeah, that’s a great point. I think with a lot of my players, they may say they want to be in a competitive mindset, a competitive, emotional state, you know, and you hit it right on the head.

If I can use that same competitive mindset in the gym or in the range, you’re already reinforcing the emotional state you want to be in when you’re playing a tournament, it’s like, I want to be competitive myself on the range and that four footer I’m going to hit.

And that and I think that’s a good point is this is not as we would talk about a lot. This is not just for golf, everybody. This is you being much more aware of how you want to be in life and you’re going to have some adversity and you’re going to have things that don’t go your way. 

But if I already go to an event or a performance and I’m very clear this is how I want to show up, I think it’s a good first step. Absolutely, absolutely. So moving them into the management of emotions as you’re in the moment.

So if you’re on the golf course you hit a poor shot, you get a bit of a stroke of bad luck and actually be able to manage your emotions in that moment. What are some of the ways that you talk to players or you talk to your clients and how they can deal with those kinds of situations?

Sure. So I’m going to throw myself under the bus here, but part of what you coach, something you usually came from, you need to learn it yourself. And I definitely part of being a competitive golfer back in college and beyond was managing the emotional state.

I came from other sports like football where, you know, if you got mad, you just try to hit somebody harder on the next play or you could run hard and some of those emotions would dissipate a little bit.

Golf, I had a challenge with when I did have a poor golf shot, how did I interpret it? And unfortunately, I interpreted it in a very self-critical way. Hit a bad shot. Let’s say it goes into the trees off the tee.

It would be. You suck rag. That was awful. I can’t believe how bad you are in it immediately. So unfortunately, my post shot routine was very habitual and it was only about critical bad this, you know?

And there was never a learning part of it. And I remember in high school I hit a little too clearly, but it was like a 90 yard shot with the sand wedge from the middle of the fairway and I chunk dead.

And back then, we didn’t have stand bags, my bag was laying on the ground and I just took that sandwich and I just tomahawk and slammed my gloves. Now I broke the sandwich, which was OK, but then the next day, because this is the last hole of the tournament, I went to the range and realized that I had brought the driver the wedge. And on a night I heard the same swipe because I went into it so hard. So I got a lot of bang for my back on that tomahawk slamming. I broke four clubs.

Now that’s embarrassing to say that, and I think that was an aha moment for me. Like, Hey, how could you allow a result of a golf shot to have that big of an impact on your emotional state? 

And I think that’s where honestly one of my points of going down there had to be an answer for this, right? So I teach a lot of post-hoc routines. I know you and I work on this with our clients if you’re going to hit a poor golf shot. OK, first off, I think people’s definition of a poor golf shot is almost like 90% of their shots they think are poor.

And I would say, Hey, let’s manage that and say, in reality, when we look at dispersions and we look at patterns, it’s probably only ten to 15% of shots that are really, really poor, right? Other ones are just average shots, but we always look at it could have been better.

Could be yeah, could have been a lot of things. But the ball went 40 yards left. Let’s deal with it. OK? And so now, instead of being critical, I’m always in learning mode. I want to know why it went left.

OK, so this is not a mean. I joke with clients all the time. It’s not about me hitting it, pumping, pumping it into the trees, maybe in somebody’s backyard and saying you’re supposed to be positive. Golly, gee, Rick, that’s OK.

I think that’s delusional. OK. I think that’s ridiculous. But if I now go and say that shot is a poor golf shot instead of, you suck, Rick. OK, then I could go, OK, why did that ball go left?

And you and I do a lot of post-grad push out routine stuff where we want them to learn. First off, mentally was where I was. I committed to the shot or not. And then if I was like, Hey, yeah, I had a clear picture, Rick, I had, you know, but then it was an execution issue.

It’s a poor golf swing. And do you know your swing patterns enough to know why a ball goes where it goes? This is not about fixing per se, but it is about processing it in a way to minimize the intensity of that emotion.

I’m still going to leave that shot that I just pumped into the trees. I am. But instead of full anger mode, I have now minimized the intensity of that emotion. So managing it is one putting in perspective.

Yeah, that shot went offline. Why did it go? There is a much better question than just a self-critical voice. So that’s kind of how I frame it. Absolutely. No, that’s something I relate so much to a lot of the work I’ve been doing.

My class recently, which is this curious verse, is a critical mindset to asking those questions, asking the one actually almost having a little bit of a kind of decision tree process of a place. It was this mental, this technical and actually going through that process and it removes the emotion.

So I think that’s really, really powerful, something that you spoke a lot about. That was this learning mindset. And it reminded me of again in a moment that I believe so many top performers are in and they find a way to be that and I’ll explain how in a second, but this antifragile mindset.

So no matter when they have tough situations thrown at them, they have struggles. They have curveballs, they have obstacles. All of those things, they find a way to actually make them more powerful, to make them beneficial to their development.

And the way that they do that is by creating this learning mindset, by being the learner. So whenever they have an obstacle thrown at them, they just learn from it. They find ways. They ask questions that are curious and I see it as an opportunity to develop.

And I think finding that is so, so important because too many people say you need to be robust in life, you need to be robust, you need to be robust. But the problem is that robustness ultimately still has a breaking point.

Antifragile, However, the more stuff that’s thrown at you, the more difficulty, the more obstacles you just become stronger. And every single one of those makes you stronger. So having that learning mindset is so, so powerful and it’s really, really great.

Yeah, I love what you just said there. I know we’ll talk on a separate podcast a little bit more about that and antifragile idea because, you know, I was working with a client yesterday and we talked about, you know, would you rather be in, you know, lose the lead at the end?

Right? Some people may say choking or whatever. Let’s say you play poorly at the end or just have a 20th place finish. And it was just kind of. And you know what I was trying to push is that let’s have the opportunity to choke.

Yeah, that’s the only time where you get better. But if we’re just always kind of like 40th place just barely make the cut. And I don’t think we push ourselves to know where we can go with it. And we’re going to choke.

We’re going to have poor performances when we don’t want them. And I think that’s part of this. Learning yet at the time it. We talk about struggle face all the time with flow as there’s going to be some struggle, OK?

But guess what? The tunnel down there, there’s some light back down there where we can get into a flow state based on understanding what that struggle was. So I think that’s something that you and I can talk about a little more detail and other times.

So just to finish up on this, this emotional management is in the kind of in the moment conversation. I also think what’s so important is your judgment and actually thinking about your judgment. I think so often we judge things in the short term and we very rarely think about what it’s going to look like in

the long term. And essentially, I think every experience is neither good nor bad, and we have to take that mindset into it as well because I think we often think, OK, if we hit short left, then it looks like it’s in a bit of trouble.

We instantly jump to the conclusion that that’s bad, that it’s a bad situation, but we just never know in the world of golf. If that is even after the next shot, if that’s actually going to turn out well for us.

But equally, we never look at it in the long term. We never look towards the long term and say, Well, this difficult situation that I’m facing right now could potentially be really powerful for me in the future. So I think that helps with that emotional management in the moment as well, just this internal belief that everything is neither good nor bad. 

And actually, as soon as we put a judgment on it, we determine the meaning that it has. So I think it’s really, really powerful to think both short term, long term could do this. And I was talking to one of my players literally just earlier today, and we were talking about an experience where they’re on the first to hit one down the middle loss, but couldn’t find it and just got down there. It disappeared, and had to go back to the tape heartbeats. And it’s just an important tournament. It’s a qualifier.

And I think this is not the way I intended this to start having that now passed a few days. Looking back, it’s like, actually, I’m really grateful for that experience because I’ve learned a lot. I’m able to cope with those situations and now going into the next stage.

I’m confident that no matter what was thrown at me, I know how to deal with it. So it’s actually in the short term. You can imagine this heartbeat heart beating fast. There’s concern. It’s in the short term. It seems bad.

Yes, in the long term, we reflect backwards. We actually started to appreciate that it was a really positive experience. It’s like it’s really important. Yeah, no. And I think about it like, you know, I’m a swing coach too. And you look at when we first learn how to hit, let’s say, a flop shot for the first time, right? 

We look forward to the experience, but the first few are going to be ugly. OK, there’s going to be some chunks. There is going to be some skulls hitting somebody, you know, somebody’s back yard or something like that.

But once you do enough of the repetitions, what was that challenge is now something or what used to be looked upon as maybe a threat or a fear now is something you want to take on. And it’s the same thing with the emotions that I got through that I’m stronger for it.

Next time it shows up. I know I can deal with it. To me, it’s just a very, very powerful way to manage it. I want to jump in real quick because it’s something that you have reminded me of before. Managing emotions certainly can be cognitive and reframing things, but it’s also a physiological response.

And, you know, if I’m frustrated, which unfortunately, that’s how I played a lot of my competitive golf. My grip pressure will tighten, my tempo will quicken and now my sequences are off. So it’s not a swing issue.

It’s now a mental emotional issue as I move forward. And you know, both you and I work a lot on the physiological stuff of breathing, and it might be I use something called expanded awareness, where you kind of look out in the distance and try to see 180 degrees around you while breathing.

Give me what are some of your best when you talk about shifting physiological feelings that you do? So for me, breathing would always be my number one, purely because there’s so much communication between your breath and your physiology.

Your breath ultimately determines a lot of the physical reactions that are happening in your body. So if you’re breathing very shallow and very fast, you’re telling your brain that you’re stressed, that you’re anxious, that you’re you’re in a fight, you’re in that kind of fight or flight situation if you can actually calm your breathing down, if you can slow your breathing right down, if you can make it deeper. And if you can actually make yourself more relaxed, you’re communicating to your mind, to your body that you’re actually in control, that you’re in a state of relaxation, that you’re in a state of focus.

And I think that’s the best place to start. And what people actually realize, if you notice this next time you are in this kind of stressed state, you feel like you’re a little bit out of control on the golf course.

You may be in a panic state because something’s just gone wrong. Just very quickly, become aware of your breathing. Become aware of how I’m breathing. Am I breathing? Very fast, very shallow. Because if you are in, you most likely are just trying to change your breathing for a short space of time.

And just by doing that, you’ll see the impact it has. Then on the message that was sent to your mind and the fact that you’re now back in control of your physiology. So I think it’s equally important.

It’s actually really interesting that your interpretation of the state is just as vital. So excitement and angst and anxiety, this anxious physiology are actually very similar. In an excited state, your palms get a bit sweaty, your heart rate might increase, and it’s exactly the same as this anxious state.

Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases and often it actually comes down to our perception of the situation. Do we perceive it as this challenge to be perceived as exciting? Or do we perceive it as this threat as something that we should be anxious about?

So just really start to consider that as well. I think that’s really, really important. You can change the physiology, you can change your heart rate lower and all sorts. You can also change your interpretation of the situation of the physical reactions that are happening.

Exactly. And along those lines, you know, we certainly talk about priming. We’re managing. And I think putting the combination together right after an event can be very, very important. And I do, you know, you and I have our clients fill out assessment forms, and some of that has to do with emotions, right?

It has to do with the self-awareness of maybe a shot did change emotional state or maybe on the first tee, my heart was racing. Awesome. Let’s use that as data points for us to figure out in the future what I’d have done differently in my pre round warm up, what I’ve done anything to manage after I made a double bogey as I walked in the next. So that’s part of also that post round assessment that I don’t think enough people do. They look at the scorecard and they may just chalk it up as a bad round.

And I think there could have been a lot to learn from that. Same thing with a good round you. You mean I talked to Colin all the time when he wins a tournament, we want to know what led to that great performance from a mental and emotional standpoint.

Also, so please listeners out there. This is not all about the negative or unreserved emotions. This is about understanding your emotional state. What triggers it to shift? How can we reframe it? And then next time, if I had that same experience, what would I do differently is really what you and I are always talking about with this self-awareness cycle? Absolutely. I think a really key point there, and I’ll remember this fantastic lady, Dr. Susan Davis, and she talks about the fact that emotions are actually neither positive or negative. They’re actually just signals or they’re pieces of information and dice.

So but that’s what the sign. We go back to this curious mindset. You feel a certain emotion instead of jumping to actually calling it positive or negative. Actually, just ask the questions, what’s this trying to tell me?

Are you trying to tell me something? And actually, when you start to dove into that kind of questioning, you start to bring the value out of the situation of the emotion, I think is really, really important. And I just want to dive into it actually because it’s very recent to this conversation.

But for anyone that watched that, the end to the Formula one Championship, the F1 Championship recently between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton is a really interesting scenario, a lot of controversy around how it ended. But the most important or the most influential bit of that entire situation that I found anyway was Lewis Hamilton’s reaction to how it finished up. 

So people argue whether it was very unfair, how he ended up losing the Championship match and Stafford one. But actually, his reaction to the entire situation was very interesting. So you’ll see him finish the race and he stays in his car for a period of time.

He stays in there with his helmet on. And my interpretation, my assumption of what’s going on there is that he’s given himself just a safe environment, a place to kind of digest what’s just happened to maybe let out a little bit of anger to kind of understand those signals if he is feeling some frustration, if he is feeling some anger. 

He’s kind of just rationalizing it. He’s being curious, asking questions. OK, what happened then? Why not feel this way? But then you see, and he gives himself up for a period of time. He gets out his car and he actually goes almost immediately over and congratulates Max Verstappen on his win.

And then he goes to the media and he has an interview with the media and doesn’t complain, doesn’t moan, doesn’t talk anything about the situation. But actually, what he does, very interestingly, is he makes it bigger than himself.

He reminds people that congratulations to Max is an incredible feeling winning the Championship. And also, he actually reminds people that we’re in a pandemic. I wish everyone a very safe Christmas, and I think that’s really, really powerful. What he’s done there is he’s reframed the situation.

He’s maybe giving himself some time to vent some frustration. Some anger is absolutely fine. Those emotions are there. We shouldn’t necessarily bury them, but we should find a safe environment in which to release them. And then we should ask the question: How do I want to act now?

What emotional state do I want to be in before I move into this next situation, this next environment? It comes almost all the way back to the prime, in the prime and situation. He’s priming himself for a new environment, for a new circumstance.

And he asks those questions: How do I want to show up right now? I want to shop with integrity. I want to show up and actually be a role model. And he’s moved into that situation with those thoughts.

Exactly. And I thought he’s really, really powerful how he went through that process. So I don’t know what your thoughts are. And if you’ve seen any stories or situations like that. But I just found that really inspirational and I thought really powerful and how he managed to probably assess in a micro sense what just happened, but then very quickly rationalize it and decide how he wanted to shop in the next environment he was stepping into. Yeah, no, it’s a wonderful story because there was so much on the line, right? We could have a definition of that wrong.

I can’t believe that happened and go into that story and a lot of, you know, bring it back to golf. A lot of people create these stories and they react to a story instead of maybe rewriting a new story and saying, Hey, this is how I want to look at what happened and how to kind of move from there. And so we put it all together. You know, it’s interesting that emotions for a lot of people are a reaction to a stimulus, right? There’s a stimulus and a response, and most people just react and don’t have a time out enough to pay attention to what that signal is.

Does that signal serve me or not? And if it does not, what can I do with that? And if it does great, let’s ride that right that track. But what we started off today is that emotions are also a choice we can present through our thought process as we can.

You know, the last thing I want to leave and we’ll do a separate one on this is, you know, gratitude is one of my favorite priming mechanisms is if I already go to the golf course, grateful for the opportunity to go play golf while I get to be outside while I get to go play with my friends. 

Well, I signed up for this tournament. I get to go play in a tournament and we frame it that way through gratitude. It really will set the filtering of how we’re going to show up to that. So that’s the one thing I kind of forgot a little bit earlier, but I think if we can be grateful for the opportunity, if we look at it a whole different way, aren’t we totally different. 

And I think that’s really powerful, and I think we could spend an entire conversation on grass. We will. We definitely will. But there’s so much I love about gratitude, and it’s one of the first things that I definitely speak to a lot of my clients about is making sure that we are always constantly living in a grateful mindset. 

And I think it’s so, so pathways. That first foundation that ultimately determines our perspective and our perspective creates all reality. So a really important point there.

Wonderful. Well, I’m grateful for this episode because I think we were able to share a lot with the listeners by being able to, yes, improve their performance. But let’s think about the enjoyment of that round of golf through emotions.

So great job at a great episode. Thanks. Pleasure, as always, Rick. Have a good one. Thank you for listening to today’s episode. I know you’ve received some incredible information, and if you would like to hear more, please subscribe.

Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode#7 / Golf Mental Game

Emotions | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan / Golf mental game
Emotions | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan / Golf mental game
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