How gratitude affects performance with Dr. Glenn Fox | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan | Golf Mental Game

How gratitude affects performance with Dr. Glenn Fox

Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode#11 / Learn golf mental game through perspective of neuroscientist Dr. Glenn Fox

(Head of Program Design, Strategy, and Outreach at the USC Performance Science Institute)

Glenn, thank you so much for joining the Flow Golf Podcast. I’m so excited to have you, and I can’t wait to ask some really interesting conversations around gratitude and I’m sure about some other topics as well. 

Just to give you a quick introduction, I’m sure you’ll give a bit of background as well. But you received your Ph.D. in neuroscience from USC where you focused on the neuroscience of gratitude, empathy and neuroplasticity.

You’ve also worked with some incredible organizations, the US Marine Corps Army research labs, Seattle Seahawks and numerous Olympic athletes as well, and examining in that process with those organizations the role of mindset in business, but also high performance. 

I believe you’re also currently on the advisory board for Fly Research Collective, where you work with Steven Cutler himself on projects related to gratitude flow and everything, high performance.

So really exciting. So many conversations that we can have around questions, so many questions that I know Rick and I have got as well. The first place I want to start to really set the scene for our listeners is the definition of gratitude 

There’s many different definitions I’m sure all the people have provided. I would love to hear from you.

How do you define gratitude and how should all of our listeners frame it as we go through this conversation? 

Yeah, well, thanks. Thanks for having me. A couple of ways you can define gratitude in research. We consider it the feeling we can have when we receive something that comes at efforts and fulfills a need. Now, there are many different dimensions for what creates the feeling of gratitude.

It could be the color shirt you’re wearing or it could be the surprise, it could be the hidden intention, and it could be anything to do with our own personal state, if we’re hungry, will determine a lot about how grateful we are for food. If we’re tired, if we’re lonely, if we’re in any given state can filter how much gratitude we’ll have for something.

All of these dimensions move through time, so things that make us feel grateful one day may not elicit the kind of gratitude the next day. And maybe, best of all things that we don’t have much gratitude for can create deep feelings of gratitude later on when they’re gone or when we recognize them. First of all, best to recognize things to be grateful for before they leave you.

But gratitude is this multidimensional space that moves through time. but there are key components and predictors that we know are associated with better feelings of gratitude. 

So when we really try to practice gratitude, there are a few different things you can notice. I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about this, but there are a few different levers to pull, namely noticing and ascribing a warm intention to what people do to benefit us, to noticing the amount of architecture it takes for us to live our lives on a daily basis.

Secondly, really fostering a deep and humble understanding of our needs, a humble understanding that we have a lot, and that if you have any breath left to give, you probably have something to be grateful for. Even when we’re feeling immense pain and going through deep suffering and trauma. The skill of gratitude is finding those things. And I’m not saying it’s easy.

I’m not saying it makes pain go away. But the skill is to tune ourselves to these factors of effort and need. And thus gratitude can blossom in the real world. Gratitude can have a few different other applications such as our appreciation and thankfulness. 

These are synonyms that gratitude can be described by that can include the appreciation of the sun on our shoulders or the stars in the sky or the rain.

I know you’re in the UK now, and there are many different things that we can take stock of. And so gratitude can also be a more broad feeling of appreciation for life itself. Or whatever You know, how we take and internalize this on a day to day basis is really up to us. 

It’s kind of like our personal gratitude laboratory is how I like to call it and I approach it from the scientific angle as much as I can.

There’s so much gratitude research coming up all the time now. I’m going to be honest. I mean, it’s a really wonderful stream of results and limits on gratitude and nuance to practicing and critiques of it as well, which are really fantastic. And then also more research advancing that, the benefits of it. It’s almost impossible to give, but now it’s wonderful.

When I started, there were like three papers on gratitude. Now there are, you know, there aren’t thousands, but there’s a lot right. Yeah. So, you know, Glenn, you and I met through a mutual friend, and I have been, I would say, promoting gratitude in my coaching for a while yet. 

I don’t think I had the true understanding of what it does from a performance standpoint because, you know, hey, those golfers out there, they listen to this podcast or they read things because they want to become a better player.

Now, Halim and I also want people to use their skills off the golf course, too. But if we look from just a performance standpoint and I know you’ve studied this, how does gratitude affect performance? You can use golf as an example or what you’ve studied in other areas. But you mentioned it’s a skill. You mentioned it’s kind of a trainable thing, but when it gets to a cause and effect relationship, how does gratitude actually affect performance?

I’m going to need to use a little bit of conjecture here. If people can forgive me, the role of gratitude in performance in high stakes settings has not been reseached very much. So a lot of what I’m going to say carries a caveat with it. As a scientist, I have to start almost everything in general. So let’s look at some hypotheticals or some hypothesized roles that I can have.

Okay. We know that positive emotion plays a critical role, and in performance research has identified that the, you know, the oxygen consumption in between two cyclists who are either using positive or negative emotions to motivate themselves shows that the positive emotions show actually more metabolic efficiency and actually less need less end tidal CO2 So positive emotion has a direct role in our physiology.

No debate there. And gratitude We often conceive of as maybe the most powerful of the positive emotions. And we’re not talking about gratitude as happiness, by the way. Throw that that’s an easy assumption to make an understandable one to think that gratitude is just the elation that we have when we get something nice. It’s a lot bigger than that.

It’s not just just feeling good about getting a nice present or something like that. That’s of course, gratitude can be deeply deeply associated. But the span of gratitude is, as Seneca said, the scope of gratitude is as broad as life itself. So when we talk about gratitude in performance settings, it’s based on this real connection between gratitude and the rest of the positive emotions.

And anecdotally is leveraged by a lot of High-Performance people. To be part of their mental routine as a way of taking stock, of appreciating things, of noticing things. It’s hard to perform when you’re not in the present moment.

It’s not impossible. You can get lucky. Right. I mean, I’m a very, you know, beginer golfer. And there are times in your mind, aren’t there, and you’re just hoping for a lucky hit to bring you back in, right?

You’re not mentally preparing and you just approach the ball and just go like, well, maybe you’ll get lucky. Right on the driving range. You have more than one point, you know? And so sometimes when your mind isn’t there and you’re just you’re essentially hoping for a low probability good shot. 

So outside of that inner to center ourselves to remind ourselves of the present moment I think of gratitude as a vehicle to bring us into the present moment to take a deep breath and what you’re doing when you take a deep breath as you’re appreciating the world you’re giving your heart rate a chance to slow down.

You’re, of course, free, oxygenating your blood supply and you’re centering your mind on something that is present, right? Appreciating the moment not and saying, you know, you may have hit the ball into the sand or whatever Use your life metaphor there. Right? 

So, like, I hit the ball in the sand by appreciating that moment. You’re not saying the ball is sitting in the middle of the fairway ready for a nice chip.

You’re not saying the ball is an inch away from the cup. You hit a perfect tee shot, you’re not denying that you’re in the rough or you’re in the sand or whatever, but you are appreciating the opportunity to take your best strike. And that’s the crux of gratitude is a centering emotion. And it’s relating to our positive emotion and building upon the architecture of our brain.

To use positive emotion to control bodily systems for the effective resource allocation needed for high performance. Wow. I love that. And when we look at it again, skill is something that can be developed. And with your research when people are very much into golf, of course, they’re trying quick fixes, right? They want something that’s instantaneously going to improve something.

And certainly having a positive emotion like gratitude would give us a better opportunity, like you mentioned. Yet when we look at the train ability of this particular skill is gratitude. And I know how I’ve had a few questions on this too is how do we actually develop this as a skill? It’s like anything. It’s one, one step at a time.

Each time you do a moment of gratitude, it’s like doing a pushup, right? Nobody expects to get really strong doing a single push to push up their wonderful exercise on a single one is better than zero by a large margin. But many, many pushups will make you quite strong. It’s really good for your core. It’s good for everything.

And so it is with gratitude that noticing a single thing you’re grateful for is akin to doing one push up. It’s much more than zero, but it’s the repeated light exposure to it that gives us things. 

And then as you learn your formula and prove in other words, in our research and pilot data of mine, what we see is that the variety and the specificity of things that people become grateful for improves over time or increases over time.

So people start by saying, I’m grateful for my dad or something more grateful for my wife or partner or grateful. That’s okay. That’s great. It could be a wonderful first pushup but soon your form improves and then you begin to say, I’m grateful for the way my dad answers this phone every time I call him, or I’m grateful for the extra care that the person took in making my meal or the eye contact provided by my boss or something.

Right. So, you know, the specificity of things increases in what you’re doing when you increase the specificity of the image that’s creating gratitude is you’re building a better map in the brain of the emotion and the emotional feeling state that leverages more of your brain’s capacity to trigger the positive emotion, emotion as a body state. It’s a behavior.

It’s a change taking place in the body feeling as the experience of emotion. It’s important to distinguish those two things so when you’re trying to create a good map of the things that make you grateful, you’re trying to create a map in the mind of rich connections across many, many, many, many brain networks. There is no gratitude center of the brain.

There really aren’t even centers of the brain. The brain is horrendously complicated; it is hideous in how it hides its details. It’s a mess up there trying to make it so but that’s what you’re trying to do when you practice. 

The skill of gratitude is you’re building a better map of it and you’re building a better pathway by which your experience and interpretation of feelings in your interpretation of emotion, in your interpretation of what can lead to, more prolonged savoring of the positive emotion of gratitude.

Just to take that a step further, obviously, the desired result from practicing gratitude is not just to practice it for the sake of it, but it’s to feel and experience the positive benefits that we’re talking about there that it can create. So when it comes to practicing gratitude, I’ll explain what I mean by these two things, but is it better to go into depth of gratitude or breath of gratitude?

So what I mean by that is on death am I better off choosing one thing? And I’ll talk about the radiator after heating the stuff. That’s right. Next me here. Am I better off saying I’m grateful for this? I’m grateful for my television. I’m grateful for Zoom. So listing lots of different things. I’m grateful for all my better off saying I’m grateful for this radiator.

This is why I’m grateful for this radiator because someone took a full day to install this. There’s still a lot of gratitude for that. Okay. But one is grateful for that. Actually, someone spent their entire life creating this system that is in my house. I click one button and it turns on the entire heating. That makes me feel very grateful and I continue to ask why.

So I go deeper with my gratitude rather than going wider with my gratitude. Does that make sense? Which one? If we have the desired result of the positive benefits of gratitude, which one will get me that quicker? Essentially, I’m not sure of any research studies that have looked at this. There may be some. Now, my recommendation is that it’s up to each of us to run our experiment.

What I really encourage people to do with this is if they’re sitting there thinking, Okay, you kind of got this more evidence. It’s a lot more down to earth on gratitude and what it means. And you’ve got me, I’m going to try something. I’m going to put this into my daily routine. 

What I’d really suggest is kind of breaking into two week chunks and running a little experiment for two weeks where maybe you sit for a minute or 5 minutes or better 20 minutes and you practice going, Okay, I’m going to look at my computer mouse and I’m going to really think about all the components that it took to create my computer mouse is sitting right here. 

So it just popped in my mind. But you realize that it took the whole world to create a computer mouse. This is a classic Buddhist meditation where you’re grateful for your shoes and you realize it took the whole world to create your shoes. And then your goal is to feel the residents of that part of the expression, but like to feel how.

How does it feel? Did it work? Do you feel good? And then do it for two weeks, every day, every other day, whatever you can master and connect the practice with the feeling of it and then for two weeks, maybe switch with being like, I’m grateful for that. I’m, you know, the paint on the walls in the sign outside and the trees and whatnot and, and just just try it.

I would say I don’t think you’re going to hurt anything during that way. Maybe try two weeks of sending a thank you note every day to people. See how that really feels. And then when you’re in a high stakes environment, practice like you should be grateful for this blade of grass. 

Should I be grateful for the engineers that made my club or should I be grateful for this person that stood up for me or that believes in me and see where your heart seems?

And then maybe some days it’s one or the other or whatever and build your gratitude practice in a way that’s appropriate, that’s nuanced. The only way to go wrong is to feel bad if you don’t feel grateful enough, quote unquote. Right. So remember, it goes back to the pushups thing you do one pushup. Don’t expect to go out and do a bench press with two plates, right?

It’s just one try. Keep a really light heart with it. And a lot of self-compassion when you practice these things and know that it builds up over time. And some days it’s just going to feel like that was pointless. 

And then one day you’re going to flex your gratitude muscle and you’re going to be able to lift yourself through some really tough stuff by thinking, holy smokes, like, wow, that, that really added up.

I’ve got a completely different perspective on this thing that totally went sideways, and I’m excited to be here. I’m feeling challenged by this and my friend, and it adds up. It’s kind of like working out. There’s one day you just go out to do something and you go, Whoa, I didn’t know I could. I didn’t know I could do that.

It works really similarly. So I would say the only wrong way to practice gratitude is through any kind of self criticism. Feeling like I want not a grateful person or something, which we can do. We can all do it.

I mean, I do science, but I practice. It’s a very separate thing for me. There are days where I’m like, why I’m really messing this up, you know, and starts with a few deep breaths and then go, okay, let’s have a little sense of humor.

Let’s have some self kindness and compassion and get back to trying to have a little bit of fun out there, you know, and that lightheartedness is really important and talking about it, right? It took a long time in the beginning. I was really just full throttle. Just be grateful. That’s it. That’s all you need. And I realize a lot of people, people are motivated by it, right?

Because it’s a clear message. It’s a clear message. There’s plenty of, you know, mental health gurus or whatever you want to call them that promote this full throttle approach. To mindset like peak performance, or else you’re a loser kind of thing. And, you know, like, we all know it. We know it’s out there, right? You know, you know those people you don’t talk about, right.

And it’s an easy tactic. It’s an easy sell to say be as grateful as you can if you’re not crying tears of gratitude every single day. What are you doing? You know, and I had people coming out and like, I just I can’t I feel bad unless I just completely. No, no one 80 of course. But as a solid 90 to start to say, listen, let’s have a lot of self-compassion when we do this.

Let’s ignore the people who insist it’s a one trick pony. Let’s ignore the people. So peak performance is from one thing or the other only. And if you’re not doing it, you’re doing it wrong and start to say like okay, what if we were treating this really like a science experiment for our own emotions where we learn to identify what makes us feel good?

I love the phrase, what makes your heart sing? And like finding that resonance of what makes your heart sing. And I know that I’m going to take my science hat off and write my normal person hat on. But that’s really the process of practicing gratitude, you know, moving a little beyond the research into conjecture and kind of the humanistic side of it.

You’ll find the things that make you feel grateful, and then certain things will fade, too. So it’s a long answer. I’m sorry. It’s a very long way. And it’s a clip play with it like little enemy in the word play quite intentionally. Like sometime you will be there and you’ll find that thing. I just guarantee it like I really do.

Stand by. There is one place where the research in real life really works. You know, gratitude is a potent predictor of good performance and resilience and mental toughness. 

And we see it in all of our samples when I really talk to high performance, you know, people, so to speak, and I don’t really like that term, but the way when you talk to people who are used to dealing with high stakes environments, we put it that way, you know, the people who really start to enjoy and thrive in it, there’s a sense of gratitude there there are a few exceptions of folks I’ve have met and interviewed where I don’t I think they’re on it. 

There’s a different way. There are a lot of different ways to approach it, of course, but you know, for a lot of people, there has to be some element of positive enjoyment and joy in what you do. I don’t think there’s any way to perform. And joy, again, not happiness, not direct, not bliss or pleasure or euphoria.

Joy is, I think, the source of everything and gratitude is certainly an emotion that takes us closer to joy. Right. You know, when most people talk about gratitude, they talk about something that they were grateful for, something happened yesterday, something like that. 

And I talk a lot about priming emotions for a future event. And so I love hearing when we talk about I am grateful for an opportunity or an experience or something that’s going to come my way as a way to shift where we’re our emotional state is.

And I and I totally agree with you, we’re not asking people to be happy on a golf course, but you signed up for it. So we may as well have that passion and have our hearts sing. And we’re very much into the passion and purpose that goes along with it. Can you expand a little bit more on being grateful for something in the future, maybe that has not occurred yet?

And I call it priming, but I’m not sure how that would work for you. Hey, I may ask a clarification question: how would you differ that from optimism I’m at oh, great question because you and I have had the conversation about threat versus challenge before. Right? Is it that I have somebody on the first tee at a tournament and how they view that moment?

If they view it as a threat, there’s a different response that happens in the body compared to a challenge and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe they’re going to do great, but they certainly are looking forward to the opportunity to see how they perform. 

So maybe that’s my slight difference is that they’re grateful that they signed up there on that first tee and they’re going to take it on optimism to me as I’m going to take it on and I’m going to hit a great tee shot, which might be part of it, too.

Yeah. I mean, so I would say that gratitude, optimism or really close cousins and between gratitude, purpose and optimism, those are the three biggest predictors. Those are the big three and positive psychology. 

Those are the big three that predict the highest degrees of subjective well-being. Gratitude, to my knowledge, is a better predictor of subjective well-being than any of the Big Five personality traits independent of the the closest, most poor, you know, highly heritable personality traits.

Gratitude is a better predictor. So fun fact that I would probably reframe your thing in terms of a healthy optimism. Okay. You know, there’s sort of gratitude there’s gratitude for the moment. There’s gratitude. What we have, there’s gratitude for an opportunity. So they’re going to overlap considerably here. So there’s gratitude like man, I’m so glad to be here, right?

Like, that’s like a grateful thing. Like, I’m grateful I get the chance to do this. I’m grateful I get to learn what’s going to happen. I think insofar as how we’re leaning into the future, I may call on the frameworks from optimism. I’m not an optimistic researcher. But I’m a fan of the research on optimism. And what it really says is that disposition to the future, that what we do now can influence the future.

There’s a researcher named Lisa Aspinwall, and her research on optimism is just so fun to read. Oh, my goodness. It’s so good and it’s so interesting and motivating and really, really clarifying on what optimism means. This is a big one in terms of the difference between how people use the word optimism and how researchers used the word optimism.

And, you know, when people talk about optimism, they’re usually talking about hope, a degree of hope and hope is mandatory. You know, you have to have some degree of, oh, then there’s kind of varying degrees of like blind hope. And in the feeling of hope, optimism is, in my understanding, much more cognitive in terms of filtering what we hope to be able to control in the future.

And what we hope to be able to control in terms of how we act now determines what the future holds for us and that disposition that we have a say in the future is the most optimistic thing in the world. And there’s all kinds of studies linking that sense of faith that what we do now affects the future to health outcomes and well-being and all kinds of amazing things.

So in terms of, you know, approaching a tough shot, as you know, golf here is the metaphor for sure as well. You know, that stressor of approaching a tough stop you know, we go into more biological frameworks here when I talk about challenge and threat and they’re a little bit independent of optimism and there’s not a lot of research linking challenge and threat and optimism.

There might be some that I don’t know of, but the optimism, I think, could be a really good trigger for shifting that stress into the challenge state. And people intuitively actually get this pretty well. It’s actually a really biologically rooted thing that people get pretty well. The difference between when you’re faced with the challenge of thinking of it as like a phase of the stressor and thinking, all right, let’s let’s do this thing as opposed to, oh, not again, here we go again, right?

Like that mindset that people have a lot of performers that I talked to when they’re in that mental rut, that’s one of their loops is here we go again. And that’s, that’s a pure threat state, and the threat state is a really constructive response. Our heart rate goes up the same as Challenger. 

And this is the interesting thing from the physiology of the Challenger threat literature is really that the physiological responses are very, very, very similar when we have a challenge state or a threat state.

But certain things are the key differences, namely a variable called cardiac impedance, which is a measure of the fluid contained in the blood in the heart. And you can actually measure this across the lifespan of a single heartbeat. How much fluid is actually getting pumped around in there? And so this measure of cardiac impedance is a big predictor of whether or not you’re entering into a challenge state or a threat state.

Meaning more blood means more oxygen means more challenge, more rising to those things. Right. And so when you’re feeling your heart quickened in and you’re feeling these physiological responses to stress, get used to trying to shift it towards this challenge state as a skill. 

I mean even just recognizing it, I’ve been in situations where I’ve really felt my body going into a threat and feeling things lock up, feeling my mind kind of lock up and going or or kind of retelling the story of like, oh yeah, let’s do this, let’s do this is going to be crazy.

Oh my goodness. Like, what’s going to happen? I’m going to do something like, let me just fall on my face. Who cares? Let’s go right like that. That LFG mentality, you know, and as corny as it is, like, that story makes a difference, right? 

And, you know, I mean, that’s kind of some of the cornball self-help stuff I actually kind of like, look, the like what’s the one is like you know, that that like, let’s do this mentality that I own this thing, right?

You know, whatever, whatever. A little personal mantra you have is like a funny thing to play with as well. And you got to tell a story around it. At least label it at least learning to label it in a non anxiety producing way. And that’s part of the skill, too. 

And this affects labeling cuts both ways. When we start to label the things that make us feel stressful, we either can have the tool to sort of spin it up into a channel and say or spin it into a threat state by going like, I mean just, I mean just like just right.

Like if you ask somebody 50 times. Sure. Do you worry that things are going to go up, right? And so there is a risk in how we label emotion. And research has shown that labeling kind goes both ways. So you have to learn to play with that affect labeling as a way to sort of build that positive emotion.

And that’s where having a daily gratitude practice, having that daily muscle thing really can provide some sturdiness to it. And I think some people, you know, really get good at it. I mean, I think there’s just some people who think their minds are just like they just have it, you know, there’s just some people like they’re just they’re mentally just ready, you know, and I like the term mental readiness a little more than mental toughness.

Toughness implies kind of a brittle inflexibility. And I don’t think that toughness is really mental readiness. And that’s the way a lot of the military operators talk about it to us is in terms of readiness. That’s a nice verb as well. So we work on those internal mantras. When you’re feeling that shift into that threat state, we’re feeling kind of locked up, you know, sometimes using your body in different ways can trigger some things.

But the labeling of it, the kind labeling of it to build a routine around it, I think can be a really nice framework for people. So just I just want to touch you mentioned the body and how that potentially impacts the way you’re feeling. Obviously, your state and all those kinds of elements and I want to bring these back to how we can help create more effective practices for our listeners because it’s the easiest way for them to benefit.

Like you said, there’s no set way to practice gratitude as such. There’s no one way. It’s this experimentation of the different methods that actually people will get the most value from. And I love when you mention that because it’s exactly what we say with flowcode. We have all of the triggers, we have an entire framework, but we ask all of our users to create their own personal blueprint because there’s no one trigger that’s going to benefit absolutely everyone.

So it’s exactly the same when it comes to gratitude. But my question is, is it and you may not know the answer, but you may have a feeling that it would be, but is there any impact on body language and how effective your rescue practice is? Is there any value in practicing gratitude whilst in motion rather than being sat still?

And is there any research or studies that have been done on that? So I don’t know of research or studies, and they may exist. They may very well exist. Again, like I said, they’re coming out like a firehose right now. So forgive me if there are some now, a lot of them. It is really important to note that it’s a bi directional thing in our bodies, states, in our body states, emotions, our bodies, emotions, our body states.

And our brain is continually kind of piecing together, trying to make predictions about the future, trying to understand what is happening, our body. And that’s what’s being monitored by our feelings and our thoughts and you know, so, changing our body state absolutely can change our emotion. The best example of going for a run is known as a great mood booster.

Right. Moving your body is a great poster. I think fun and creativity should be part of every single day. Life is effing short, by the way. So no matter how hard you work in life, you cannot, I don’t know, be a high performer and have a different take on it. But I’m like, you can do 35 minutes of genuine fun every day and nothing bad will happen.

You could probably do it for hours. Given the amount of time we waste on stupid social media and emails, you could probably cut out a whole bunch of garbage and just replace it with actual fun. And your performance is probably going to go through the roof because you’re continually recovering, right? Like you’re continually recovering from things. You have the act of recovery.

It’s like, you know, going to change your body and stuff like that. Now, sometimes stillness is the answer. I think a lot of our gratitude practice should take place seated on a cushion, and a lot of mindfulness instructors would say, you know, there’s some value, there’s just a lot of value. And maybe the only value of mindfulness is practicing while sitting.

It’s a very Zen approach. There’s and people would say, Don’t be in a lotus position on a cushion, silent room, nothing. Eyes open mic, nothing about you in that environment. I think there’s probably something I’ve just noticed personally: there’s not much replacement for sitting on a cushion on the floor and being comfortable. I can’t sit in the lotus position, but sitting comfortably by myself with the stimulus is where I get the most worked on.

I just notice I just feel like for me, that’s the best now out in the world, you know, there’s something about it. There’s something ineffable about all this. I really believe that there’s something about like, yeah, you can, you can chuckle. It’s like a golf swing, actually, right? Like you can check all the mechanical markers. Like, it’s my wrist angle.

Is my elbow straight? Is my, you know, am I coming back 270 degrees or am I doing a two 72 degree back swing like or whatever, you know, like you can check all the boxes and the mechanics, but at the end of the day, the feeling of a good swing probably will take care of all that where you go.

And there’s research on this actually you all know I’m sure you know this, but the feeling of putting, telling people I just send the ball, I get such a it sounds like that, that, that Happy Gilmore scene where we all have it in and there’s research on it. There’s research on telling people, like giving them the checklist of all the mechanics of their swing versus telling some people swing like a childhood swing and just feel your ball sense to have a feeling for where you want the ball to go.

And those people have more fun. They hit the ball better. I might just feel it in the air like my worst nightmare was always trying to go. If I could hit that blade of grass and then that blade of grass, the ball will always go in. And I could never put it that way. But when I really started to just feel like, Okay, we’re slanted this way, I know I’m going to aim and do a little blend of like that, all right?

It’s going to feel and that has made for much better putts for me. And I think for people trying to get better at golf or get better at life, we want to drive top down. Like I have the rational things, I’ve got the rational check boxes here, then everything will work. And there’s something ineffable about it, like, does it summarize it?

It just doesn’t add up because we’re using thought for what it’s not. Our rational minds are wonderful for decision making and problem solving. And like you need a strong rational mind to be able to identify things. And certainly with golf as in life, there’s sometimes you do notice, oh yeah, I am putting my foot too far forward when I address the ball like, oh yeah.

I not I do have a weird habit and sometimes yeah, you can get a better shot. Of course by mechanics you can avoid you have to have the mechanics right. But there’s a balance between expecting well, if moving my foot forward a little bit makes my shots better, then what if I do all the mechanics perfectly, right?

I’ll only have perfect shots and there’s some non-linear character of how much pressure that’s saving with gratitude. Like people. I know that there’s some rational thinkers out there on call. Okay. Dr. Guy says this is the thing to do. I’ll just write down ten things I’m grateful for every day. I’ll be the most grateful person, and I’ll be just, like, crushing it all day long because I’ve got ten grateful things.

Now what? You know the answer. The most crass thing a lot of people always ask me is how do I make my kids grateful? Right. That’s that’s one of the tell a lot of people when I know I haven’t quite sold the message correctly. Like, know that you don’t make things you don’t make yourself grateful you don’t make people grateful.

You don’t make yourself have a good golf swing. Like imagine a golf cart saying like just make yourself hit it better. I’m sure there are some that try that and maybe the right thing goes through. But the feeling is going to be the feeling and the emotion is going to be the source of the whole thing. And it’s really hard to make ourselves feel anything, really.

You can’t talk yourself into feeling things. It’s like you just kind of feel the feeling and you feel the emotion. You learn to practice and hone in on what works, and you do the daily work of that internal learning and it’ll start to add up to things. And some people take this way past what I personally am capable of.

And you just see them out there, you see them in our military communities, you see them in our entrepreneurial communities in particular, where I work all with entrepreneurs and founders who by by the way, are undergoing incredible stressors like, you know, I mean, I mean, every day is a shop from the rough for these folks. You know, every day is in the bunker and the best entrepreneurs just happen to hit out of the bunker once every ten times.

And some people never get out right and the stressors and the pressures are immense. There’s a reason I switched from studying recovery to studying founders because the challenges and the pressures are so similar and I would say not that the challenges are not small, I’m saying that the level of pressure felt the feelings, the doubt the pain can have a lot of parallels.

And our founders are inventing these strategies to cope all the time, which are really interesting. They’re also taught they’re not really taught to handle these things, which is where I’m working right now. And it makes for a wonderful experience. And while golf is a perfect analogy for so many things about golf, it’s also what I’m learning about the entrepreneurial process that you need a mindset.

You need a daily mental health routine. You need to find relief. You need to set up for work in the same sort of way as you set up for a golf shot.

Wonderful goal. And I’ve got one more but just yes, one my it from my standpoint and I wanted to know this, but are some people biologically more capable of feeling gratitude than others? So is there any research on that to understand? Mike? Well, one, nature nurtures conversation, really obviously we’ve agreed that this can be learned and can be developed.

But some people are just born with more capability to feel gratitude than others are because you often do get it and I have it from clients who can’t seem to be grateful. I can do the gratitude block. I just can’t feel grateful. I’m not getting the feelings, the benefits. Is that true? Some people are biologically wired to feel less gratitude or there’s a paper a few years ago that looked at an oxytocin receptor.

So oxytocin being a personal bonding chemical where among many other things, it’s not the cuddle drug or whatever people call it. And they found that there were some differences in people’s propensity to gratitude and some genetic markers of the length of this receptor. A shape of this receptor protein. And so there may very well be now what caused what who knows whether genes causing us to be more prone to grateful gratitude or where was it the other way around?

I think you’d be naive to think there’s not a biological basis for our proneness to this. They are buried in a lot of the gratitude research. Some really interesting findings that a lot of the big benefits of gratitude have been for people who don’t start out as particularly grateful is that that’s where a lot of the research findings on the benefits of gratitude come from.

It’s actually not from the people who are generally grateful to begin with, but the people who start out by going and don’t think so and then go put in eight weeks of work and go Oh, holy smokes. Like I’m feeling better. 

So it’s helpful to remind people back to the pushup analogy, of course, like how strong do you feel after one pushup you know, if you’re expecting that you’re going to be able to move a mountain, then you’re going to be really disappointed that your push up didn’t work.

So you don’t feel particularly strong after one pushup or one day of gratitude or one session, like really do the work for eight weeks, really start to tune in to what makes your heart sing. Really, really express gratitude. And like, if you really want to see the benefits, like lean into it, get vulnerable, be humble, and accept that some days you’re not going to feel you’re going to write stuff down.

That was stupid. I don’t care. And then the next day you’re going to read what you wrote, or maybe five weeks from then you’re going to read what you wrote. Go, Wow, that was a pretty dang good day. You know, our motto around the house is Normal days are a great day. You know, normal days are great days and you’re going to get that sense that like, Oh, that was a good day.

And then it’ll burst and then you get a little that virtuous cycle. So it takes some time to kick in. It’s just like anything. So are we biologically wired or not? Probably to some degree. 

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I definitely don’t think except, barring very, very rare exceptions, that people may not feel grateful in any circumstance.

I think that would be really evolutionarily disadvantageous based on the role of gratitude in the evolution of our species, which was our ability to track fairness and moral behavior. Is pretty much linked inextricably to gratitude. Adam Smith said As much as Adam Smith was one of the founding people of economic theory, there is no cupcake, by the way.

And he posited that gratitude was really crucial for the functioning of a society. And we published a paper years ago on gratitude and opioid urgent function, which is the brain’s pain relieving chemicals it’s one of my favorite papers we published published for the former student of mine in Max Canning, and he’s the lead author on the paper and didn’t quite get picked up because I think it’s a little technical, but I promise if people Google it, you’ll find we really wrote it in a way that it could be accessible to people.

It’s a little wordy but it’s a really cool take on the evolution of gratitude that is like really baked into our deepest, deepest systems for pain relief. And in doing so, I think we show that, yes, there’s probably some proneness to gratitude that varies between people based on our biology. But for someone to not be capable of it, I think it would be almost, almost impossibly rare, impossibly rare, because it just wouldn’t have added up at some point.

If you’re a crummy partner, people like how are you going to move forward? How are you going to move your genes forward? If people think you’re a selfish, free freeloader, there are ways. But, you know, at some point it’s going to be some basis. So long answer there’s probably I’m sure there’s more more to the biology of our promise to gratitude.

But I doubt that the range is wide enough to think anybody may not be predisposed to enjoying the benefits. And like we say, no matter where you are in terms of if there is a predisposition, no matter where you are, you can develop, this is a skill that can be developed and the strategy for every one, which is consistency over intensity, which I think is the key message for the listeners to take away, is don’t try and create this unbelievable perfect gratitude practice that you implement for one week and then call it a day.

Just take those small steps and make those a big priority and implement those. And you start to experiment and test and learn what works best for you so that it would never be a moving baseline. Or one other element of the analogy holds as well as a point here that if you stop doing it, it’ll decay.

So but you’ll pick it up quicker again later. Sure. So it is a maintenance thing as well. So the analogy was perfectly good. Well, and I’m glad you said that, that you do it for two weeks. You like it. Good. I’m grateful. Now go like it’s kind of like saying, oh, I got fit. I could run a mile in 6 minutes or less of a heart healthy wherever.

Like it doesn’t work like that. So you have to keep it up. A steady effort is the key. Wonderful. Well, Glenn, I want to respect your time and tell you how grateful I am for you to be on today. You know, we met you, and I just instantaneously loved your energy and loved your passion and how your heart sings about gratitude and creativity.

And such. And you’ve taught me a lot and I really appreciate you being on today and helping our listeners bring this gratitude on and off the golf course. Thank you so much. Of course. And people can get a hold of me on Twitter, LinkedIn pretty easily. I’m Glenn Fox, and then I am on LinkedIn as Glenn Fox.

I hope people reach out and say hi and I’m easy to get a hold of. So happy to be here. And thanks for having me. And always a pleasure, Rick. So glad we got to know each other and look forward to many such conversations in the future. Exactly. We got to get on the golf course right now.

We’ve got you’ve got the perfect platform to help you begin to golf. We’ll take it to that next line. That’s perfect. I love it. Ben, thank you so much for me. Appreciate it. Very welcome.

Learn golf mental game / How gratitude affects performance with Dr. Glenn Fox | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan
How gratitude affects performance with Dr. Glenn Fox | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan


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