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The performance loop / Flow Golf Podcast Episode #29

In today’s episode, I want to talk about a framework. We discuss a lot inside the golf academy, and that’s something that we call the performance loop. 

And I just want to give a quick kind of overview of the performance loop for all listeners, and then we’ll dove into some of the different components in a lot more detail.

So there’s a lot of times when you speak to some players, I speak to some of my clients and we talk about why they might not be hitting the shots they want or shooting the scores that they want. 

And more often than not, they revert back to the golf swing, then revert back to the technical component. And although we know that is absolutely vital, of course it is.

We know that there’s one other layer that isn’t being pulled back that ultimately is so vital as well. And we believe that there’s something that impacts your ability to execute on a swing, execute on a stroke on the green, and that’s the state that you’re in. 

And that’s really this performance loop starts to kind of really show up is understanding that state impacts your ability to execute on a swing.

And when we then take a step back from the state and we ask what impacts your state? We know that it’s the emotions, the feelings that have impact or create the state that you’re ultimately right or you’re in a flow state or face state. 

And then if we take a step back from emotions, we understand that the thoughts that you’re having, your perception creates the emotions.

It’s not your environment that creates your emotions. It’s the thoughts about your environment, the thoughts about the situation that create those emotions. 

And then we take it one step further back to where we believe is kind of the beginning of this performance loop. And that’s to focus on what you focus on to create your thoughts. So I really want to begin there and just go through each of those elements.

And I know there’s some stuff after the swing, after the result, the outcome that we’ll discuss as well. I want to start there. Focus, Rick. What does focus mean to you and what can people do to improve that part of their performance load?

Yeah, I mean, we have the saying flow follows focus. So to be fully engaged in the present moment is a skill that starts everything. And so focus is my ability to pay attention to the present moment on what is relevant. Now, if we are hitting a golf shot, what is relevant and all you listeners out there think about what’s relevant before you hit a golf shot.

Well, I would hope you’re saying. Well, Rick, I would like to know the information about the shot. I would like to know the lie. I would like to know the wind. I would like to know how far I am. I would. And the list goes on and on, by the way. And that’s something we’ve talked about in other sessions.

But am I paying attention to what’s relevant at that moment? Now, if I’m thinking about, Oh, I have to get an email back to my friend or a text back to my friend, that’s irrelevant to the next 30 seconds of a golf shot that would be considered a distraction. So focus is what we pay attention to that’s relevant at this moment.

So what you and I have done is we’ve helped people use proper questions to help them funnel that focus and question of how is this lie going to impact the ball is a lot different than is this a good liar, bad life, which is an opinion. 

We’re trying to create facts. We’re also trying to also ask questions, put a spotlight and we’ll talk about light in a moment.

A spotlight on the present moment. So now if I can have a question that keeps me in the present moment, I answer that question. I am now focusing on the environment, focusing on the present moment. So focusing would be easy. The little white ball doesn’t move. 

The target doesn’t move yet we do have people that is challenging for them to fully pay attention for 20 to 30 seconds to the present moment.

So flow follows focus asking proper questions of what’s relevant in the moment. Unfortunately, we get pulled away to things that are irrelevant. 

We’re going to call those distractions and such. So we also have used an idea of light before, and I’m taking this from a book called Peak Mind about this idea of attention. If I’m a golfer and I’m on the tee box of a par four and I put a floodlight out there, it lights up everything.

It lights up the trees. It lights up the roof, lights up the fairway. Awesome. That’s a good way to start as a floodlight. But eventually you would want that attention, that focus to start to narrow or think of a spotlight still fairly broad, but it is starting to narrow down. Okay, then we finally get into a flashlight. Will.

A flashlight is a much smaller type of light. Great. And then if we really want to get into it, how about a laser? Right. A laser is now putting all that energy into a very, very finite spot. That’s all light. Now, in golf, we do go from floodlight to spotlight, to flashlight to laser. Awesome. Okay. However, where is that pointing?

I could say yes, Rick. I’m supposed to have a narrow target. And the flashlight is a flashlight, but it is pointing to the right rough. Well, you’ve narrowed your focus, but now the attention is on something you don’t want. So focus is an interesting thing because, yes, we are looking at what’s relevant. But ultimately, we do need to pay attention to our intention of the golf shot.

And that’s where that last piece of light needs to be. So I don’t know what you think about that, but that’s kind of how I look at focus.

No, I love it. And something else I want to kind of lean into before we move into thoughts and perception. We’ve talked a lot about this before, Rick, but it is the focus trigger and there are a long list of them. 

And one of the stories that I love and I love to share with the listeners is how many times and I’ve done this personally, but how many times have I been in a really tricky position under a tree in the trees with barely a shot?

And I hit one of the best shots of my life, but then also in the middle of the fairway, 120 yards out from the green. Pretty simple pin position. And I hit one of the worst shots of my life. And that’s happened so many times for me personally. 

I’m sure it’s happened so many times for listeners as well. And actually, what’s interesting is when you understand some of the things that trigger focus, we start to understand why that might be in that position.

Where I’m in the trees, I’ve got this tiny, small little gap. I’m actually in a novel position. I’ve never been there before. We actually start to identify all these different focus triggers. There’s a challenge, there’s risk involved. 

There’s a clear goal because I mean, I’ve got one option and that’s to go through that tiny gap underneath the tree. There’s definitely creativity because I’ve got a hit.

I’m a huge draw underneath the tree. There’s also so many other things that ultimately bring my focus into that present moment and ensure that I am fully aware of what I’m trying to do, what my intention is. 

Put yourself now in the middle of the fairway with a simple shot 120 yards out with a simple pin position. And I’ve been there so many times before, there’s no real challenge.

There’s no real risk. All of these things don’t exist. So now all of a sudden, it’s very easy for me to become complacent and to get distracted on other things that are irrelevant in that present moment. 

So that’s something to really consider, is to start to understand which triggers which of those triggers really bring your focus into the present moment.

And then to start to be more aware of that and start to apply them in as many situations as possible. So I just wanted to share something that I found really powerful when thinking about how I can increase my focus on the golf course.

Exactly. And you and I certainly help coach proper pre shot routines. And yet people have their idea of what a pretty short routine is. And I say, okay, that’s maybe 25% of it. 

What you and I are offering is saying you can go through all your steps of a preset routine, but if there’s not proper intensity and proper engagement and energy into it, it’s kind of wasted.

And so that’s what you and I are talking about with these focused triggers, is why on some shots are you more engaged than others? Was the routine different? No, it wasn’t. But there was a thought, an association that did trigger the ability to stay focused in the present moment. That’s what we are trying to replicate over and over again.

So as we transition into the rest of the performance loop, I do want people to think about the time. Yes, they hit great shots. But really the question is, when you felt you were most focused on a golf course, why do you think that occurred? When did that occur? There’s some interesting things to be answered there that you could replicate in the future.

Absolutely. So moving them into thoughts and perceptions, that’s the next stage in the performance. Can you share a little bit more about what thoughts and perceptions are after?

Yeah, this is probably my favorite part of the mental game coaching because we have a lot of great coaches out there that teach a proper pre shot routine. Do this, do this, do this. Okay. 

And it’s great and awesome. But what happens inside with thoughts is it does trigger these emotional responses. So an example would be in college, I tended to draw the ball with all my clubs and I could go through my pre shot routine and it was a back right hole location from 165 yards.

When coming from the right, there was a front right bunker. Okay. My life was sitting up in the fairway. I could go through all that and do the floodlights spotlight flashlight. Okay. This is what the shot is. 

At that time, let’s say it’s a seven iron. But if my thought is I don’t like back right hole locations with the wind coming off the right because I like to draw the ball and I don’t want to I don’t want to aim over trouble all that all that pre shot routine stuff’s now wasted because now I’ve put an opinion that I don’t like the shot.

It doesn’t match my skill level, blah, blah, blah. And it might be a true statement. I may not like that, but I get lost in that loop and I go, Oh, I can’t believe back. Right, hold like I never do well on this. And now we have limiting beliefs. We have a lot of thought processes of saying, Oh, based on that I’m going to aim 15 feet left, left.

I might have a 35 footer. Fine. That’s my plan. Sometimes it’s excitement. It’s a par five to reach in to. Oh, my gosh, I can get that right. And we get very excited. And sometimes that’s not always great, by the way. 

So how you perceive a situation is your reality. And you and I are always trying to help people understand their frameworks of their mental models, of how they’re looking at every golf shot.

So that’s what I think thoughts and perceptions are, is that that’s the fuel on top of the focus that could either take you away from what you want or it could put you what you want.

Inside our platform, we focus so much on this because we have all seven mindsets. We speak about taking a gratitude mindset onto the golf course, a playful mindset, a creative mindset, a growth mindset, all of these different kinds of things that really help us change your perception of certain situations.

Because it does. It starts with it. It starts from within us. And we can actually decide how we want to see what’s in front of us, how we want to see the challenge that’s in front of us, the situation that’s in front of us. 

I remember you sharing a fantastic example of this. When we imagine looking at a lake and you ask, and again, if I say the word lake and I picture for every single listener in their minds, they sit looking over this beautiful lake with a beer in their hand or a glass of wine, whatever they prefer.

And they sat on this chair and they’re looking over the lake. What words? But they are used to describe the lake. And more often than not, they would come up with things like peaceful, calm, bliss, beautiful, all those kinds of things. Now, with that same lake, I stick a table on one side and a grain on the other.

How do you now describe that? Like the lake hasn’t changed, the environment hasn’t changed, but your perception of the lake has changed and you start to fear it instead of understanding how beautiful it is, insane, the bliss of it. 

So that’s something that’s really powerful. And I want all listeners to take into consideration how many times you’re looking at that lake on the golf course or an equivalent and saying, This is beautiful.

This is bliss. This is calm. This makes me feel relaxed versus how many times you go in. I’ll drop away to become aware of and understand. How can I get playful with it? How can I get creative? How can I be grateful for it? How can I be in awe of it? Which again is a mindset that we talk about inside of all our academy.

Yeah. And in the context obviously of a lake and on vacation is a different context than on a golf course. I get that everybody I do. But it doesn’t mean the lake has to immediately trigger fear. It can be a data point as part of your pre shot routine to say, yeah, of course I don’t want the ball to go into the lake.

But with that, knowing that I am going to now aim here and here to me very and to the hazard. Oh my gosh, if I hit here, it’s going to be a double bogey, then double bogey. I’d lose all my money to my I mean, now we go down this rabbit hole that was triggered by an image and we haven’t even hit the shot yet.

So that’s what you and I have really thought about thinking is like, what? How am I perceived as a patient? Is this empowering? Is this neutral? Is this disempowering and kind of going from there?

Absolutely. I think that’s just quickly before we move on to emotions and the feeling side of things, 

You can actually take it back to neutral. And that’s that’s a word that I think is super powerful for a lot of people because they’re like, well, never going to see that as bullets because I still have to hit my golf ball over.

It’s over. There’s still some danger there. There’s some risk and everything like that. But you can see it as neutral rather than something to be feared, which is what we just spoke about. So super powerful that moving them risks the thoughts, your perception. 

As we said, it’s not the environment that then creates your emotions. It is those thoughts and those perceptions.

So moving that into emotions and the feelings that you may have, I want to discuss those a little bit. What do emotions mean to you? And again, how can people train to improve their emotional control?

Yeah, I try to simplify it. The definition I use a lot is that emotions are energy in motion. What does that really mean? Well, there is a certain energy in your body that is moving through your body. 

When someone feels frustrated, that’s a feeling of the emotion of frustration. My body will feel different then. I feel relaxed, I feel calm, I feel peaceful.

I feel angry, I feel stressed. I feel we have a lot of emotions that are kicking in, but they actually have a physiological response in us. So there’s energy that’s moving in our body. So that’s why I say energy in motion. 

And it is certainly triggered by our environment that we’ve just talked about. It’s our perception of that environment.

Sometimes it’s subconscious, which I don’t want to get too much into right now. We get in a hole and we go, Why am I not really comfortable right now? And we will think about it later. 

Oh, this reminds me of Hole about my back at my home course that I don’t play well at. So the reminding of that memory could trigger a negative emotion.

And sometimes I don’t like to use positive and negative, but it’s easier in this type of format to say, okay, what’s something that’s going to help my performance? What’s something that’s going to hinder my performance? 

So sometimes I’ll say resourceful, unrestored awful. But emotions are interesting because when I ask people when they play their best golf, what emotions are they in?

And that’s all you listeners, what’s that emotion I may get? Let’s say the word confidence. Okay, fantastic. Confidence is an emotion. 

I feel confident and I ask people, so do anything before the round of golf or before a shot to be confident. And they look at me with a blank stare. No, I say, Well, what helps your confidence?

Well, when I’m playing well and then I become a smart guy and I say, okay, just keep hitting good shots and you will be confident. 

So people want the shot to validate something instead of saying, I’m going to show up, being confident, I’m going to show up looking at this shot with challenge and focus. And now you’re doing something to get yourself in that emotional state.

So you and I call that priming. What’s the emotional state I want to be in as I execute the golf shot? Most people say, Well, yeah, after I had a good I’ll be I don’t know. No, that’s not how it works. 

So emotions are interesting because again, they literally will change your physiological response when you and I have talked about emotions with people and somebody says, I’m confident and calm over the shot, let’s say I guarantee you their golf swing will look different than fearful and frustrated.

It just will work. And yet people want to keep looking at their golf swing as the main reason why the ball is going where it’s going. Unfortunately, that’s like we talked about. 

That’s the top layer. But really when we talk about emotions, which now eventually leads to a state, what triggers that is past memories and it’s our perceptions and stuff.

But being more empowering, saying How do I want to show up to the shot is a very important question. And yes, with flow out, there’s ways for us to get into confidence or whatever your optimal emotional state is.

Absolutely. And I just want to discuss going a little bit further on that route because there will be situations when people do feel these unresolvable emotions. So it is anxiety, frustration and things like that. 

And I believe one of the big problems with that is that they almost try to push that away and ignore it, pretend they’re not feeling it, rather than kind of accepting it and saying, I’m interested in being curious and we speak a lot about this, but I wonder why I feel this way and what tools have I got in my toolkit in order to change the thing that I’m feeling, change what I’m feeling, in order to it.

In order for it to become resourceful towards my performance. So I care a little bit about that because I think that’s one of the most powerful things or skills that someone can develop.

Yeah. You bring up an excellent point. Emotions can be signals. Okay. And in the signal, even though we may label it as negative, actually can be quite helpful. Okay. If I go down a dark alley at night and I have a sense of fear that is waking me up to look at my surroundings. But Rick, you’re supposed to be positive.

That’s got to be. No, no, no, no, no, no. My, my, my mind, my brain is trying to look at my environment, scan my environment for stress and things that could get me. And it signals like, you better pay attention. So remember, sometimes a fear response or something like that is to wake you up. And then, as you just mentioned, let’s ask some better questions, huh?

I wonder why I feel uncomfortable right now. I wonder why I feel that little fear right now. To me, that’s a great question to ask. Instead of and I was definitely guilty of this back in the day of all AM I’m not supposed to have any negative thoughts. I just want to push this aside. I’m supposed to forget about it.

This was the well that we all know that doesn’t work. So I think embracing that, I feel fear and going high. I wonder, why do I have the shot? Do it. Do I have the skill for the shot? Maybe I need to do something different. Maybe I need to take that smooth breath that I learned about. Back then, problem solving was much better than getting engulfed by it.

Okay, so I’m with you that we can use it as data. We can use it as a way, huh? It’s interesting that I feel this way. I wonder why and what can I do about that? To make a slight shift? Not a huge shift. Everybody. Not. Not. I’m happy. It’s like a slight shift. I could do that breath.

I could look at this slightly differently. I can change my strategy. I can do a bunch of things to make a slight shift.

And I think just in that moment of accepting the signal, if we call it the signal, it almost loses its power as well. So if you do start to feel a little bit anxious, if you do start to feel a bit frustrated, if you just go, okay, it’s no problem. I don’t want to feel this way. So here’s what I’m going to do about it.

It loses its power if you pretend you’re not feeling it. If you say, Oh, I can’t feel this, I’m not supposed to feel this, I think it generates more power. It starts to gather more power and actually becomes more of a problem than what it needs to be. 

So I think that’s super powerful for anyone to start to become accepting, curious of the feelings that you’re having and then understand what tools or what techniques you can implement in order to redirect that energy in a different place.

Right. So if we look at that, this first part of this performance loop, you know, everybody out there, we know in our loop, we call it number seven, which is the result. The result does matter. Everybody out there works really hard to want to get great results and that’s awesome. And I think that helps us have clear goals and have motivation and helps our focus.

By the way, I want this result to be awesome. And then we know right before what occurs is a swing, is a stroke, is a physical behavior. Awesome, go work on your swing, get a great golf lesson, do the work that’s necessary. And as we’ve already discussed today, the state you’re in will affect the swing. So we have a mental state.

What am I focusing on? We have an emotional state. What am I feeling? And then that all leads to ultimately a physical state. So I’ve mentioned that emotions in my body will feel something, but mentally, if I’m distracted and confused, I guarantee you I’m probably going to get tense. I’m probably going to get a stress response.

Let’s get this over with. Now. I have a rip. Tension is increased, tempo is increased, my timing is off. That’s going to affect your swing, everybody. And so the state you’re in mentally, emotionally and physically will affect your ability with your timing of your swing and the feel of your swing. And then, yes, we’re all ready to go. 

All systems go trust the things that you’ve been practicing and yeah, let’s see what the shot does and let’s get a result.

So that’s the before part. And you and I are very passionate about the after part also, right? So most people, when they have a result, they are going to be very judgmental, very critical. Now, if you had a great shot for everybody out there, please celebrate. Tell yourself great shot, a little fist pump here and there. We want to anchor great shots.

But most of the time when we talk about a post shot routine, unfortunately, a lot of people are so critical of the shot. Oh, my gosh, there I did again. And the negative self-talk and the emotions now have shifted to maybe frustration or anger or disappointment. All right. And if those aren’t dealt with, they then affect the next shot, which is our next loop, which is focus.

So I’ve said this many, many, many times on podcasts and stuff. I was a hothead in college and my frustration, I did not know how to deal with a poor golf shot. The frustration was very self-critical and judgmental. That criticism and frustration led to the next shot. It affected my focus. I’m not focusing on the relevant shot.

I’m still focusing on the shot, beating myself up. I then make riskier decisions on the next shot and the bogey train was on. Okay, so everybody out there, we we know all the precursors of before you had a shot, but this is a loop. This continues to go for how many holes and how many shots you have. That awareness of what happens after the shot is extremely important.

At flow code. We’re into curiosity and learning instead of judgmental and critical. It’s no good but wondering why that ball went left and was I fully committed? Those are the things we talk a lot about in post shot routines within our framework.

Absolutely. And I just want everyone to remember the loop is happening regardless of what you’re doing. The loop can work so the loop is either working for you or against you. And that’s something to become really conscious of. Am I getting this loop to work for me or against me? And actually, like you said, if you hit a poor shot, that’s fine.

It again is your choice, your decision, your actions that ensure that that loop comes back around to start working for you rather than against you. So really, really that.

That’s a great point I made. People want to have all these routines and everything. You’re still choosing a shot. You’re still hitting a golf shot. That doesn’t change. Some of it might not be as conscious as what we’re saying. I get it. But it’s still happening. You’re still getting triggered your environment. You’re still having emotions going all over the place.

You’re still having reactions after the shot that’s happening. We’re saying let’s put true content in this context. So now you can be more in control of how you behave and how your mindset and how your state is going to be on a shot by shot basis.

Absolutely. What I love about this performance loop is that it can actually be kind of a self-diagnosis tool for players. So when you are hitting pull shots, when you are getting the results that you want, you can actually work your way backwards. So you can say, okay, first of all, is it my swing or my stroke?

Is there a technical component here that’s causing an issue? If the answer is no, then you know the next lower back is state. And you ask that question: what state of my in my in a fair state or am I in a flow state? I’m a bit fast. I actually can tell that I’m aware of it.

Okay. What emotions are in that face? Is it frustration? Is it anger? Is it any of these? And you start to identify what is starting to create the situation that you don’t desire, the poor shots that you’re hitting, what thoughts are you having that are creating that anger, that frustration? And then finally, what you focused on? Are you focused on the result or are you focused on the perception or the thoughts of your parents?

Or you focused? And once you can diagnose that, what you’re focused on and you can change your focus, redirect your focus on something, as we said, that’s relevant in the present moment. Now all of a sudden we can start the loop working in the right direction, working for us rather than against us, and that becomes super powerful. 

So that’s why I love it, is that every single listener here can utilize it as a tool for themselves when they’re on the golf course at that moment.

And that’s super powerful.

Exactly. And the key part with golf, it’s a non reactionary sport, so it allows you to master these skills. Other sports are reactionary and a lot of it’s based on hand-eye coordination and certainly there’s mental components, don’t get me wrong, but because there’s so much downtime in golf, we can train our mind, we can train our thoughts, we can train our focus.

So let’s start it today, everybody.

Absolutely. Another great episode, super excited for the next one. And thanks for listening. 

The performance loop / FlowCode golf academy / Flow golf podcast TV
The performance loop / FlowCode golf academy
The performance loop / FlowCode golf academy / Flow golf podcast TV
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