Golf is a four letter word… Life lessons we all need to learn

When my kids were little my husband wanted me to learn how to play golf.  I had to remind him that one of us had to take care of the kids because babysitters were hard to come by at that time for us.  He would head out to play for 5-6 hours so I dubbed golf as a four letter word and it wasn’t a good one.   Recently, I started playing golf just shy of a year ago and I learned the real reason why golf is a four letter word!  It has been interesting to learn all that golf has taught me so far.

Here are the four letters words I have learned with golf and you will be surprised which words they are…..  I promise this is not really about golf so please READ ON…

Hope:  What an eternal optimist I must be to be brand new to a game, hit it like I do and then hope that my little ball will find that little hole 200-400 yards away!  When it does it is glorious.  Even after a terrible shot, I hit my very next ball with renewed hope that it will be better.  This is a constant exercise in positive thinking.  What a great lesson for all.  There is always hope the next time you do something that it will be better or it will be different. The important thing is we just keep showing up and putting in the time and effort.

Walk:  When I walk the course everything seems so much clearer to me.  I slow down and enjoy the beauty of nature.  All the cute ducklings, the beautiful water features, the immaculate greens that someone so painstakingly kept pristine.  When I ride the cart, I don’t savor those moments and barely notice nature.  Maybe we speed through our life not noticing what is all around us and we need to slow down to enjoy it.  What are your speeding thru when you need to be walking?

Sigh:  Yes, golf creates lots of moments to sigh.  The disappointment of the shot can happen not just once but over and over and over again with each shot.  You have to learn how to forget that shot as soon as it is finished and move on to the next.  This is not a new concept as athletes have been doing this for years.  However, we need to take this knowledge into our day-to-day lives and realize when something has not turned out the way we want it, just sigh and  move on that very next minute.

Cuss:  Oh the expletives I have thought, I have said and boy-oh-boy the ones I have heard.  I have also seen clubs thrown, clubs dropped and clubs pounded (not me).   I wasn’t frustrated …at first.  All I cared about was if I hit the ball in such a way that it looked pretty.  It didn’t matter where it went.  If it got air that was all it took to simply make me smile.  But the people I play with don’t think that way and as I got better I realized I had to step up my game.  Suddenly keeping score was important – not to me – but to them.  It was easier and easier to get frustrated.  After one very long 9 holes in horrible heat, I finally realized that I had lost the fun.  I had lost the adventure.  It was time to take a break.  So, instead of plowing thru when I knew my heart wasn’t in it I left after 9 holes and just recouped.  The next day I went back out with new vigor and had a much better day.  Sometimes, we just need that break instead of grinding it out. Just a simple pause can make all the world of a difference.  If you have reached the expletive side of a project, then maybe you need to take a short breather.  Rest, refocus and recharge for the next day (maybe after cussing a lot).

High:  The feeling of true joy and elation when you make that shot and it goes exactly like you want it to.  I actually made an eagle which is two under par and for you non-golfers it’s a really big deal especially since I have not played very long (I have already been told to never expect another one!).  I hit the ball 88 yards into that ever elusive hole and I can’t recall the last time I whooped and hollered over something I have done. All of us did, so much that someone who lived in the house on that hole came running out and ran over to us.  When he got to us he said that was an eagle whoop and holler so who did it!  I have also made some really long puts that dropped right in and the same joy just can’t be contained.   It is amazing to have hit a ball in but even more importantly I have realized I have never whooped and hollered over something I have accomplished before.  I have for my kids, my friends and my husband but not for myself.  What I’ve learned is that I am taking life too seriously.  I should be shouting from the rooftops that I am a 10 year cancer survivor.  I should whoop and holler when someone tells me how much I’ve helped them.  These are pure joys!  I’ve also realized they don’t have to be big events, we’ve forgotten how to celebrate life’s moments in general.   Maybe I need to do a happy dance when I have unloaded the dishwasher because it is a task accomplished but also because I am so privileged to have one.  Maybe I need to do a happy dance when I’ve mowed the lawn – my how good it looks and my fortune to have a lawn to mow.  Why am I waiting for something major to happen to just enjoy life when the small accomplishments can be just as joyful.   What should you whoop and holler for yourself about?  When should you break out in a happy dance?

Sand:  Sand on a golf course if truly a four letter word.  It is located in what they call a bunker.  If you have hit it in the sand then you have to change your club, your stance and sometimes have to hit the ball differently to get out of the sand.  When you watch the pros this looks like a minor detour but believe me it can be major.  We all hit sand or a bunker in our lives.  Instead of doing what we normally do we have to learn to adapt, to change to get out of that bunker or season of our life.  When we get out though, often we are right back on track just like the sand had never been there.  When you are in the sand, it is important to realize it is not quick sand.  It is not sucking you down.  Only your response to being in the bunker of life will feel like quick sand.  Grab your club and just keep swinging.  Sometimes it takes more than a few shots to get out but guess what, if you keep trying you WILL get out.  Re-evaluate your club, your stance, your approach and you will accomplish getting out of the bunker.  Oh, and don’t be discouraged if you hit it into another bunker.  It is progress!

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Next:  One thing golf has really taught me is that when one shot is over the next one comes.  The focus is instantly on how far, what angle and what club to use. When on the green even more comes into play with the speed of the ball, if it is downhill or uphill and the path it will travel.  Each ball brings a new focus.  What if we were able to go thru life like that in general.  With each step we are solely focused on that moment.  We’ve released the past as quickly as it came and simply moved on.  Wow!  What a concept.

Live:  I met a friend for dinner several months ago and I was telling her about my research and preparation for an upcoming TedX talk and after a few moments of listening to me telling her all about my discoveries she simply said….you need to play more golf.  When we first had the covid shut down, suddenly there was more time on many people’s hands.  The golf courses were packed.  I joined in after work as there wasn’t much else to do and being outdoors just felt good.  I suddenly  recalled what she had said and realized that for most of my life I was coming home from work only to keep working on a particular case, researching something or trying to learn something new.  I forgot how to just be and enjoy life.  I forgot how to LIVE.  Have you?

Try: Yes, try is not a four letter word but it should be.  After a certain point in my game, I was trying to hit the ball farther.  That’s when everything started to unravel.  I had been doing really well.  I could hit a great drive right down the middle almost every time.  But, when I realized I should be hitting it farther I started trying to hit it farther.  Frustrating drive after frustrating drive ensued.  Suddenly, I realized I was TRYING too hard.  When I hear the word trying it means to me floundering without a direction.  Not committing to the task at hand.  Quitting before I get going.  Doing something without the right instruction or plan.  So, I called an instructor and scheduled a lesson.  That simple action of reaching out for help moved me from trying to an action plan.  What are you trying to do?  Are you trying to lose weight and eat healthy?  Are you trying to feel better?  Quit trying and come up with an action plan.  You have to commit to whatever it is you need to do.  When I ask patients to change their diet I know in an instant who will be successful and who won’t when they say I will try.  It means they will think about it and as soon as something gets in the way they won’t do it and will claim it is too difficult but they were trying.  Yes, they tried.  However, they didn’t commit to making a change and weren’t all in.  When making changes in your life trying is just not enough.  Commit.  Get help from someone you trust and just do it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just take that next step.

Thxs:  Ok, thanks is not a four letter word so I had to make it work.  So often on the golf course someone in your group will hit an amazing shot and we all will tell that person great shot.  The compliments come freely and honestly.  One of the greatest lessons has been from one of the people I routinely play with.  When he hits a great shot and we all tell him he simply says thank you.  While if I hit a decent shot and someone complimented me I would say thanks but follow it with I didn’t line it up right, or I hit the ground first and it should have gone farther.  I have forgotten how to simply say thank you.  I have made a conscious effort to start saying thank you and leaving out all the back story.  What backstory do you need to forget and leave out?  Is your spouse desiring you but you can’t go there because you feel like your weight is too much?  Are you turning down an opportunity because you are worried about how you will do when the person trying to hire you has all the confidence in you?  Wake up today and when someone gives you a compliment just say THANK YOU.  Don’t add anything to it.  Don’t diminish it with your negative thoughts.  Say thank you and move on.  If you keep practicing this it will become more natural and positive vibes will start flowing your way.

There are always lessons in everything we do.  What lesson are you going to learn today?  Are you living?  Are you saying thank you?  Are you letting go and taking the next step in your life?  All it takes is one swing even if you are in that bunker to step in the right direction.  Keep swinging and watch for the four letter words in your journey!

To your health,