Karl Morris argues that outcomes are beyond our control, but that we can control the processes for achieving outcomes, in sport and in business.
I have been very fortunate over the years to work with some top class players from various sports. A few of these players have been very long term clients like Graeme McDowell whilst others have just needed a couple of sessions to work on a very specific issue. The work that received the most attention and press coverage was ridiculously simple but in the end turned out to be very effective.
Back in the summer of 2010, a contact was made by Chubby Chandler the manager of some of the world’s top golfers including Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. Chubby explained to me one of his up and coming young clients Louis Oosthuizen had been having big problems holding his concentration in the right place to win tournaments.
A meeting was arranged and Louis explained to me how he found himself over the ball in something of a fog and then in between shots thinking way too much about the score, getting carried away with thoughts of what may or may not happen in the rest of the round and the tournament as a whole. We talked about the principle of attention and how you either had had your attention in a useful or useless place regarding the task at hand; how it was necessary to be able to focus on just the shot in front of you and then to be able to switch off in between shots and conserve mental energy.
I asked Louis if he could describe the state of mind when he played his best golf. He shared the description with me and I then said to him if that state of mind had a colour what would it be? He looked at me as though I had just asked the most stupid question ever, shrugged his shoulders and then said ‘I suppose it would be the colour RED’
The Red Dot
From a single conversation the plan of the now famous ‘RED DOT’ was hatched. I got him to go to his golf bag, take out one of his white golf gloves and put a red dot in a place he could easily see it before every shot. All you need to do on every shot to trigger the start of your routine is to simply look at the red dot on your glove and that becomes a signal to your brain it is time to go through your routine and execute THIS shot in this unique moment in time.
I am not sure how convinced Louis was at first but he promised to go away and work with the idea.
The first tournament he tried this didn’t result in anything earth shattering but he said he could feel something different happening in the quality of his concentration. The second tournament happened to be the biggest golf event in the world, The Open at the home of golf St Andrews. The omens didn’t look great as Louis hadn’t even made a cut in the majors he had played.
The plan for the week was not to focus on winning the Open but to just make a commitment to look at the red dot to trigger his concentration on every shot from the first tee to the eighteenth green. He began by shooting 65 in the first round and took the early lead with most well informed commentators saying how well he had played but expecting the challenge to fade over the next three rounds. Others talked about scores and winning yet the plan for Louis remained the same. To look at that red dot on each and every shot.
Three days later the South African had his hands on the Claret Jug after securing a stunning SEVEN shot win over the field of the world’s best players. THEY had talked about winning but Louis had been absorbed in his commitment to look at that little red mark on his glove. His play in the final round on the last day is right up there for me as anything I have ever seen as a demonstration of being completely lost ‘in the zone’.
Control the process
Yes Louis wanted to win the Open, of course he did. He is a professional golfer and makes his living from winning golf tournaments, but he didn’t win that major by thinking about winning it which is an outcome not under his control. He won the greatest prize in golf by becoming absorbed in a PROCESS that gave him the best possible chance to win regardless of what anyone else did. So often in life we become so absorbed and obsessed with a final outcome we can’t control and we then get away from the very process we need to provide the conditions for success.
This is just as true in our business life as it is on the golf course. We want to ‘increase turnover’ but what are the SPECIFIC daily rituals that will create the CONDITIONS for that to happen?
Steve Peters, author of the wonderful ‘Chimp Paradox’ book and the mind coach of such sporting greats as Ronnie O’Sullivan and Bradley Wiggins talks in his book about how we can base our confidence on our results and if we do how we will be mentally up and down like a yo-yo, or we can base our confidence on doing the best we can and in so doing setting up a system where we have some level of control and consistency.
When Louis made that commitment to the process of the red dot he was playing a game HE could win. Yes on that occasion he came out as the winner of the Open but somebody else COULD have beaten him by playing better golf but NOBODY could stop him looking at the dot on his glove. He was playing a game he had 100 percent control over.
Look at your goals and yes, have an outcome in mind but once you have set that aim to forget about it and become absorbed in a process giving you the best chance of success.