Oh Rickie! You Blow My Mind!

It’s Monday after the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Rickie Fowler goes in the books as the winner. And for many people around the water cooler today who saw that last round, they would probably say that it was an emotional ride as a spectator. To say that Rickie was the winner is an understatement. The elements, the missteps and the unexpected were not enough to get him flustered, derailed or unfocused. It was his discipline, his trust in himself and his game that persisted despite all that was thrown to him in that last round.

In my last post we talked about VISUALIZATION. When you visualize your end goal, you are less apt to let anything get in its way. There are times, however, when things do get in the way. Some of these things are in your control and others are not. If we let those obstacles and barriers get bigger than our trust in our ability to get over them, then we have lost sight of the goal. The trick is to manage, problem solve and even remove those barriers so we can keep our eye on the prize.

Back to the Open. One of more notable events that occurred way back in 1999 at the Phoenix Open was when Tiger Woods hit his ball into the waste area on hole 13. His ball wound up behind a boulder. Once it was determined that the boulder was a loose impediment, he enlisted the help of the gallery to move the boulder, giving him a clear shot to the hole. He wound up getting a birdie on the hole. He literally removed a barrier that could have been in the way of reaching his goal.

Yesterday, Rickie started the round with a 4 shot lead, which after the 12th hole was lost to Branden Grace. On the 11th, Rickie’s third shot went through the green and into the water behind the hole. While checking out his next shot, his ball rolled back into the water. He hit his shot on the green and sunk a 16 foot putt to save a 7. Rickie would go on to win after grinding it out the last stretch of the course, capitalizing on an unfortunate mishap on the part of Branden Grace.

So many potential barriers and obstacles were present in Rickie’s round. The cool, wet weather which changed the conditions of the course throughout the round, the mishap at 11, the fact that he has never won this tournament settling for a couple of 2nd place finishes after losing in the playoffs, and the list goes on.

Yet, if you really watched him and didn’t listen to the announcers projecting their opinions on the situation, you would have seen a guy who was unwavering. He was even joking with the rules official after the 7 he had on 11. He didn’t stop putting like a champion, he didn’t start playing scared, he continued to stay focused, continued with his pre-shot routines and club selections. He stayed the course. (sorry, no pun intended).

Just as he was able to do that on the course, you can do that in your life as well. There can be many obstacles to goals that we want to achieve. The trick is to not pay too close of attention to them and to keep moving towards your goals. Reflect on a time in your life where you didn’t let something get in the way of something you wanted. How were you able to do that? Why didn’t you quit? And if you did quit, did you readjust your goal to something more attainable or achievable? Did you then make that goal and go on towards the bigger original goal?

The way to keep focused on your goals is to feel encouragement along the way. Suppose you had a goal of wanting to climb a 14-er. (A very popular thing to do out here in Colorado). Suppose you had only gone on small hikes and worked out a couple of times a week. You would probably have a tough time just setting out one weekend morning and deciding that was the day you were going to climb a 14-er. Some possible barriers to achieving this could be stamina, not being prepared for altitude changes, weather conditions, etc. So, without bailing on your goal altogether, you might join a hiking group, read up a training program to climb a 14-er, check the weather more closely to find a good window of time to do the climb, etc. Most barriers and obstacles are solvable. When you have the ability to be flexible, adapt and reconstruct a new plan, you can stay on track. Maybe you can’t get to your goal as fast as you’d like, or it is no longer is a straight line and you have to side step to get there. Regardless, staying focused on the prize creates the motivation to continue. The small more achievable goals keep you encouraged and in a positive state of mind.

Just as Rickie did. He probably woke up yesterday morning visualizing a win at the Phoenix. He didn’t let the distractions of the day get him off his vision. He overcame the obstacles and didn’t let them stop him from achieving his win. His encouragement I think came from the way he was putting. He was a master on the green, sinking putts for saves and lag putting like a champ.

Take a moment and think again about your goals. What perceived obstacles are in the way that you can begin to problem solve. What are some of the more unexpected or unlikely ones? What can you draw on within yourself to keep you from getting unfocused or derailed?

You have the ability to get to where you want to be. Visualize, strategize and commit. These are the Links to Life.

Until next time .. . go work on your game!

What Lake?

I just love coming up to a new hole and standing on the tee box. I just take a moment and look at the hole and try to think about what the designer had in mind when he/she made it. When you look down the fairway towards the pin my mind begins to come up with a strategy that gets me the from tee box to the green. Sometimes it’s a clear shot right down the middle. . sometimes it doglegs left or right. . . there could be a low hanging tree on my approach shot .. . a creek after my second shot, I might have to clear 120 yards of marsh before getting to the fairway, bunkers, lakes, you name it.

Most people don’t really take the time to look at the hole’s layout. They just get up there and whack it down the fairway. But did you know that course designers set up the holes with a map for golfers? And, if you follow that map, then you will have the best chance of getting to the hole without trouble?

There can be trees or light poles in the distance that just happen to be the exact line you need to take on your tee shot. That creek that’s just 150 yards from the tee box is there to remind you that you will either have to go for it and carry the ball about 170 yards or lay up and play it safe.

Once you VISUALIZE (there’s that word again) how you want to play the hole then you can map out your shots. In a perfect world, you’d follow that map and make par or even better on each hole. Now of course if it were that easy there would be more of us on the tour. What happens that gets us off our map?

For me, as I’m in my early 50s, my body gets in the way. I’m not as flexible as I once was, I can get fatigued, I can’t get my brain and body to always work together, excuses, excuses, excuses. So, the original map I made is sometimes no longer good. I didn’t want to be in a bunker on the left side of the fairway with a lake in front of me to the hole. . .I wanted to be on the right side and hit into the green with a nice clear shot. My map at that point is no good. I need a new one.

If we use this particular shot, which I have seen on #9 at Homestead , I have a big decision to make. I’m about 120 yards from the hole with a lake between me and the green. Do I blast out of the sand onto the green? Or do I take a safer shot and hit to the right side of the fairway and hit to the green as originally planned?

Me being me, I opt for blasting out. No guts no glory as my dad always says. So, after some good practice swings, into the sand I go. Now here’s where the real mental gymnastics need to occur. The self talk starts. “I have more than enough club. If I put a good swing on the ball I will be just fine. Pretend you are at the range hitting and just focus on good contact. Stay over the ball and follow through.”

Notice how I didn’t say, “You need to hit this or else it’s going in the lake. Don’t chunk it. Do I have the right club? All of those people on the patio on the green are watching. I can’t choke.” I chose messages that reminded me that I can make the shot. To stay focused on the goal. To TRUST that I have a swing that will get that ball over the lake and onto the green.

When we VISUALIZE what we want and not let anything interfere with this vision, we are more apt to reach the goal. I didn’t think the hole was done and that I didn’t have a chance for par. I reminded myself that there’s many ways to get par and this way is just as good as any.

When you VISUALIZE, start to construct a map. How will you get there? What obstacles will be in your way? Which route gets you there quicker or more effectively? What will you need along this journey? What’s the “prize” for getting there?

If we took a more practical application and used this concept of VISUALIZATION in your relationships, is there something you are wanting? To have better communication? To do more things outside the home? To get more cooperation or help from your loved one? Do you need more friends?

What would that look like if you achieved that goal? What’s in the way of getting there? Do you need a new skill? Do you need bravery to ask more tough questions? Do you need more ideas?

Suppose you get started and there’s some resistance? Or a setback? Do you quit or change the map? Maybe you don’t have everything you need to get to your goal. Would you know how to find it? Who to ask?

These are the types of conversations I have in my office with clients everyday. I help people identify their goals, visualize them, figure out what they need and then we create a map from where we are today to the future point when that goal is achieved. The thrill of victory is way better than the agony of defeat. Start today by visualizing something you’d like to have happen or change in your life. We’ll talk next time about getting started and what to do about obstacles and roadblocks that can sometimes interrupt this process and how to work through them and not quit.

Until next time .. .go work on your game!

Links to Life: A 3 Step Strategy

I love simple ideas. When things are 6 year old simple, I get it. No need for big words, complicated terms, or psycho-babble. Just simple ideas that I can pull out of my back pocket at any time. So, when thinking about how to transfer skills from the course to things that are going on in life, I came up with three simple ideas: Visualize, Strategize and Commit. Follow these steps and you are sure to have a much better go at a shot on the course than just stepping up to the ball and hitting away. Taking the time to visualize where you are going, coming up with a strategy to get there and then committing to the shot gives you a greater chance of winding up on the course where you want to be. In theory, right?

Right. Then there’s human error, a too fast swing, not accounting for wind or that bunker in front of the green. So much to assess. . .so many decisions to make in a short amount of time. How do those pro golfers do it?

Just as with anything in life . . . . practice practice practice. And there’s no need to think that you couldn’t also do this in your personal life. With practice you can do things like master your communication in a relationship, implement effective coping strategies for your depression or anxiety, meet those health goals you have. If you think about it, there really isn’t any life situation that couldn’t use this model. Visualize, Strategize and Commit.

VISUALIZE

When you visualize, it gives you the ability to see a possibility. If you allow yourself to stay with that vision and think of all of the details that goes with it, it becomes even more real. If any of you have ever seen the movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance you know what I’m talking about. Several times in the movie, Matt Damon’s character, Rannulph Junuh, gets ready to putt his ball while on the green. He looks at the hole and looks at his ball and then an image appears of the ball’s path to the hole. Junuh putts along the visualized path and sinks the putt. How many times has this happened to you on the course? When you stand over the ball and can see that path to the hole. It’s such a moment of clarity and when executed properly, the satisfaction that you feel from sinking that putt that you saw going in the hole all along is so satisfying!

Life situations require that same level of visualization to the point of clarity. And when you see yourself with those 10 pounds you want to lose and how life will be feeling at that point, or acing that speech you have to give in front of your peers, or that day when you are feeling less sad or lonely, it gives you the images to anchor on to. Focus and motivation follow. The vision gets locked in and often this brings hope, confidence and excitement for the next step.

STRATEGIZE

How are we going to get to that vision? If you’re on the course, what club should I use? Should I lay up? Do I need to be mindful of wind? Water? Sand? There are many ways to get to the vision. What path will you choose? In life it’s the same. How will I go about losing that 10 pounds? What tricks and strategies will I use to keep my anxiety in check for that big speech? How will I go about feeling less sad and lonely? This step can sometimes require some skill building, research, thinking outside of the box, consultation. It’s not always picking a strategy to get to the vision, but when you do, then here comes the final step.

COMMIT

All things accounted for on the course, the club has been chosen, the type of swing has been decided and now it’s time to step up to the ball and commit to the shot. It’s when there is a lack of commitment that unfortunate things can happen. How many times have you stood over the ball and just as you are ready to swing you wonder quickly if you have enough club? Or, tell yourself “don’t hit it into the lake?” And then sure enough. . .chunk or clunk. . right into the lake. You allowed an intrusive thought to interfere with your strategy. Same thing in life. We tell ourselves we’ve been good and can afford to have that piece of cake for dessert, or let a thought of “what if people are going to hate what I have to say” right before you give that big speech, or you have one bad day and tell yourself, “what’s the use? I’m going to be sad and lonely forever.” These thoughts are enough to derail us from our vision. We have a tendency to let thoughts push us around. That clarity and vision that we just had has gone out the window.

This last step of committing is so important. Not letting anything keep you from executing the shot you envisioned or the plan you want to execute in your life and pushing aside anything that runs interference isn’t always easy. Even the best of us can have a moment where all of a sudden a 1 foot putt where money on the line makes you shake, give you the yips or gives yourself a big psych-out. It’s when we remind ourselves that we’ve made that putt a hundred times and this time is no different than the others is when we push aside the uncertainty and get back on the commitment to the original vision. . .sinking that putt!

In my upcoming blogs we are going to look more closely at this 3 step plan and how it plays out in our lives. Simple ideas, not always easy to execute. I’m going to show you how something that you do every time you are on the golf course can become your strategy in approaching life. And with practice, practice, practice, you will get better at seeing what you want, finding an approach to get it and then executing it with confidence.

Until next time .. .go work on your game. .

What’s the Plan…Stan …?

One of the things I’m known for in my practice is how I help my clients create an action plan to the situations that bring them in. This is one of the tenets of Brief Therapy, the style of therapy I practice in my office. As a brief therapist, not only do I assess the problems which are bringing clients in, but also examine things like exceptions to the problem and times when the problem isn’t as severe. I look for strengths and resources in other parts of the clients’ lives to see if we might be able to draw upon these more successful moments to deal with what is currently happening in their lives. And then from that information a plan is made. The plan is based on the goal of when things are better or the situation is resolved or feeling more manageable, what would we see. We get the goal described in behavioral terms and then set up the plan. Sometimes the plan requires more education and skill building, sometimes it is looking at the situation differently and seeing how that might be helpful, maybe it’s working on patience or coping skills until the situation changes, or it could be a myriad of other solutions that help clients get started towards their goal. The plan is specific to each person and his or her goal. It is co-created between client and therapist. The plan gets implemented and session time is used to understand what is working, what is not and make adjustments accordingly. Clients are asked to look for times when things are better and to take note of those situations because they provide clues about what the client needs to continue doing.

When playing golf, there are many parallels to this process I just described. Think about the times you’ve gone to the range. You take a club out of your bag, say a 7-iron, that’s what I usually start with .. and start hitting balls. You’re just warming up, so there might be some great shots and some not so great shots. At some point you might encounter a problem in your swing or the ball flight that starts the assessment process. “Is it my alignment, swing speed? Is my swing getting too big? Am I coming out of the swing too fast, etc.” Seems like everyone has a check list of sorts that gets run through to try to make corrections. As you hit more balls maybe you see that the adjustments you made are working. So, you keep doing them to help with the confidence and muscle memory. And hopefully, things have worked themselves and you reach your goal.. .hitting your 7 iron, “X” number of yards with the type of ball flight and execution that feels as though you are making more consistent swings.

As the Counseling Caddie I want to point out these parallels of what happens on the course and what happens in your life to show you that most issues and situations that create distress and discomfort in your life can be solved or managed by using ideas that we use on the course. With a little thinking and creativity you can begin to see, as I do, how golf mirrors life. And, by putting something that feels uncomfortable, perhaps overwhelming or scary into a context where you feel comfortable, like on the golf course, you can gain some confidence that at least you have a starting point. A grounding of sorts, which hopefully gets your mind thinking, “Okay .. so if I came across a tough shot on the course, how would I approach it?” In the next blog I will start to lay out the plan that I use and help others use to approach that tough shot in your life. Assessing the situation, understanding what works and doesn’t work, getting more tools in your toolbox, or should I say shots in your golf bag, coming up with a plan and executing it, tweaking it if necessary are all ideas that work on and off the course. I will help you see how using my 3 point plan can help you feel more confident in executing that tough shot or addressing that tough situation in your life.

Who’s Your Caddie?

I can’t think of a more appropriate place to start than with the definition and understanding of what a caddie is. In golf, a caddie is the person who carries a player’s bag and clubs, and gives insightful advice and moral support. A good caddy is aware of the challenges and obstacles of the golf course being played, along with the best strategy in playing it. Being a caddy is more than carrying a bag around a golf course for 18 holes. Serving a golfer well in this capacity requires a solid relationship between the golfer and the caddy.

As the counseling caddie, I’ve spent over 20 years talking with clients about all types of issues and concerns people have in their lives. From the upset teenager who thinks his parents nag him too much about his schoolwork, to young adults struggling with the adjustment of going to college and sometimes needing to return home, to young couples just trying to make their way with finances and having small children, to the people who have day to day struggles in the workplace, How about those trying to find the balance between raising kids and taking care of aging parents, to those who are getting ready to retire and feeling the excitement and fear that this brings. I’ve addressed all these stages of life and everything that may come with it, such as conflict in your relationship, using technology or alcohol as an escape, hearing you now have a chronic illness and everything else that life throws you .. I feel like I’ve lived a number of lifetimes with everyone I’ve seen over the years. ..

For that, I feel that I am a caddie of sorts. I have a good understanding of the course. . .life’s course. . and sharing the lay of the land with my clients. In golf a caddie needs to know the distances to certain spots, landing areas, knowing targets off the tee and into the green, things that only someone who has played the course a long time knows. As the counseling caddie I am familiar with a lot of situations and can assist with the obstacles and challenges life brings , just as a golf caddie does on the course.

Caddies are also support mechanisms; letting the player make the decision on their shot and being supportive of that player. They are there to boost morale, to help the golfer stay focused and to offer words of encouragement when they are most needed. The counseling caddie does the same. Ideas and options are generated as a menu of choices for the client. The client ultimately decides their “shot” and the counselor is there to support and help the client stay focused on their goal.

Caddies are also responsible in helping their player be prepared. It’s their responsibility to make sure the bag is properly stocked. If the golfer doesn’t have everything required, it could adversely affect the game. Some things a caddie might do are: Check the golfer’s bag for the appropriate golf clubs, new golf balls, extra gloves, towels, a yardage finder, a yardage book, bug spray, sunscreen, an umbrella and a medical kit.

As the counseling caddie I see it as my job to help my clients be prepared as well. Having the knowledge of many life situations, I’m in a position to help others with what I’ve seen work and not work with other clients. I rely on research and resources that offer ideas to equip my clients for whatever they are facing.

So, when I ask you “who’s your caddie?” it can be anyone in your life that has knowledge of what you are going through, can guide you through the lay of the land, who can support you through it and make sure you have the tools and resources you need. Take some time and reflect on who’s your caddie and in the meantime I’ll be your counseling caddie.

Until next time. . .go work on your game . .

Intro-Caddie Inspired

In my life the biggest decisions I’ve made have come with great clarity. I’m  a Libra. .. and if you believe what the charts say.. .  decision making comes hard for us. We are good at seeing all sides of situations. This is a great trait to have, especially if you are a licensed therapist like myself. But, when it comes to trying to make decisions in my life, I can get tripped up by what is commonly known as “analysis paralysis.” But let me get back to my first remark. Over time I’ve learned to accept this about myself and trust that when something is right, it’s right. Indecision, fear, the back and forth of should I or shouldn’t I disappears and I just know.

Such was the case in regards to taking on this endeavor as the Counseling Caddie. For years I’ve felt a need to take on a project that was creative and utilized the things that I’ve learned in this field, from my training, conversations with my clients and going through life.  Over the years I tried a number of things from consultation, to working in the hospital to teaching and supervision. All were fabulous experiences that I would never say didn’t help me to become a stronger and more experienced and knowledgeable clinician. But all lacked the kind of passion that I recently found in this idea to be the Counseling Caddie.

For those who know me, I love to play golf. It wasn’t always the case. But once my son was born, I really took to the game. I was encouraged by my husband to have an outlet in life and so it became Tuesday morning golf with the ladies. This was an incredible experience as I had the pleasure of playing with inspirational women who were in their late 60’s and 70’s. We all showed up each week because of the love of the game. It was a great introduction to what would become my life passion.

Years went by raising kids…working… and golf for me would be more focused on my son and his game. I still managed to get rounds in throughout the year, but as with any family, time and resources have a limit and so golf would sometimes be on the back burner to other commitments in life.

As time passed I came to learn how the work I was doing in the office was a great fit to my time on the course. See, I’m a brief therapist. Brief Therapy is a mode of therapy that is behavioral based. We look at problem-solving and finding solutions to the concerns people have in their lives. We focus on people’s strengths and we look at exceptions to problems. We are action oriented and very resourceful. Turns out you need all of these skills if you are going to manage your golf game as well as your life.

And so it happened. On a day where I got off work early, I met up with my husband and this idea erupted, with great clarity I might add. I had been bitter about some missed opportunities in my field. Ideas that I had, and didn’t pursue for this that and the other reason. But this night, the anger subsided and a new found energy came about.  Take what I’ve learned as a counselor and help those who also have a passion for the game of golf and teach people how golf is a metaphor for life. Use the ideas and strategies we learn playing golf and apply them to some of the tougher situations we have in our relationships, at work and within ourselves.

In the coming podcasts, videos,  and blogs, I hope to share with you some of the ideas that work for me on and off the course and help you see how things that may feel overwhelming, impossible and unmovable can become more manageable and possible to change. I hope to surprise you as to how resourceful you really are.

I’m pleased to present myself as the Counseling Caddie. I hope the material that follows inspires all of us to work on our game, on and off the course ..