We wouldn’t need confidence if we didn’t have egos.
You know, that ephemeral superstructure we humans erect over our essence until such time as we return to the spirit world. That ephemeral defense mechanism that we don’t need once we leave this earth. That ephemeral labyrinth always on the lookout for insult, slight, criticism, evaluation or ridicule against us.
The ego is the reason we largely “conform” in the domain of ego-propping accoutrements: homes, cars, clothes, beer brands, Chardonnays, spouses to the extent that our income allows or attracts. In that same way, golf clubs, golf balls, golf courses or clubs and even the skill in our golf games become important.
It’s the reason we always feel a need to explain away a bad day on the golf course; limited play and practice, a golf lesson we’re still trying to absorb, sleep deprivation, nagging injury, etc. It’s a long list.
As I wrote in the early days of the blog, I saw this in an unending number of golfers I played with…and even in myself. So back in my Monday qualifying days, I decided to engage in a little exercise to see if it was possible to successfully control the ego.
I was hurt. I don’t remember which injury it was, but it was either a pulled muscle in my left shoulder or that time when my hips got out of alignment and the pinched nerves in my back could stop me in mid-swing. It is no fun being hurt because you never know when the pain will strike. So your mind is on that rather than the target and the shot.
So one day I’m playing with fellow members I’d played with intermittently, and I’m spraying it all over the place. It was out of character; I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t this bad. And so I decided to keep my ego in check by not explaining why I was playing so poorly. With each errant shot, I offered no explanation and watched my poor ego writhing in agony for just one soothing excuse. I refused to offer one.
I was able to do this because I understood the difference between my spiritual essence and my simpering ego. I understood the impervious nature of the spirit, of essence, and so my loyalty was there, not with a needy ego.
Finally one of my friends politely said that I had played much better the last time I had played with him and wondered why. And so I told him. I told him because he asked and because I felt that my months-long experiment left me more in control of my ego…because I was able to see it for what it was — a troublemaker — and not bend to its needy ways.
And so one of the ways to begin to think about confidence is that you are bigger than any need for confidence. Not without practice, I might add. Not just golf practice, but perhaps with a meditative practice or a yoga practice, anything that helps you to get in touch with your spiritual essence on a regular basis. The reason it must be regular is for the same reason we have to practice our golf swing; we regress if we don’t stay in touch with it.
If we don’t stay in touch with the peace and imperviousness of our essence, it is more difficult to get in touch with its certainty when we need to…say, when we’re choking on the first tee.
There are two ways to deal with that, (1) play so much that your ego is scarred by previous failures and you come to see that they weren’t so bad after all, or, (2) step over your ego and tap into the certainty of that pure essence capable of anything and without need of anything except to exist in pure joy. I touched on this a couple of posts ago when I wrote in, “Tiger Woods: Ever The Optimist,” about optimism being the progenitor of confidence, joy being one of the highest expressions of optimism.
And there are all of the other more “grounded” bromides we all know about. In yesterday’s post, “Jack Nicklaus: How to Prepare For a Major,” he talked about playing enough prior-week practice rounds at the venue that you take all of the mystery, all of the unknowns out of it. In other words, all of the fear out of it. And in “Jack Nicklaus: Mastery Interview,” he emphasized the importance of preparation.
For him it was about knowing that you could hit any shot you’d be called upon to hit. For others, it’s trusting your swing so implicitly that you’re able to play without binding swing thoughts. For them it’s all about the target and the shot to that target, the theory being that you can only keep so many things in mind during a swing; these being two very important ones and much more freeing.
It is that natural ability that stems from essence that makes it possible…and almost inexplicable. The ability to throw a strike just inside the head pin or just over the outside corner. The ability to rocket a serve on the very corner of the service court or to become one with a horse going over a jump. All of these things seem giddily magical when you stop to think about them later, but once you see yourself demonstrate such things over and over, you come to believe in them and their source. That is evidence-based confidence.
But what if there’s no evidence yet? Where does confidence come from then? It comes from believing that you can. It comes from knowing that others have done it and if they can do it, you can do it. It comes from simply “being” confident, “fake it ’til you make it,” a dear friend once joked.
And why does that work? Because in each case, it all comes from the same source, essence.