January 9th, 2014

Golf champion, is the talent or the effort….

The thing that distinguishes one golf player from another is how hard he or she works on the game. That’s it.
There are things that distinguish great golfers—champions—from others. Most of the sports world thinks it’s their talent, but I will argue that it’s their mindset.
In my work, I have identified two mindsets about ability that people may hold. Some hold a “fixed mindset ability”, in which they see abilities as fixed traits. In this view, talents are gifts—you either have them or you don’t.
Other people, in contrast, hold a “growth mindset of ability”. They believe that people can cultivate their abilities. In other words, they view talents that can be developed through practice. It’s not that people holding this mindset deny differences among people. They don’t deny that some people may be better or faster than others at acquiring certain skills, but what they focus on is the idea that everyone can get better over time.
These mindsets and their lessons are highly applicable to the world of sports, but before I investigate into that and before I investigate more deeply into the psychology of the mindsets, let’s address some questions that are frequently asked about mindsets:
Are mindsets fixed or can they be changed? I think that mindsets are fairly stable beliefs, however they are beliefs, and beliefs can be changed.
I have found in my experience that people’s mindsets set up completely in different motivations. The “fixed mindset”, in which you have only a certain amount of a valued talent or ability, leads people to want to look good at all times. You need to prove that you are talented and not do anything to contradict that impression, so people in a “fixed mindset” try to highlight their proficiencies and hide their deficiencies. In fact, I have found that they will often reject valuable learning opportunities (I see this at driving range everyday) because these opportunities hold the risk of unmasking their shortcomings, I see “fixed mindset” people here in “The Balkans” in high numbers.  I am also an “Austral- Balkan” as I like to call myself. I am a person also from this category of a “fixed mindset”, I understood it and I knew that it was wrong, however I could never change it in crucial times of my golf life.
Doesn’t everyone have shortcomings? Isn’t that what learning is for—to overcome them? I used to say to my coach; “Of course, however, your fixed mindset does not give you the leeway to expose and to correct your weaknesses because any weakness can indicate a permanent lack of your ability and you have an issue with that” was his reply.
In contrast, the “growth mindset”, in which you can develop “your ability”, leads people to want to do just that. It leads them to put a premium on learning. This difference is starkly demonstrated in a study I performed with my students at Lighthouse Golf Course. In this study, I gave lessons to, elite golf players of single digit handicap- in a video lesson. But not all golfers are used to a video lesson of their swing. Surely they would be eager to improve their golf swing skills. I told them that I was thinking of going back to the beginning with the fundamentals of their golf swing and I asked them how likely they were to take it from the beginning if I offered them that. Golf students with a “growth mindset” were eager to start this golf module. It could help them master the very skills they needed. However, students with a “fixed mindset” were not so enthusiastic. Because they did not want to expose their deficiency, they were willing to keep their golf swing as it was.
 The problems with a “fixed mindset” is twofold; One is that any lapse in performance is a threat to people’s sense of their underlying ability and hence their sense of their future golf tournaments, and the second is that this great concern with ability tends to drive out learning, often when they are most needed. It’s hard to see how people can thrive in the world of golf if they don’t have strong desire to address their weaknesses and learn.
As we have seen, people in the “fixed mindset” feel measured by setbacks and mistakes. They also feel measured by the very fact of applying effort. They believe that if you have true ability, you shouldn’t need a lot of effort, for example MOI; yet, there is no important endeavor in life—certainly not in the sports world—that can be accomplished and maintained without intense and sustained effort. However, in this mindset, it’s a sign that you are lacking talent or ability.
This is serious because many young golfers who have a great deal of early ability can coast along for some time, outshining their peers. They may even come to equate athletic ability with the ability to outperform others without engaging in much practice or training. At some point, however, natural ability may not be enough, and others may begin to pass them by. Whether they can now learn to put in that needed effort is critical to their future success. Many do not, and believe me I have seen many young golfers with natural abilities who today are digging holes for the local councils or serving beers at golf clubs in Australia.
In contrast, people in the “growth mindset” understand that effort is the way that ability is brought to life and allowed to reach fruition. Far from indicating a lack of talent, they believe that even geniuses need great effort to fulfill their promise. People with a “growth mindset” not only believe in the POWER of effort, they hold effort as a VALUE. Ian Thorpe, “The Thorpedo” Australian swimmer (3 gold medals and 2 silver medals in 2000 Olympics), feels that as long as he’s tried his best, he’s been victorious. “For myself, losing is not coming second. It’s getting out of the water and knowing you could have done better. For myself, I have won every race I’ve ever been in.” and that is a great attitude to have, and of course Sir Nick Faldo who held effort as VALUE has  30 victories on the European Tour and Six Major Championships: Three Open Championships (1987, 1990, 1992) and Three Masters (1989, 1990, 1996).
VOILA!!!! I can say now with all my confidence; golf players who thought that their golf instructor who believed in practice and hard work more than “fixed mindset or natural ability” had more success in golf tournaments.