With spring around the corner, I find my mind turning to golf. I love to play golf. I’ve always tried to not take it too seriously and remember that it’s just a game—but I didn’t really love to play until I started to use an approach called NATO golf. In case you haven’t heard of it before, NATO stands for Not Attached To Outcome.
When you’re attached to outcome, you might be having a good game but then you hit the ball wrong and find yourself focusing on the wrong things—every move you make, every breeze, every bump in the grass. It really tightens you up and you can’t perform as well. You become fearful of your results because you believe that who you are depends on how you score or play that day.
I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to play NATO golf than to grind my teeth over the score. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hitting good shots or scoring well—but I know that I am not my score. I am not each shot. As a result, I’m much more relaxed and able to swing freely at the ball without fear. I play so much better when I’m not worried about whether I’m going to be able to hit that hole or make that putt. I just get up there and let it happen. It’s beautiful.
Golf is always interesting to me, because I believe golf is a lot like life. Think about it. Sometimes you’re playing better than you should, so you learn how to deal with success. Sometimes you’re playing worse than you should, so you learn how to deal with failure. Sometimes you get good breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get good breaks you do deserve. Sometimes you get bad breaks you don’t deserve and sometimes you get bad breaks you do deserve. All in four and a half hours! Ha! And one of the best ways to get to know somebody is to play golf with them and watch how they behave. It says a lot about a person.
In life, as in golf, sometimes we get so focused on outcome that we don’t enjoy the ride. We’re so uptight about the importance of the outcome that we miss the dance of life, the dance of relationships, the dance of the sales call, or the dance of doing a seminar.
Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” I can’t say that I agree. Golf is a wonderful game as long as you don’t start believing that who you are is dependent on how you score. Don’t get attached to outcome—just be who you are and you will be amazed at how much more you’ll enjoy the game of golf—and the game of life.