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Commencement Wisdom

May is a month filled with graduation ceremonies. While many a commencement speech is filled with bromides more appropriate to greeting cards, some have the sort of wisdom we could all use a reminder of every day.

Whether or not you're attending a ceremony this year, soak up some of these choice quotes from five excellent commencement speeches:

1. "Err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality -- your soul, if you will -- is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare's, bright as Gandhi's, bright as Mother Teresa's. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly." (George Saunders)

2. "Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what's happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it." (Jim Carrey)

3. "When you are free from self-doubt, you fail better, because you don't have your defenses up, you can accept the criticism. You don't become so preoccupied with that failure that you forget how to learn from it, you forget how to grow. When you believe in yourself, you succeed better. Hours spent questioning, doubting, fearing, can be given over to working, exploring, living." (Jennifer Lee)

4. "... the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself." ( David McCullough Jr.)

5. "One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life-- is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not to the outcome." (Joyce DiDonato)
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How much time do you devote to improving your mental game?

You might say, "I visualize sometimes," "Occasionally, I do some relaxation prior to hitting the greens," or, "Every now and then, my coach talks to me about having a preshot routine."

These responses are common among golfers but are "sometimes," "occasionally," or, "every now and then" enough?

Do you work on your tee shots sometimes?

Do you practice putting occasionally?

Do you look to improve your short game every now and then?

The answer to these questions is a definite, "NO!"

You spend countless hours tinkering, tweaking, practicing and honing your physical golf skills. After all, how can you improve without focusing and working on your swing, right?

Unfortunately, most golfers ignore the proper focus on their mental game.

Even though every golfer knows the huge impact the mind has on performance, most golfers only seek expert mental advice or devote time to mental training when slumps hit.

Think of how ineffective that "Band-Aid" approach would be if you applied the same philosophy to your physical game?

You would never consciously decide to not practice for the three weeks prior to the biggest tournament of the year. If you did, you would not be able to rely on your physical skills or trust your swing.

Unless you play like Bruce Lietzke did when he was on tour, you might not have full confidence.

Yet many golfers only work on their mental game when the mental game fails them.

Four-time major winner Ernie Els has had a Hall-of-Fame career (72 career victories) but his performance has steadily declined over the years. In fact, Els’ last PGA Tour victory was in 2012.

Els made only three cuts in his first 11 starts during the 2017 season and his best finish was 53rd at the Masters, where he finished 20-over par.

Els sees mental lapses in his game as the cause for his poor consistency this year.

ELS: "I really need to get my mental game going."

This begs the question... How much attention did Els dedicate to his mental game prior to his performance woes appearing? Or did Els come to the realization that he needed a stronger game only after he was entrenched in his performance drought?

Truth be told, mental training or sports psychology is a lot more than dealing with under-performing and overcoming slumps when they arise...

Mental training can help prevent performance issues or minimize their effects when challenges do pop up.

Therefore, a strong mental game requires daily attention or training if you are to play at your peak on a consistent basis.

Mental Game Training Tips:

1: Create a mental game plan, such as increasing confidence or managing competitive anxiety. Decide on the top priorities for your mental game and work on these one at a time.

2: Once you have your mental game plan, ask yourself, "What can I do today to work on this mental skill?" Elicit the help of golf coaches or mental game coaches if you need more help developing an action plan to develop you mental skills further.

The time to start mental training is NOW... before problems arise. And you can start with The Golfer's Mental Edge CD and workbook program and "The Right Mind for Golf"...-

By PGTAA member Dr. Patrick Cohn
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