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"A systematic structure of theories concerning the relation of conscious and unconscious psychological processes".

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The Lydia Ko Approach

Larry's Dilemmas

Playing Within Ourselves

  The Lydia Ko approach

Ice cool Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko is driven to succeed

November 2014

Ten years ago, when Lydia Ko first walked into the office of mental performance coach David Niethe, she was just seven years old.But even then, beyond the hours spent on the practice range, putting green and even at school, Ko was working on what would become her defining ability: psychological strength.

Before Ko claimed a $1.9 million jackpot last week - winning both the LPGA's season-long Order of Merit and the Tour Championship - her first year as a professional had already cemented a global reputation for a rare calmness under pressure, a startling maturity way beyond Ko's teenage years.

Last Monday things went to a new level. With the eyes of the golfing world set on the start of the lucrative, sudden-death playoff in Florida, 24-year-old Carlota Ciganda was on edge: her Iberian temperament twitching in full view.
In comparison, 17-year-old Ko was so relaxed she was yawning. As much as Ko's golfing performances have stunned the world in her fledgling year, it's the way in which she's done it that has struck a chord and baffled former greats and commentators.

While grown men around the world fizz with rage during their weekly hack around the links, this 17-year-old is as serene as it gets - and that includes on the elite men's game. And that, says Neithe, is the lesson. Because believe it or not, Ko actually battles nerves.

"Lydia is no different in that she does get nervous. Where she is very different, though, is her desire to control it," said Niethe.

"One of the first things we worked on was she used to get really anxious on the first tee. So we went through breathing exercises just to control the physiology."

"What it comes down to is a real desire to develop a behaviour. It's self management and self control - and Lydia has incredible self control. You do not see her upset, neither do you see her overly excited. The time for that is after she has finished playing. What we see on a Saturday games is people who get down on themselves, or we get the other extreme with people throwing clubs. And they wonder why they can't progress."

David Niethe

"What we're talking about is a formula that will change a golfer's life. You truly have to understand that getting upset does not help you to improve your performance. Yet people beat themselves up day in, day out."

One of the first building blocks Niethe placed in Ko's mind was getting her to understand the need for equilibrium - maintaining a constant mental state rather than giving in to emotion.
Understanding it is one thing, having the discipline to do it is another entirely.
"I'm constantly asked, 'What's the secret with Lydia?' The challenge is about 'getting it'. She actually just goes out there and has fun. I think in general people try and complicate things."

"One of the things I teach is called the performance window. In that window we have assertive behaviour, assertive physiology and everything that is habitual.
The key - and this is why Lydia is so damn good - is consistency. People have got to observe her behaviour, and this is what we've worked on. In the performance window we don't get passive, we don't get aggressive, we maintain an assertive mindset." "If you're confident out there having fun, then you can perform in a way where even if you hit a bad shot, you can stay in that performance window."

Niethe, who began his career as an athlete and was a former New Zealand strongman competitor, has since turned his prime professional focus from muscular to psychological strength.
But perhaps the most startling thing is Niethe's unequivocal confidence in what Ko still has left to show. We are only just seeing, he says, the tip of the iceberg.

"Lydia's only just started and she's still maturing as an individual. I think what we're about to witness is one of the greatest decades ever in women's golf," he said. "I don't think anything's going to change for her. Lydia will be this country's first female in the Hall of Fame and when that time comes, probably one of the youngest ever too."

"What's absolutely vital to Lydia's success is humble confidence in her performance. She's very proud of herself, too. She works bloody hard. And let's face it, hard work always pays off."

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  Larry's Dilemmas

Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance

by Larry David

On the par-3, 175-yard fourteenth hole at Riviera, I hit my tee shot a mere ninety yards and a physics-defying thirty degrees to the right—almost sideways. It’s a miracle I got my right leg out of the way, or I could have shattered it with the club. As I walked to the ball, I remarked to my friend that after seventeen years of playing this course I’d never seen someone hit a ball anywhere near where mine ended up. He had never seen it, either. “What’s more,” I said, “I couldn’t care less.” My friend was taken aback. But I meant it. I didn’t care, and I didn’t particularly care about the next shot, either. I felt liberated, not unlike the way I felt when my wife left me, except this time I didn’t take up skipping.

Finally, after years of pain and struggle, I had accepted the fact that I would never be a good golfer. No matter how many hours I practiced, no matter how many instructors I saw, how many books and magazines I read, or how many teaching aids I tried. Then it hit me. According to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book “On Death and Dying,” Acceptance was the final stage of grief that terminal patients experience before dying.
The others being Anger, Denial, Bargaining, and Depression. I was in the final stage! When I started thinking about it, I realized that I’d gone through every one of those stages, but not as a terminal patient . . . as a golfer.

My first stage: Anger. There was a time when I was always angry on the course. Driving fast in the cart. Throwing clubs. Constantly berating myself. “You stink, four-eyes! You stink at everything. You can’t even open a bottle of wine! You can’t swipe a credit card at the drugstore! You can’t swipe. And you’ve never even been to the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim! And call your parents, you selfish bastard!” Then I’d walk off the course and vow never to play again, only to return the following week for more of the same. I hardly ever finished a round. Once, I bought a brand-new set of clubs, and then, after a particularly terrible day, I gave them to the caddy at the sixteenth hole and left.

The Anger phase lasted for years, and then I entered the next phase, Denial. “All I need are some lessons,” I told myself. “Why should everyone else be able to do it and not me? Why are they good? I’m coördinated. I have a jump shot! I can go to my left. Obviously I have it in me. I have it in me! Next year, I’ll go to Orlando and spend a week taking lessons with Leadbetter. I don’t care what it costs. How can you spend a week with Leadbetter and not get better? It’s impossible.” But I did, and I didn’t.

The third stage was Bargaining, and I did my share of that. “Please, God. All I want to do is hit the ball. What is it You want? Good deeds? Give me a swing and I’ll give You good deeds up the wazoo. I’ll help sick kids, the homeless . . . well, sick kids. I’ll stop all the mocking. I’ll give up cookies, coffee, coffee cake, cashmere. I’ll go to temple. Is that what You want? Temple? Done! Can I bring my BlackBerry? O.K., no BlackBerry, I promise! Just let me hit the ball! What do You care?” He didn’t. What kind of God won’t let me hit the ball? What did I ever do to Him? He took my hair, I didn’t complain. I joked about it! I was a model bald man. Was it the TV show? Did He not like the show? Too mean? I’ll make it nicer! I can be nice. “Tell You what—I’ll visit my parents in Florida three times next year. That’s right, You heard me. Three times! . . . Did I say three? Three’s crazy. No one can survive three trips down there. It’s suicide. Let’s make it two. What do You say? Two trips to Florida! I’m only human!” And, by the way, I wasn’t even asking to hit every shot. Or even every other shot. Or even every third shot. I said, “God, let me hit the ball every fourth shot and I’ll be happy.” Every fourth shot! But He didn’t. He wouldn’t. He won’t.

Then I drifted into the next stage, Depression. I was never going to be good. Never. Think what I could’ve done with all that time. Learned French. Piano. I’d be playing Chopin now if it weren’t for golf. Playing Chopin for Julie Delpy. But instead I wasted my life on this game. It looked so easy. The ball just sits there. Any idiot could do it. But every instinct I had was wrong. You’re supposed to hit the ball down to make it go up. That’s absurd. I want to hit it up to make it go up. When I try to hit down, it’s like I’m splitting a log with an axe. All I do is chop up the course. And then there’s this one: the easier you swing, the farther the ball goes. How can that be? So you hit down to make it go up and swing easy to make it go far?

And now I find myself in the final stage, Acceptance. I will never be good. There, I said it. I like saying it. I’ll say it again: I’ll never be good. It’s just not something I’m suited for. That’s O.K. I’m good at other things. What those are I have no idea. But I’m sure there are some. Flossing and dishwashing come to mind. Getting people I can’t stand to like me is another. But golf ? No. I will never stand over the ball without considering the disaster about to befall me. I’ll never line up a putt and think I’ll make it. Never face a chip without fearing the decel. And yet I’ll continue to play, because I do hit some good shots, especially when I’m on the driving range.

I actually hit some great range shots. What the hell is that? I’ve had swing compliments on the range. “I love your tempo,” a woman once said to me. That’s right—I have good tempo. I’ve had many other range compliments that I won’t bore you with, but, believe me, I’m an eight or a nine on the range. So it’s clearly psychological. I wonder . . . what if I blindfolded myself ?

Is it possible?!

Have I stumbled upon the Secret?

It makes sense.

The reason I can’t hit the ball is that I can see it!

Tomorrow I’m going to play blindfolded, and if that doesn’t work then I’ll definitely and unequivocally accept Acceptance.

I just want to try this blindfold idea.
I have a very good feeling about it.
Very good.

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  Playing Within Ourselves

Playing Within Ourselves

To play “within yourself” is one of golf’s many wisdoms that tend to be easier SAID than DONE. Most everyone thinks playing within yourself means that you don’t try and hit shots that are impossible. That’s true, but isn't that’s really just everyday, realistic, common sense? Just playing golf tends to make one humble and much more realistic as to what you can and can’t do on the golf course.

With that said, how many times have you wondered why you attempted this or that on the golf course?

Too often than not, differences arise between regular everyday common sense (the normal “YOU” factor) and our “golfing” common sense (the only “YOURSELF” factor). Playing golf requires a different mind set because of these conflicting two factors. Both use simple common sense, but just don’t seem like it some days.

Whether you want to admit it or not, playing golf is a test between YOU, the Golf Course and YOURSELF. Yes that’s correct, YOU against YOURSELF. It’s everyday, realistic common sense versus golfing common sense. The harder one tries the more separate the two common senses often become.

When you can blend the two together, you are probably “playing within yourself” much more effectively.

It doesn’t matter whether you are involved in the best round of your lifetime, trying to win a competition, or just trying to avoid losing another golf ball. (when you only have one more left in your bag) Either situation forces you to make decisions under the pressure of giving it your best, or in the case of your last ball left, maximum pressure.

The toughest opponent while playing golf often is one’s SELF. There lies the fun and excitement of succeeding during a round of golf, and the frustration of not.

Sally has been playing golf regularly for about a year. She is at the point that she rarely misses the ball and has made a few birdies and pars. She is very confident with hitting her 7 IRON, more so than any other club in her bag. Usually feels fairly confident with her 7 wood, the 7 iron however is “automatic”, in her words.

A very normal comment made by newer-type golfers. (Not so much the “automatic” statement, more of the “favorite club” comments )

“I can’t hit the other clubs as well, just those two for some reason. I can hit my 7 iron much better than any other iron.”

Then she thought a minute, and said she might as well only hit those two clubs once she is out of her 9 iron range.

Thinking in everyday common sense terms, (the YOU factor) I made the suggestion that she do just that.

“Take all those other clubs out of your bag, except your putter, a wedge and the 9 iron. Go ahead and play and see what the score difference is, it probably won’t be much. The other clubs can wait until they start to work for you on the practice tee.”

She had to think about the strange idea, I wasn’t sure if she would really try it.

A few days later I saw Sally, with a big grin on her face.

“I did it and played good, it was more fun!” Don’t know about her score that day, doesn’t matter.

Everyday common sense (the YOU factor) thinks there is no reason for Sally to hit any other clubs until her swing and game improves, and then she will find the need and reason for hitting the other clubs. Her golfing common sense (the YOURSELF factor), says you have to learn to hit all the clubs; you should play better if you have more clubs. True enough for later, but not now for Sally.

Sally was now Playing within Herself at her current skill level, having more fun playing while settings things in place to improve in the future. The boundaries of “within herself” will change as she improves and has the need to use other clubs. But not now.

Alex is an experienced golfer, is somewhere between a 9 and 10 handicap. He loves to play but admits golf is emotional for him, because he is so competitive. I know he can hit the ball skillfully because I’ve see him do it.

He is getting frustrated because he is not scoring as well as he thinks he should. I also know he is weak in his chipping and pitching game. (a bad weakness to have if you want to score better)

“Two or three holes kill me just about every round” he said as we talked about his play.

I then asked: “Were they on the first nine or the back nine holes.”

Alex barked back “always on the first 9 or 10 holes, that stupid fourth hole got me again!”

Since I knew the course, I asked Alex what exactly happened on that fourth hole, which is a par 5.

“Well, I hit a good drive and thought I could hit my 3 wood over the water, across the dogleg, very near the green in two shots. You know me, I can’t stop from trying to gamble and get close to the green. I should be able to do it, but I didn’t, so I took a big score on the hole… again!”

Being equipped with hindsight and the knowledge that Alex’s current weakness is his chipping and pitching around greens, and sometimes his emotions, I asked:

“Why did you gamble so early in the round? I don’t know how far you hit your 3 wood but I do know you hit your 9 iron at least 130-140 yards and with a lot of control. Without gambling so early in your round, you could have hit two consective-easy-9-irons using the fairway to at least 260 or 270 yards, more than enough to, say, hit the GREEN in three swings and be putting for a birdie.

Alex’s response was: “I like to gamble and I know I can hit the shot, and two 9 irons would look silly”

I responsed as tactfully as I could: “Try doing your gambling later in round when you have something to gamble for (like a good score in process), do your gambling after your 10th hole played. I know you can hit two consecutive-easy-9-irons more successfully, more often, than you can your 3 wood. That’s true for most of us, isn’t it?
(I know the two 9 irons is a little weird, but I was just trying to make a point. Although if you think about it……….)

Yes we are dealing with course management issues here, but Alex is also not “playing within himself” either, he isn’t accounting for his golfing weaknesses. (chipping and pitching)

He’s trying to get the ball closer to the green on this par 5 surrounded by sand bunkers and mounds.
Why? then what?
The fact that he admittedly has his bad holes on the first 9 to10 holes is reason enough to have a non-gambling playing strategy on the fourth hole.

Everyday common sense (You factor) says to try and get the best score you can safely. Since it is early in the round, go with an easier shot selection to hit the green .Give yourself a good shot at birdie or par. His overly active golfing common sense (Yourself factor) says he should be able to hit his 3 wood near the green in two shots. Two 9 irons might make him look silly”.

Silly until he “easily” hits the green in three swings and makes his birdie putt, on his 4th hole played, and then hears: “Wow, you sure know how to play within yourself, Alex.

Many years ago I learned a “playing within” lesson while golfing with my father. Just before we were ready to tee off, an elderly man named Charlie, came out and asked if he could join us.

“I can’t see where my drives go, I have a hard time seeing past about 150 yards” said the slim, very elderly man.

“I'll need your help. I play here a lot so I DO know the course layout pretty well, I will keep up.” We said sure, figuring we are going to be there some day also.

After playing the first couple holes, it was apparent that he could play, just had a problem with his vision. As we continued to play, his skills around the greens proved to be above average, his swing was very smooth, didn’t try to over-power anything. He also did indeed know the course, just couldn’t see it that well.

We played from the same tees, he needed assistance following his drives, just as he warned us about on the first tee. But that was all he needed from us.

Inside 150 yards he was as good as you could get, really good! He gave both of us a lesson on how to play within oneself, one that I have never forgotten to this day.

He hit a lot of woods where we were hitting irons; he made a lot of good chips and putts when we were not. He knew what he couldn’t do and what he could do, which was a lot and very good. He was blending his YOU and YOURSELF factors like an expert. So good that he beat both of us and knew it. Turned out old Charlie had had quite a bit of golfing experience, said he tried playing professionally way back in the early days.

He knew what each of our final scores were, and kind of let me know that he beat me, in so many words. That was a lesson learned on a very humbling day.

So, whether you are a new golfer that needs to only use a limited number of clubs for a while, or an experienced player that wants to get better without looking “silly”, or one that can’t see too far, playing within ourselves during any decision making on the golf course is a must.

Ah, but that's much Easier Said than Done.

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