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The Reason You’re Not Hitting Your Potential

This article is written for you. It might not be written for you right now, but at some point in the past or future, you’ll find yourself off track. You’ll find yourself on the path of not reaching your goals, at that time, consider the following.

For this article, we’re going to take the example of becoming the best golfer in your country. But feel free to replace that with breaking 100, reaching a single-figure handicap or any other exciting pursuit.

Is this the dream you really want?

The first step is to really think hard if this is the dream you really want. Everyone wants to be the best, but very few are willing to put in the work. There is always an opportunity cost with any pursuit, the more ambitious the goal, the more work is needed – so are you prepared for that?

Generally, the really hard, tough challenges in life are the ones you’ll look back on with great admiration. They shape your life and who you become – in 10 years’ time no one will look back at those great 6 hours they spent binge-watching Netflix, but you will remember the time you won the English Amateur, represented your country and maybe even reached number one in the world in your sport.

In retrospect, you can also look back at that tough journey with fondness, as much as getting up at 7am in the middle of winter wasn’t fun at the time – it’ll make you smile in years to come. It was fun, you were very lucky to have time to dedicate to your goal.

Offset short-term fun, for long-term satisfaction

Once you’ve reflected on the above you’ll have to make some simple, but tough choices every day. Can you give up 40 minutes of lounging on the couch in the evening to go work on your putting? Can you get up an hour earlier to fit in an extra gym session? Can you go play 18 holes in the rain in the middle of winter because you know you need more practice in those conditions?

The choices are simple, but they arise every day and you need to consistently make the right small sacrifices for your dream.

Flip your goal for the processes

You won’t magically become the best golfer in your country. Instead, you need to live that life for many months, and likely years. As you live that life, day in and day out, the goal will start to take care of itself.

So many golfers have it backwards – they want the dream, but they aren’t living the reality.

Look at your past few weeks. What do they look like? With that in mind, where do you think you’ll be if you carry on down this path?

What does great look like?

So your next question is what does great look like? How do they act? How do they think? What are the weekly systems and processes that must be in place?

  • How do they plan their time?
  • How do they practice?
  • How do they play?
  • How do they reflect on their practice and play?
  • What team do they have around them?
  • What is their attitude like?
  • How do they interact with others?
  • How do they rest and recover?
  • What do they not do?

Control the controllables

You can’t control how well you play golf, and that confuses many people. You can influence it, but you certainly can’t control what you’ll shoot tomorrow. You can get as angry as you like, but it won’t make you shoot a 65.

What you can control is your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and what activities you decide to invest in every day. And this is the key pathway you have to your dream.

It is surprisingly hard to consistently do this well, but you can learn to do this well. You need to plan your time and spend time really considering how an elite player thinks and behaves, what emotional responses do they have to situations?

Once you have this it is a case of reflecting each and every day – are you on track, or do you need to nudge yourself back on course?

Spend as much time as you can in the left-hand circle.

Go do it

The final thing is to go do it. If you want to achieve a really cool goal, don’t read this and take no action. If you’re a long way away from your goal this can feel overwhelming, it is easy to get tied in knots and not take any action.

When that occurs, just ask yourself, what is the next step? What is the one thing you can do right now?

Go do that thing, then ask yourself the same question – what is the next step? If you keep taking steps you’ll start moving forwards, the one thing we can be sure of is that no action is guaranteed not to get you closer to your goal.

Have a quick think, then go take the next step.

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Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

6 thoughts on “The Reason You’re Not Hitting Your Potential”

  1. Thanks Will,
    I read this as I settled into a coffee and mince pie, looking out at the cold a rain and deciding to stay indoors and browse instagram. I’m now going out to practice my short game. It won’t get to the level I want on its own !

  2. I needed this kick in the pants. I’ve been slacking the past few weeks. Complaining about the cold weather. Sitting around the house playing video games and ignoring my plan for indoor putting practice or mirror work. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll do that tomorrow”. Then tomorrow turns into next week, or next month, and the competitive season suddenly is staring me in the face.

    It’s off to work now.

  3. Great article Will. Yes you are correct .I used your mental physcology article to great effect.does work went well disciplined in all that was asked. Played so much better and enjoyed game much more.on the footsteps of great success but then lost 2 months. I will be using this article and I always reread your original article to keep myself focused on what I’m doing . Thanks and keep going plus I gotta get me one of your training diaries.

  4. Great advice. The key for me is to get value from the practice and so understanding what gives the best return for the time invested. Smart practice as opposed to aimless practice.


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