Anyone at all interested in the game of golf is surely familiar with the phrase, “Drive for show, put for dough.” It, of course, refers to the notion that, while a great drive that rolls well past your opponent’s and sits nicely in the fairway might be rather impressive, it’s a great short game that ultimately allows you to lower your score and win matches. It’s why you hear over and over again that most amateurs spend way too much time swinging away at balls on the range when they should be around the practice green; because no other club in your bag can lower your golf score as quickly as the putter.
However, one shouldn’t be fooled because of this into thinking that a good drive on the course isn’t important. It is in fact vitally important, just not for the same reason. I read something recently that said a good drive isn’t important because it saves you strokes (it’s doesn’t), but because a bad drive can cost you strokes. The point is that a good drive, no matter how impressive, will never guarantee a birdie or even par. You still have to hit that second shot. (I can attest to this. I played golf this past Saturday and on four occasions I scored a bogie or double-bogie when my drive was sitting in the fairway 120 yards from the pin. Frustrating.) But, a bad drive can most certainly guarantee a bogie. A shot into thick rough, deep into the trees . . . or, you know, out of bounds . . . can most certainly make it impossible to reach the green in regulation and birdie or par the hole.
In a lot of ways, including this one, the game of golf is a lot like life. Because this is true of practically anything one does, isn’t it? Practically any venture on which one decides to embark—any career path, any project, any relationship, a new job, a new workout, a new budget—it is vitally important to start it off right. The importance, of course, isn’t to guarantee success, but to not guarantee failure. Starting off any new relationship with the appropriate standards and boundaries, be it business or personal, doesn’t guarantee bridges won’t burn or break ups wont happen, but starting that relationship without those things will almost always lead to less than stellar results. Starting a new workout routine won’t guarantee one will be the strongest guy in the gym, but doing so incorrectly can easily lead to a less than fruitful workout. And developing a new budget, without seriously considering one’s resources and/or goals can just be down right disastrous.
So if your contemplating embarking on something new in your life, before you do so, it might be beneficial to seriously consider the best way to begin. Here are a few tips from the tee box.
1. Know your goal. Before you begin, you must know what you want the end result to be. And be specific. Use clearly defined parameters that are measurable. Standing on the tee box, for example, one’s goal might be to play well. What does that mean? A more clearly defined goal would be to shoot a 4. What does it mean, if starting a workout, to have a goal of ‘getting stronger’? What does it mean when beginning a new career to have a goal of ‘being successful’? What is strong? What is success? Whatever the challenge, know the goal, and know what it means to accomplish that goal.
2. Identify the dangers. What are the things that may stand in your way of reaching that goal. Again, standing on the tee box, this means looking for the hazards. How far away is that sand trap? Is it a distance that should cause concern that you might hit it? How about that line of trees to the right, or that water to the left, or the giant dog leg that you might hit through. With every start there exists dangers that can quickly derail one’s best efforts. What are the hazards that might cause one’s budget to falter? What expenses might arise unexpectedly? And if they arise, what impact would they have on the ability to maintain the budget? Again, be specific.
3. Develop the plan. Now that you know where you want to get, and what to avoid in doing so, map out the way you plan to get there. If you’re standing on a tee box and there’s a large dog-leg or a creek that runs across the fairway, maybe your plan is to grab an iron and lay up off the tee. If there’s water to the right and you’re notorious for slicing wildly, maybe you need to aim a little left. It’s course management. It’s developing a plan of action that, in light of the goal and the hazards, provides the greatest chances of success from the get-go. And just like the first two tips, the more specific the better. What does it mean to lay up off the tee? Are we talking three wood or 4 iron? If your goal is to be able to run a marathon in 4 months, and the dangers during your workout are injury or dehydration, what does it mean to ease into your workout or to stay hydrated? Develop a specific and measurable plan that will provide the greatest chance of success.
4. Focus on the positives. It’s often said in the game of golf that if you’re thinking about not hitting the ball into the water when you begin your backswing, you’ll most likely hit the ball directly into the water. Instead, after you’ve identified where you want to hit the ball, you should focus on nothing but that spot. You should focus positively on the end result. And this is true, too, with any new venture. The best way to set yourself up for success is to focus positively on the end result. Focusing on all the things that can go wrong, and there are most certainly many, will do nothing but breed fear and anxiety, lowering your ability to perform well. Instead, focusing on the goal, on the fruits of your labor, on where you want to be will help you stay motivated and, more importantly, will help you stick to the plan you create.
5. Swing away. Go for it. Have fun. Start something great. Pursue your dreams. Embark on your adventure.