Mentally Tough is a Misnomer

By David BreslowMay 15, 2008, 4:00 pm

Eliminating the YIPs
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Todays article
Tim, a developmental tour golfer contacted me and the first thing he said was, I want to learn how to be more mentally tough. When I asked him what he meant by that he said, You knowbe tougher out there, more like steel so Im not affected by things and not thrown off my game. I then said, The phrase Mentally Tough is a misnomer so lets take a look at it.
Here is how the word tough is defined:
1.Physically toughened so as to have great endurance: hard as nails.
2.Capable of exerting considerable effort or of withstanding considerable stress or hardship
3.Requiring great or extreme bodily, mental, or spiritual strength
Many people I know view toughness as the ability to be hard as nails, battle tested or dealing with considerable stress. Because of this attitude their game is often derailed by an increase in:
Loss of fluidity and rhythm
Lets look at tough from a different perspective. I believe the word tough should be replaced by the word flexible. Flexibility is a more true description of toughness. For example, did you ever notice how paper towel manufacturers promote their product? Each company tries to convince the buyer that their paper towel is tougher than the competitor. How do they prove this? They know that tougher is a reflection of the ability to ABSORB better. Sothey show you how much more their towel ABSORBS than the competitor does. There is an important lesson here: The ability to ABSORB is what makes it tough.
Heres a second example. After a gale force wind clocking in at 80 mph, which tree tends to remain standing, the flexible tree or the rigid tree? The truth is, the flexible tree is by far the tougher one, isnt it? It is able to ABSORB more than the rigid tree. The rigid tree is less flexible and therefore tends to snap in the high wind due to the lack of flexibility. This eventually leads to its downfall. There is a lesson here too; the more rigid you are, the less you are able to absorb.
Are Tiger, Annika and Lorena considered tough competitors? Sure, but dont be fooled by the word tough. What makes a paper towel or a tree tough is the same thing that makes you tough. Flexibility. True toughness is revealed in your ability to be mentally, physically and emotionally flexible. Rigid toughness, the kind of tough so many think is effective, is quite different and those who apply it may pay the price as well. What happens to people who are rigid and inflexible? They are the ones who experience more stress, tension, tightness and emotional rigidity as well. Can these people perform at a high level? Certainly they canbut at what cost? This kind of toughness causes more burnout, reduced enjoyment and often has negative consequences to the mind, body and emotions over time. Just as the inflexible tree in an 80 mph windit simply breaks down.
Reconsider what tough means to you. I realize it may seem ironic that those who are truly flexible are really tough but they are. Its true because they can withstand the toughest of circumstances, absorb it, work with it and come out stronger and better for itwithout unnecessary stress and burn out.
Toughness is flexibility.
How tough are you?
To your best golf!
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