The Performance Paradox


Golf (as well as life) is full of paradox. Synonyms for the word paradox include: an absurdity, contradiction and impossibility. Is it any wonder we have a difficult time understanding the importance of how paradox functions in our game?
Many of us understand paradox from an intellectual level. We know about it, we know it exists and yet we have a difficult time applying the reality of paradox in our game. Why? In my opinion, the very contradiction of a paradox goes against what we think should be and because we think something should be a certain wayits difficult to let go of it.
Your best performances are a result of a paradox in action. Have you ever been in the zone? If so, then you have experienced the essence of a performance paradox at work. The zone is the ultimate experience of one of the most common performance paradox that states:
Do less and achieve more

When you are in the zone do you do more or do you do less? Do you OVER think, OVER analyze or OVER try? No. This is the ultimate paradox: do less and achieve more. This paradox is a real challenge to our logical minds in that we think we need to do more to get more power or accuracy yet we have our own experiences that clearly shows us when we do less we tend to become more powerful and more accurate. Trying to do more creates more stress, tension and anxiety in the golf swing.
This creates a dilemma doesnt it?
I was working with Monica, a 15 handicap golfer last year and we discussed the nature and function of paradox on her performance. So, does this mean I need to do less and not more on the course? she asked. Here is the dilemma we all face. I responded. The dilemma is the realization that in order to play our best, we actually need to do less, to get out of our own way. Doing less allows the mind, body and emotions to stay aligned so that energy flows through your body more smoothly. The smoother if flows, the less obstruction there is and the more your true talent emerges. When we do more; we obstruct this smooth flow by mentally working too hard, triggering emotions that are tense and on edge and causing the body to become to tight. The result is less power, accuracy and enjoyment. This is the exact opposite of what happens in the zone state where there is no interruption and your talent simply emerges. Its already there and when you get out of the waybingo!
Monica seemed almost a bit disappointed. She had always been a player who pushed and tried and tried for more. This is why the paradox seems so illogical. If I dont try, how can I play well she asked. Doing less doesnt mean that we stop trying or stop working on our game. It means that we stop OVER TRYING and OVER WORKING and OVER INTERFERING with our talent. It means that when we play, we:
  • Keep the mind open and aware

  • Understand that we dont have to try to hit the golf ball

  • Dont exhaust mental energy with too much analyzing, judging, critiquing

  • Accept the reality of any outcomestop resisting what is

  • Keep emotions flowing smoothly by understanding the importance of the breath

  • Keep muscles relaxed and flexible
Isnt this what the zone experience is like? The zone is a state where there is plenty of energy, focus and effort. Youre exactly right. Monica said. As hard as it is to admittheres a part of me that still wants to hold on to this but I know what youre saying is true. Thats what makes it a true paradox I replied. We think we need to control the golf swing so much but the real effort is in learning to let go and trust that when we do the right thing, our game (at what ever level you are at!) will present itselfwithout our trying to make it show up. Keep paying attention to the reality of the difference in how you play when you are working with the paradox and when you are working against it.
What about you? Take note of the times when youve worked with the paradox and you played better versus the times when you worked against it. Take a close look at the paradox in action and see for yourself how it impacts your performance.
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    Copyright 2004 David Breslow. David is the author of Wired To Win and offers a highly acclaimed Perform In The FlowZone' program for sports and business. David has appeared on The Golf Channel, ESPN radio, etc. For more programs/services/products or sign up for a free newsletter (write newsletter in subject box). Also, review the new series of Performance Training Manuals available online! Contact: David Breslow at 847.681.1698 Email: or visit the web: For book orders call toll free: 1.888.280.7715