The Power of Targets

I finally got in a round of golf this summer. It's been a while since I'd played, so I thought I'd be a little rusty. As I stepped up to the first tee box with my Big Bertha driver, I remembered something I'd heard last year. Mark Calcavechia said that he had changed his approach to tee shots.

When looking down the fairway, most golfers will look at the edges of the fairway like the edges of a football goal post. The goal is to land between them. Often, players will pick out a distant tree or building as a target.

Not Mark, he says he started picking a sprinkler head in the fairway. Sprinkler heads on golf courses are about six inches in diameter, about the size of a bread plate. This is quite different from a distant building that is yards wide or a tree with its spreading limbs that can be yards wide. Surprisingly enough, Mark said his accuracy improved.

I thought, "What the heck, I'll try it." So I picked a dark spot on the fairway about 25 yards farther than I normally hit the ball, and imagined the ball flying in a graceful arc to land and roll down to that spot. Having that picture in my mind, I teed up the ball and gave a nice full swing and to my amazement the ball landed and rolled down close to the right distance and inside the fairway. Let me emphasize, this isn't a normal occurrence. Most of the time I end up in the left or right rough. Aiming for the green, I'd visualize the ball falling in the cup at the bottom of the flag. Putting on the green, I'd visualize the arc of the ball and the sound of it falling in the hole. I got closer and made more putts using this strategy.

So I kept doing this for most of the round. Every once in awhile I'd get cocky and forget to visualize the shot landing where I wanted it to go, and I'd pay the price: deep rough, bunkers, or trees. Yet every time I remembered to visualize a smaller target I got a better result.

The Value of Targets

One of the reasons golf appeals to the leaders of business is that it teaches us something that we can carry over into the rest of our lives, if we let it.

My wife has two children from a previous marriage. She imagined both of them graduating from college from the time they were born, and they both did.

Every business sets revenue goals and works to achieve them, but I don't believe that every business leader visualizes the effect of each "shot" they take on achieving that outcome.

So I asked myself:

"So, if I can do this in golf to get better results, 
where else can I use it?"

Hitting the Target

Do you have a target? Do you want to get an "A" in a class? Get a promotion and better pay? Get a better job in a better work environment? Have you set a savings target for retirement?

Is it a goal post or a sprinkler head? Do you want an "A" or a "B" in the class, or just an "A"? Do you want to get a $5,000-10,000 raise or specifically a $7,500 raise? Do you want a better job or a management job with a Fortune 500 company that supports single mothers? Do you want enough money to retire or do you want $3.5 million in stocks and bonds returning a minimum of 6% per year?

Pick A Target
Pick a sprinkler head, not a goal post. A specific target beats two competing edges every time.

Visualize Hitting the Target
Imagine yourself studying the right things, meeting the right people, investing in the right stock and bond funds to achieve your target. Most good golf swings are effortless: back and follow through. They are not forced or hard work. Visualize hitting your target effortlessly.

Adjust As You Go
Calcavechia doesn't hit the sprinkler head every time he tees off, but he's a lot more on course than off. Pick the next target, visualize and hit the next shot. My wife's youngest daughter is using that to craft her career. She just landed a management job and a $10,000/year raise. She's 28. I wish I'd have known more about this when I was 28. My business grew out of a vision of owning my own company and escaping the phone company. Next year marks my 10th anniversary of moving out on my own. It was the right choice at the right time.

Practice Your Swing, But Practice Visualization More
Golfers spend a fortune on lessons to improve their swing. They hit buckets of balls in an attempt to groove their swing. They putt and they chip, but only 10 percent of amateur golfers ever get below 100 stokes per round. I'm guessing that the 10% who do break 100 practice grooving their visualization.

Jack Nicklaus said that golf is 10% swing and 90% visualization. When we watch pro golfers on TV, we can see what they do, but we can't see what they are thinking. The same is true of successful business leaders; we can see the effects of their thinking, but not the pictures, sounds and feelings that run through their minds.

Groove Your Mind to Produce the Results You Want 
Practice picturing the result you want before you take your swing at it. You might be surprised how much you can achieve and how effortlessly you can do it.

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