The Problem with Persistence

Here is an article from Golf Today Northwest Edition titled “The Problem with Persistence” by by Brandon Richardson.
He quotes Tim Gallwey’s Law of Awareness.

Definition of Persistence: Continued existence or occurrence; the continuance of an effect even after the cause is removed.

In our culture, it is a dominate belief that if you try hard enough or persist long enough, then you will succeed. But in fact, my students and I have experienced something quite different than this culturally conditioned and rarely questioned point of view. So let’s explore the problems with persistence.

One of the main problems with persistence is it won’t allow you to be successful now, only later…if you work hard enough. This cycle is never ending because you are so wrapped up in the story of the future that you never really experience what’s happening now and therefore never really develop or improve in any meaningful way. This then means that the only way to become successful is to be successful… right now. So to be successful playing and practicing golf would mean you would also need to be present, right now.

Tim Gallwey calls this “The Law of Awareness.” What this means is instead of trying to fix what you are doing wrong by manipulating your body or the club in some way that you have been instructed to do or even by thinking different swing thoughts that are somehow better than the previous ones, you instead simply let things be the way they are and observe them with curious attention. Even after one crooked shot, no adjustments or compensations are made. Instead you simply become more aware.

One example would be if you are slicing the ball, instead of swinging differently, changing your aim, turning the clubface in at address, or any other compensation you can think of, just let the slice happen for awhile and simply observe. Develop your awareness of cause (I felt this) and effect (and that happened). While this approach of not trying to fix things may seem counter intuitive, in my experience as a player and as a coach, persistence leads to resistance. This means nothing can change in a meaningful and transformational way, without first getting to know what it is that needs to be changed. I would have never learned how to hit the array of shots I can hit now without developing awareness of how to hit all kinds of shots including the ones perceived as “bad”. It seems like common sense to me now but trust me it wasn’t earlier in my career.

I remember hitting thousands of golf balls TRYING to slow down my transition from the top of my swing into my down swing. I was even gifted a watch that measured the timing of this to the 100th of a second. I just got more frustrated because I couldn’t make myself do what I was “supposed” to be doing. I became more easily frustrated and I started mis-hitting the ball even more. The truth is I got worse. Only when I finally reached my breaking point did things start to really change, and as it goes it was quite spontaneous. Out of shear frustration I quit using the watch, I stopped comparing my tempo to tour pros, and I just let my transition be as it was. It was then, by accident that my attention was in a place that allowed for my awareness to grow.

It was amazing to me almost to the point of disbelief that I could now feel how the club was moving and how my arms and hands felt as I changed directions in my swing. Of course at the time I didn’t really get that the “Law of Awareness” was kicking in, but I knew something special was going on.

Not too much later I contacted Golf Coaching Professional Fred Shoemaker and with additional coaching from him I began to see a bigger picture of what was happening. I stopped viewing my quick transition as bad and starting observing it with curious attention. As my point of view was transforming so did my golf swing. By simply observing the transition from the top of my swing to the down swing, it started to smooth out. I didn’t try, I didn’t persist, I just let it be and became more aware of what was happening. I still “get quick” at the top from time to time, but with the practice that I do, by doing nothing other than becoming more aware, it happens less and less. I certainly don’t beat myself up over it or carry it around with me nearly as much as I use to either, which has improved my relationships with everyone around me personally and professionally.

So check it out for yourself. See if you can hit just one bucket of balls without trying to fix something, or without working on something. Just notice what is happening, and keep noticing. At first you might think you aren’t noticing or feeling anything. That in it of its self can be very revealing (an ultimately empowering) to realize that you have played golf for however long and you have no idea how you or the club move. Here is where real learning can happen. What is left is the space needed to grow your capacities to be present while swinging a golf club which is the best place to start because there is nothing left to resist, nothing left to be right about. When you are completely open and your persistence is replaced with presence, amazing things start to happen.

The definition of Persistence again is: Continued existence or occurrence; the continuance of an effect after its cause is removed.

Nothing sounds more developmentally disruptive than to “persist” and could even be linked to the definition of insanity (doing the same thing expecting different results). If your goal is to change something, then you must first stop resisting what is happening right now. Get to know it, embrace it, and explore it. Discovery awaits and the possibilities are limitless.

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One Response to The Problem with Persistence

  1. vin harris says:

    this resonates…..knowing what is happening while it is happening without preference – a definition of mindfulness
    because supression is in the end just too much effort
    great article …thanks
    Vin Harris, Scotland (meditator and golfer)