Give up the Goals
Give up the Goals

Give up the Goals

Maybe, it’s not about goals.

Maybe, you’re so caught up in what you want to achieve, that you forget the basics.

Maybe, that shining beacon of achievement, of status, stops you from seeing what made you the golfer you are.

When you were a kid, you might have had dreams of playing on tour, of playing in the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, or holing the putt to win a major. But you probably didn’t sit there on New Year’s Day with a piece of paper, writing down how many wins you wanted to get that year or what you wanted your handicap to be in 12 months time. If you had a decent coach, you might have set those goals at some point in your development, but before your freedom as a golfer became moulded into something someone else decided was appropriate, you probably just did whatever the hell you wanted.

All you really did…. was try to get better.

That’s what I mean by forgetting the basics. When we’re first getting into a sport, any sport, we don’t have a vision of what being good at that sport looks like. Not in the sense of “I need to be x, y and z if I’m to have any chance”. The thing that takes us from casual interest in a sport to a genuine belief in the possibility of our potential is feedback: whether that’s from what we see in our own results or what other people tell us. It’s the knowledge that actually, we’re quite good as this thing that we started doing as a bit of fun. We’ve developed an identity in that sport, without trying to. And that identity – however it gets shaped by time and environment and experience and motivation – is absolutely core to how we play golf (or anything else), for as long as we choose to play it.

Goals are a huge motivator, don’t get me wrong. If there weren’t things that we wanted to achieve in our chosen field, we might struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, or to respond positively when things don’t go well, or to do anything more than just be comfortable. But I think there’s a fine line between having those goals, and getting so consumed by them that you forget your sporting identity. What made you good in the first place? What made you WANT to push yourself?

The way I see it, you can strip almost every single outcome goal to the simple intent of “I want to get better”. Which then becomes specific: if you want to achieve x, what needs to get better? What needs to be different than it currently is? Whether it’s through stats, coach discussions, physical capabilities, mental processing… you can usually figure out what’s preventing you from being at the level you want to be, if you’re reflective and honest about it. Which includes recognising what makes you good – what gives you your identity as a golfer – and figuring out if you’re putting yourself in positions to take advantage of that or not. Don’t sacrifice your strengths to make your weaknesses less weak. Because if you’re not careful, you’ll just end up average… and at a complete loss as to how to get anywhere.

If you know what the best version of you could look like, and where that could take you, it’s about putting the pieces in place to make that happen. If you can end every day trusting that you’ve done something to help  improve your performance, then that’s what counts. Because holing a putt to win a major isn’t going to happen because you’ve won a tournament that year, or because your stroke average is a shot less than it was a year before. It’s going to happen because you’ve done what you need to do to get yourself into that position.

Outcomes are an acknowledgment of what you’ve done, not an endpoint. No ‘goals’… no limits.


  1. Virgil Mincy

    Well said and interesting introspection. Leaves us curious, however: what are your specific plans for 2019? What “activities” are scheduled to “put those pieces together”? Interested.

  2. Terry Gasking

    A very interesting observation. Goals need to be set if success is to be achieved but putting a timetable on progress can severely impede it. Remember the advice ‘don’t let the search for perfection stand in the way of doing good’

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