Your Pre-Shot Routine

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Last week I asked someone to describe their pre-shot routine. They responded with, “what’s that?” Our conversation was about gaining greater confidence and impact with a variety of audiences. Exploring methods of preparation nudged the pre-shot question. Before we could focus on the answer, we detoured a bit to talk about golf.  

Who could have imagined that maneuvering a ball, with a bag of clubs/tools (choices) over carefully manicured grass could be so _______ (fill in the blank) fun, challenging, rewarding, humbling, etc.?  If you have ever stood over a golf ball, you understand. From a distance, golfers appear to be competitive yet composed. Cool, confident, and calculating. Precise. Until you get IN the game – it’s easy to be fooled. It is only when you bring your own bag of clubs and begin to play, you gain perspective and appreciation. Golfing – up close and personal is not effortless and frequently is anything BUT calm. Professionals make it look easy. That’s why so many like to watch, critique and judge the pros … and convince ourselves we can do that, maybe even better.  Afterall – the courses are beautiful and there are so many cool gadgets that we believe we can play almost like the pros… until we don’t.

Professionally and personally life is a lot like golf. Desire and determination are the book ends of discipline. Discipline is an ongoing practice with a clear focus. We don’t show golf who’s boss. Golf doesn’t care.  It’s a game of balance… an internal and external work in progress. A dance of sorts. We golf in pairs, but each player must manage their mental, emotional, and physical energies to sync up and move a 42.67mm ball from one place to another. Here’s the rub; frequently what you want and what you get are different. Simply put, you get the “right” club and “know” what to do, but the ball does something different. It lands someplace that we did NOT see. That IS how the game gets played… in golf AND in life. The plan, the event, and the surprises. There are 3 basic components:

  1. Before:   Practice and prepare
  2. During:   Strike the ball
  3. After:      Observe, Recover and Respond

We get seduced by high hopes and rush through step 1 so we can hit the ball. The total number of ball strikes IS what gives us our score. Yet, without a consistent and disciplined pre-shot routine, we’re going to spend a lot of time and energy chasing miss-hit golf balls through a sea of frustration.   “The pre-shot routine is almost as important as the actual shot.”, says Brian K Shaver, a PGA Professional and head golf pro at The Abaco Club.  

A routine is a sequence of consistently followed actions, that can become a habit.  Habits can be supportive or unhelpful. Evaluating our routines elevates our awareness and opens the door to greater understanding. We cannot adjust what we do not notice. Intentional routines lead to intentional habits, behaviors, and results. A pre-shot routine is a patterned sequence of thoughts and actions prior to (the impact / main event) striking the ball.

Why the big deal about routines? According to Shaver, “a pre-shot routine is important to ensure your thoughts are organized, without a good Pre-Shot routine you’re opening the door for tension and anxiety to creep in which are both killers of the golf swing.” *

The basic premise is to synchronize your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. To get your SHIFT together you need to eliminate or reduce distractions and move into a state of mental, emotional, and physical coherence. If you want a specific result, you need a specific routine.  A specific and productive routine happens with practice.

Professional athletes all have intentional routines because of intentional practice. (i.e., Annika Sorenstam’s pre-shot routine is said to be 24 seconds every time.) Why? They understand that how they believe, feel and think is linked to their performance and success. Good routines lead to good actions.

Whether we are golfers, bankers, janitors, or food-service professionals – we are all human. That means our attitudes, emotions and intentions drive our interactions. We are complex beings with varied tasks and ambitions. We are different, yet similar in many ways. If you want to improve your results – in ANY venture or arena, find your authentic and consistent pre-shot routine, then practice it. That routine will become habit and eventually improve your ability to show up balanced, focused, and be present. If you tend to rush – you may need to slow down. If you tend to be slow, you may need to accelerate a bit. “The key is you have to be consistent and do exactly the same thing every time in a pre-shot routine.” And “All these things are geared toward your nervous system to try to keep your nervous system and your heart rate at a nice, level heart rate,” according to Butch Harmon, American golf instructor and former pro player.

Before your next meeting, conversation or golf swing, evaluate your pre-shot routine. Ask for feedback from a trusted source and hire a coach. Create YOUR unique routine, then practice and be consistent. Over time, it will become your habit. Don’t expect great results until you are willing to engage with the rigor of routine. You can practice your routine and manage your thoughts, beliefs and emotions, otherwise they will manage you. Move into a more coherent state and you may discover increased ability to navigate surprises and recover from disappointment. It all begins with what you want, what you decide and what you do.

What’s your pre-shot routine?


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