When was the last time you worked on not caring?
Brad Faxon, one of golf’s best putters, was on the practice green once when someone asked what he was working on. A new grip perhaps? A new way to strike the ball? Maybe trying out a new putter?
“Nope,” he answered. “I’m working on not caring.”
What do you suppose he meant by that? That he didn’t care about his game anymore? That he didn’t care if he made putts or not?
Hardly. Instead, I think he was talking about in the moment not caring if the ball went in the hole or not. Faxon knew, with an intuition born from experience that the harder he tried to make a putt, the more likely he was to miss it. To make more putts he had to let go of thinking “I have to make this putt,” and latch on to a new paradigm around trusting the process he had practiced a million times before, and putting his energy into letting his body do what it knew how to do.
I call this process letting go of Mental Anchors.
Mental Anchors are a way of thinking that hold you down and hold you back. Like a ship’s anchor, they moor you to where you are and hold you in place. They restrain you from taking reasonable risks. And often, they trigger negative emotional energy that gets in the way, most often unhealthy levels of fear or anger.
There are as many types of Mental Anchors. Some of the more common ones in my experience are:
- Worrying about what other people might think
- Constantly comparing yourself to others and somehow coming up short
- Living in a world of ‘shoulds and musts’ versus a world of ‘wants and choice’
- Worrying about what tomorrow might bring while missing today’s opportunity
- Holding on to old emotional pains and perceived injustices long after the events that triggered them have passed
- Rejecting yourself before you give others a chance to
- Assuming the worse instead of trying your best
They are are all made up. They aren’t true. They are a product of your mind, and nothing else. That doesn’t mean that other people won’t judge you, or that bad things won’t happen in your life. They will. It means you get to decide how to interpret these sets of facts and how you will move forward.
The second piece of good news about Mental Anchors: Since they are made up, you can change them. You are free to release old anchors and latch on to more positive thoughts. It’s all about choosing how to think and feel no matter the circumstances you find yourself in. In other words, you are not a victim of circumstances: you are the author of your responses to them.
So, how do you begin to release Mental Anchors and latch on to more positive thoughts? Here are three easy steps to get you started down the path of letting go and latching on:
- Identify your Mental Anchors. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head that keeps a running commentary on the events of your life. Are his or her comments positive, or negative? How do those comments make you feel? When you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, sad or depressed, examine the thoughts that are helping to create those feelings. Those thoughts are your Mental Anchors.
- Decide to let Mental Anchors go. You have to decide to drop your Mental Anchors. Holding onto them gives you an excuse for acting and feeling the way you are, and some of us don’t want to give that up. We would rather blame other people or life circumstances than take responsibility for what we think and feel and do. To let go of mental Anchors, you have to give that crutch up.
- Create a new, releasing thought in opposition to the Mental Anchor. Mental Anchors are like radio stations in your head. If you don’t like the channel, change the station. For example, if your Anchor is “I hate the fact that I have to spend the weekend with my in-laws,” you might want to change that to “Thank goodness I only have to spend the weekend with my in-laws!”
Finally, have fun with the process of letting go of Mental Anchors. Stop taking life and yourself so seriously. Like Brad Faxon, learn to let go of caring so much about the outcomes you desire, and enjoy the process that leads to the those outcomes. You just might find yourself enjoying life more – and making more putts.