Being compassionate is pretty much always a good idea. When you feel compassion, and have sensitivity toward yourself or others, you’re then often motivated to act: To do something to alleviate the pain that someone else is experiencing. Compassion is part of what makes us human and helps within families and society.
We show compassion for our children when they struggle with school, our family members when they go through a tough time, or ourselves when we don’t accomplish what we set out to do.
But what about on the golf course?
While you likely think about yourself as a compassionate person, there is something about sport that can shift compassion to frustration, lead you to feeling competitive, and ultimately you can become overly-sensitive to the challenges that others are facing. And we’re talking overly-sensitive in a not-so-great way.
Have you ever gotten annoyed with a fellow golfer because they’re holding up the round? Or spoken negatively about another foursome for not following etiquette? Have you ever secretly wanted to give your partner a little shake when they complain about how they’re playing? Or you become annoyed that they’re oblivious to how they’re playing?!
Now, you may not have had an outwardly negative reaction in any of these situations (or maybe you did!), but inside you might have been full of negative thought and feelings. Where’d the compassion go?
No judgement on this; we all lack compassion from time to time, and in a sport setting, where you may feel competitive (or are actually competing), you’re playing with someone less-skilled than you, you’re putting pressure on yourself to improve, or you’re lacking confidence in yourself, it’s easy for compassion to go out the window!
Here’s what you can you do when your compassion has gone MIA:
Just be Aware
By realizing that your internal dialogue has shifted to frustration or annoyance, you are then in a situation to become more compassionate. You can make a choice to be sensitive to the person (or yourself), changing your internal dialogue to something that is more kind, and even expressing that externally. You’re then more ready to take action to assist, whether that’s lending a helping hand, an ear, or giving the person or situation some space.
Gratitude helps to melt away negative thoughts and feelings, so when you’re not your most compassionate self, consider what you have to be grateful for. Yes, your golfing partner is slowing you down today, but what a great opportunity to appreciate the beautiful setting. Sure, you’re struggling with the bunkers and now are beating yourself up, but this gives you a great opportunity to practice getting out of the bunkers. Practicing gratitude in the moment is great as well as before you play golf so that you start the round from a positive place and you’re more likely to remain compassionate throughout your outing.
Keep Things Fun
No matter whether you’re competing or you’re on the course casually, aiming to have fun is generally a good goal. When we’re having fun, it is less likely to experience pressure or some of the negative effects of competition. Having fun also allows us to be in a good mood, which makes it more likely we can show compassion to ourselves and others when we need it. Focusing on having fun during a round may even mean we need to show ourselves less compassion because we’re not getting so caught up in judging how we’re playing or putting pressure on ourselves.
Know When You Need to Turn on the Compassion
Regardless of how seriously you take golf, there will always be situations where you are out-played and where you are out-playing others. When you are golfing with someone less-skilled than you, this is where you can really be sure to keep compassion at the fore-front of your mind. Chances are, your friend who is less-skilled than you is feeling the pressure to do well, doesn’t want to embarrass themselves, and doesn’t want to annoy you with their lack of skill. So, remember that playing with those less-skilled than you is an opportunity for everyone to focus on enjoying themselves, being grateful for the experience, and for you, as the more experienced golfer, so show compassion and be moved to act to support those you’re with.
No matter what the situation, on the course or off, showing compassion and acting in ways to help others is a great approach. Even though we know this, there are times where our compassion may not shine as bright as we’d like, so use these ideas to help keep compassion at the front of your mind in any situation.