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California Golf + Travel Jan18

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T H E P H I L O S O P H Y O F G O L F ON EPICURUS AND GETTING OVER YOUR FEARS ON THE COURSE 50 JAN/FEB 2018 T he ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus believed that it's a waste of time to fear your own death. In fact, he believed that once you get over this fear, you will live more intensely and increase your chances of achieving happiness and living a good life. The same idea can be applied on the course. Maybe you've felt anxious when you're setting up for a big shot, and, suddenly, you become self-conscious, tentative or afraid that you're going to hit a terrible shot. So what happens? Your fear of failure causes you to tense up, which negatively affects the integrity and trajectory of your swing and — yep! — you slice or shank it, exactly what you were afraid was going to happen. Some people might call this a self-fulfilling prophecy. But Epicurus would tell us that once we get over our fears, our mind will free itself up and we will feel more calm and relaxed, which will increase our chances of consistently hitting solid shots. But how, exactly, is this done? Epicurus tells us that philosophy can help because he believed that philosophy can help us change our lives. Or, to be more precise, change the way we choose to live our life — and choose to play the game. Do you want to be consumed by anxiety, frustrations, and fears? Or do you want to feel happy, laid back, and relaxed? The choice is yours. William James, the most prominent American psychologist of the nineteenth cen- tury, believed that the practical manifestations of this idea — the doctrine of Free Will — was "the most important finding of the first half- century of University research into the work- ings of the mind." That is, people pretty much become what they think about themselves. Coaching legend John Wooden, who led his UCLA teams to nine NCAA men's basket- ball championships, expressed the same idea. Winners and losers, he said, are self-deter- mined. And noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella agrees: "Free will," he says, "means we can, in a real sense, control our own lives. On the golf course, it means that a player can choose to think about his ball flying true to the pin, or veering into the woods." And Epicurus would say the same thing. In life and on the links, we can choose to be calm, confident, and relaxed or we can choose to be anxious, frustrated, and uptight. Consider Dustin Johnson. Whether col- lapsing under pressure on major tournament Sundays or coolly clinching his first major at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, he always appears to be calm and relaxed, like he's playing a casual match with friends instead of a high- stakes, PGA tournament. That was the same case when he came roar- ing back at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. In the toughest conditions at Firestone in nearly a decade, he made it look easy when he closed with a 4-under 66 and rallied from a three-shot deficit against Jason Day to clinch the title. Looking characteristically calm and relaxed, he said that his U.S. Open win felt like getting "a huge monkey" off his back, which allowed him to play more carefree — and fear free — than ever before. "I'm definitely a little more relaxed out there on the golf course, especially coming down the stretch," he said. "Today I felt I was in a really good place — really calm, collected, just focus- ing on what I was doing. Just playing golf." Johnson's mental state that day represents Epicureanism at its highest and finest level of play. In other words, once you get over your fears on the course, you will feel more calm, collected, and relaxed, which will help you increase your chances of consistently hitting solid shots. Or at least that's what Epicurus would say. So, here's a quick tip courtesy of Epicurus: the next time you hit a bad shot, allow your- self to think about it for three seconds and then purge that bad memory from your mind. Erase it. DELETE IT. Then, as you set up on your next swing, think about the greatest shot you've ever hit and how it felt. By replacing negative thoughts with positive memories, you will feel more calm and relaxed, which will help you increase your chances of living well and playing well — and that, as Epicurus would say, is the whole point of phi- losophy and the whole point of the game. And there you have it: Epicurus and golf. By Suzy Evans, J.D., Ph.D.

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