Believe it or not, many golfers are inadvertently sabotaging their performance by using three seemingly simple negative programming words on the course. Many people take their self-talk and the language they use for granted and overlook the impact of the words they use have on their performance and results. Every thought that we have creates a psychosomatic response in the body and every thought without exception affects our mental and emotional state as well as our ability to perform. With that being said it is vitally important for golfers to be aware of their self-talk so they can maintain a positive mental attitude and achieve greater success on the golf course. This article reveals three negative programming words that all golfers must eliminate from their vocabulary because these three words are the subtle killers of swing performance, shot outcomes, scorecards, and more.

Developing positive self-talk forms the foundation of a solid mental golf game. To achieve this you must know which words to look out for and correct when they surface during your round. Before getting into the three worst negative programming words, it is important that you understand a key piece of information about how your subconscious mind operates. The words we use create images in our minds which direct our bodies in how to perform. Monitoring your self-talk is important, not so much because of the words themselves, but because of the images the words convey in our minds. The mental pictures in the mind, created by the words we use, are what is going to determine how we will perform on a particular shot and throughout a round of golf.

Negative Programming Word #1 - Don’t:  The first performance busting word that you want to immediately eliminate from your vocabulary is the word “Don’t”. The word “don’t” can have devastating effects on your golf game and can actually increase the likelihood of executing the thing you “don’t” want to do. The reason this occurs is simple. The subconscious mind does not understand negative connotations in language and to the subconscious mind, the words do and don’t, mean the exact same thing. I will prove that to you right now. Whatever you do “Don’t think of a pink elephant riding in a golf cart.” When you read that, what did you immediately think about? Of course, the pink elephant riding in a golf cart even though you were told not to think about it. Here are a few other examples: “Don’t think about hitting this shot in the water.”; “Don’t slice this one into the trees.”; “Don’t hook this tee shot.” Simply by reading these words, your subconscious mind immediately creates pictures and thoughts of doing exactly what you want to avoid. If you are completely honest with yourself, then you can admit that every time you told yourself “don’t do this...” before your shot, you ended up doing it. Your mind produces what you picture, and because the word “don’t” creates negative outcome pictures you tend to produce exactly that.

Negative Programming Word #2 - Hope: To play golf at your highest level, confidence is a must. An easy way of creating greater confidence through your self-talk is by eliminating the word “hope” from your vocabulary. “Hope” is a weak word and a word that implies doubts in the mind, not confidence. I will give you an example outside of golf to explain my point. Imagine that you are at the doctor’s office and the doctor says to you, “We aren’t sure what is wrong with you, but we want to take you to surgery and hope we find out what’s wrong.”; or, “I just learned how to conduct this operation, I hope I get it right.” I am certain that nobody would feel confident in this situation if this was your doctor saying this to you. Hoping creates uncertainty in the mind and produces very little confidence. I will prove that to you now. Repeat the following sentences to yourself and see if they inspire any confidence at all. “I hope I play well today.”; “I hope I can get this on the green.”; “I hope I make this putt.” As you can tell, and probably feel, hope is a weak word that needs eliminated from your vocabulary immediately in order to increase confidence and execution on the golf course.

Negative Programming Word #3 - If: “If” is another super wimpy word that like “hope” projects doubt and insecurity into our minds before a shot. We all know that when we play golf with doubts, it opens the door to poor execution of shots and rounds of golf that we must grind through. Let’s go through some examples to prove how weak the word “If” is. Repeat the following statements to yourself. “If I can relax then I will do well.” “If I can focus today then I might hit the ball well.” “If I hit some greens maybe I might have a chance.” As you can see, none of these thoughts produce much confidence.

Now you know what to eliminate and why, let’s go over the words to replace these with so you can use your self-talk to direct your mind to success and better performance on each shot.

Self-Talk Shift #1: Instead of talking about what you “don’t” want to do, affirm to yourself what you “Do” want to achieve on the shot at hand. Catch yourself next time you say something like “Don’t hit this in the water” and shift into an empowered state by affirming the positive.

  • “This is going right to the green and close to the flag.”
  • “I am striping this shot directly to my target.”
  • “I am making this birdie putt.”

Discipline yourself to always talk about what you “do” want to achieve using words that create positive pictures of your actual goal.

Self-Talk Shift #2: Replace the word “hope” with the word “know” and you will instantly feel more confident about your ability to succeed on any shot. Repeat the following and experience the difference for yourself.

  • “I hope I will play well today.”; versus “I know I will play well today.”
  • “I hope I can get this in the fairway.”; versus “I know this is one is down the fairway.”
  • “I hope I make this putt.”; versus “I know this putt is in.”

This simple language shift is one of the fastest ways to eliminate doubt and increase your level of confidence in yourself to get the job done.

Self-Talk Shift #3: Eliminate the insecurity that the weak word “if” produces by replacing it with the word “when”. The word “if” implies that there is a chance that the goal will not be reached or achieved. The word “when” implies that it will be achieved, it is just a matter of time. Repeat the following and notice how a simple shift in language can make you instantly feel more empowered and certain of success.

  • “If I play my best today.”; versus “When I play my best today.”
  • “If I can get off to a good start.”; versus “When I get off to a great start today.”
  • “If I achieve my goals.”; versus “When I achieve my goals I will feel the pride of accomplishment.”

Using the word “when” will always create more confidence and a sense of knowing the results will happen rather than worrying that it will be from using the word “if.”

Now that you know about these negative programming words you will begin to notice them more and more as they surface during your round. You might be surprised when you become aware of just how much you use these weak words on the course and how much they do in fact hurt your performance. You will also be pleasantly amazed at how much of a positive impact these simple language shifts can make in your golf game. Changing your language and self-talk will change your results on the course.

Make the commitment today to applying this foundational mental golf principle in your game and begin directing your mind to success like a champion does.

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