Big picture thinking

Chris Paisley on his process of journaling and how he takes a step back from the day-to-day grind of tour golf to look at the big picture

There hasn’t been much of a change in my form since my last column. My practise has been encouraging for a while though, which is the most frustrating part. I feel like I have done so much good work, and I’m just not seeing the results. It has been demoralising at times, feeling like I am banging my head against a wall. One of the things that is getting me through it is journaling and reflection. 

When things aren’t going well, it is easy to become blinded. You lose sight of the bigger picture, and become irrational and emotional. My brother, Andy, has always encouraged me to journal. Whether it be planning practice sessions or reflecting on tournaments, I have tried to make it a habit to get my thoughts down onto paper. It has really helped me regain perspective in some difficult moments. 

I made a decision a few months ago to get my swing into some better positions as I had let old habits get a little bit out of control. I am now at a point where my swing is technically the best it has been for a long time. The problem is, I am not taking it into tournament play. This has tested my patience to the absolute limit at times. There have been times when I have wondered if it is worth the effort. Constantly feeling like I am doing the rights things, working as hard as I can, and then missing another cut. Doubts have crept in about my ability, and the merits of working hard when it doesn’t seem to pay off. Through journaling I have managed to maintain perspective and realise why I am where I am. Despite my swing looking great, I currently don’t have enough feel, awareness and trust to play great golf. This is an inevitable part of making a change. At first it is a conscious movement. A lot of my mental capacity is used up trying to make the new move, which leaves little room to think about the more important aspects of shooting good scores. We make so many tiny decisions and adjustments on each shot that if your focus is on a position in the swing, you miss all those little details needed to hit the ball close. 

Journaling has helped me maintain perspective on all this. It makes me realise that I do still have the skill and ability, I just need the swing to become unconscious, which will allow my brain to focus on the more refined aspects of playing golf. What we call feel, I suppose. Left to my own devices I would become irrational and demoralised. Perspective is so important, and I encourage everyone to journal. It has helped me maintain clarity through a really difficult period. I also had a chat with Chris Wood at a Callaway event recently. We got to talking about our games and found that we are both in the same position. Everything we said resonated with the other person and it was comforting to know someone else is going through the same thing. 

Talking to others and journaling has helped me with golf, but the principles apply to all aspects of life.