From the first tee to the corner office: golf lessons applied to work

From the first tee to the corner office: golf lessons applied to work

As an enthusiastic yet inconsistent weekend golfer, I am always looking for new ways to improve my game. Recently, I have been reading the book Buddha Plays 18, by Edward Sarkis Balian. The book draws from Buddhist philosophy to teach lessons about the mental side of the game of golf. I’ve found that a number of these lessons from the golf course also apply to the workplace. Here are five of my favorites:

  1. Breathe and practice mindfully. On the course: Golf is a game that requires extensive practice and patience. Golf practice should start with breathing exercises to calm and focus the mind. Practice does not mean mindlessly hacking thousands of balls at the driving range but rather mindfully running through a practice routine to develop a consistent and repeatable swing.  In the office: Start the day with some breathing exercises at your desk and focus on your goals. When you first settle into your seat, mindfully inhale and exhale fully (even 3-4 breaths will help). Then go through a routine of daily tasks such as checking email or reviewing yesterday’s sales numbers. The act of breathing and warming up with a practice routine will help you focus on larger goals and projects.
  2. Let go of attachments. On the course: Golf can cause frustration and suffering for players of all levels. The causes of suffering are golf “attachments,” such as attachments to the best equipment, longer drives, perfect weather and the latest fashions. When we learn to let go of these attachments, we will experience less frustration and suffering on the golf course. In the office: Think of your attachments at work. Do you think about having the nice office chair, the best parking spot or the corner office? Try to focus on the process of doing your best work, and let go of your attachments.
  3. Sand trap or sand opportunity? On the course: Sand traps are a reality in golf, and their mere presence can cause fear for any golfer. But bunkers don’t have to be a bummer. With the right kind of practice and the right club (a sand wedge), a golfer can conquer the fear of sand traps and turn them into sand opportunities. In the office: Is there a project you have been putting off because it seems overwhelming? Think about what’s in your toolbox and view the project as an opportunity. If you raise your hand and find the tools and training you need to complete that project, you can experience real growth professionally as well as personally.
  4. Watch your language. On the course: A golfer hits a bad shot. He swears at his ball. The golfer who learns to let it go can move on and correct the mistake on the next shot. He will also sleep better at the end of the day. In the office: Anyone can make a mistake. What matters is how we react to it. Do we get angry, curse at the computer or blame others? What if we took the opportunity to learn and grow from the mistake?
  5. Visualize success. On the course: Putting is one of the most challenging parts of the game. Buddha Plays 18 teaches “The Golden Gutter” technique to great putting success. The technique involves the visualization of a “channel” that runs from behind the putter all the way to the cup. The golfer visualizes success of the ball running along the channel into the hole.  In the office:  Try to visualize success in your job—whatever that means for you. Do you see yourself nailing that big presentation? Do you see yourself breaking the sales record for your location? Do you see yourself creating award-winning ads? Try to bring together visualization and sharp focus at work and see what happens.

Here in Chicago, golfers are in hibernation for the next few months. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t apply lessons from Buddha Plays 18 today. By practicing breathing, letting go of attachments and visualizing success, we can see a real difference in our lives in the workplace. By the time the golf course is thawed out in the spring, we can take the same lessons back to the greens.

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