What does golf, starting a new lawn, having five children, and learning have in common? Frustration.
My life right now is filled with all kinds of different frustrations:
I have five children, the youngest only months away from being two… (If you are a parent that is all I need to say)
We are trying to get a yard started for our new home. Our dirt is clay based, we don’t have underground sprinklers, and we are on our second attempt of seeding. Every 30 minutes you can hear me say, “Be back, got to change the water.”
This month I started my new position and there are so many things that are different that I get overwhelmed with the changes.
Then there is golf…
Yesterday was my day to play golf in the morning. Almost every Tuesday and Wednesday I play nine holes in the morning. This week I was especially excited to get a round in because I had a good practice session last Saturday. I thought I had my swing for my irons figured out. I played the back nine and started well for me, a 5 on the par 4 tenth hole. As any golfer knows without reason things got worse.
A quick side note, I take one of my older boys with me when I play. They like to get a Gatorade and tend the flag for me. But when frustration hits, they remind me to watch my outbursts. Which was a challenge Tuesday morning.
Hole 14 par 5… I score an 8 (never once in the fairway).
Hole 15 par 4… I score a 7 (Water ball)
Hole 16 par 4 … I score an 8 (Walk off the green feeling so frustrated that I would love to throw a club)
So, I walk to the 17th hole frustrated…
Frustration is a powerful emotion. But part of its power is an illusion. When we get flooded with frustration it feels so wide and deep. It seems to filter into every aspect of that moment. Thinking, feeling, we can even feel that fate is against us. It feels like we are treading water in the middle of the ocean. But if we would put our feet down, we would see that frustration isn’t deep, that is its illusion. We can go deeper than the frustration. When we do, then we truly learn.
My son is watching me as I pull out a 5-iron for this hole. I wonder what I look like through his eyes. Does it look like I am drowning?
As a teacher and a coach I see students fight against frustration. I see them splashing around trying to find the beach. To get away from frustration. There are the excuses of not knowing what to do. Or the quiet giving up. Each student has their own way of dealing with frustration. But if we can get them to put their feet down, or even better to dive down through the frustration, the outcome will be powerful. More powerful than frustration, any frustration they will encounter in school or life.
My son stands quietly next to my golf bag. I mentally try to put my feet down, concentrating on what I worked on during practice. I swing. Not perfect, the ball starts at the flag, but then hooks. The ball lands about 20 feet from the green on an up-slope. I have to get the chip up in the air but soft because the green rolls away. I continue to think about the chip instead of the frustration, to set my feet down. My chip comes up nicely off the grass, soft and high. The frustration starts to drain away. I do two-putt for a bogey. But I am happy with that hole.
The last hole is a par 5. My son starts to talk again as we walk to the next tee box. He can feel that my frustration is fading, but it is nagging at me as I think about my drive. I haven’t hit a good drive all day, but I mentally set my feet down, trying to get past the negative voice trying to scratch at my mental state.
I slow down my swing, focus on the fundamentals, and send the ball straight down the center. Not long, about 200 yards. Second shot lands just off the right side of the fairway, but a solid hit. My third shot lands just in front of the green. I chip and two-putt. Bogey, yes. But I walk of the course feeling that I played those last two holes like I can.
Everybody feels frustrated, in all kinds of situations, but we can learn and improve when that frustration hits. It is a powerful emotion, but part of the power is an illusion. Frustration is not that deep; just below it is the opportunity to improve.