Ever drive to the course, park your car and sit there, idling in the lot, weighing the pros and cons of just heading back home? 


  • I could finally teach my neighbor how to use a bandsaw.
  • My teen needs a driving lesson.
  • I could file my taxes early.


  • I don’t want to share my bandsaw.
  • We don’t speak of the last lesson or the hole in the wall of the garage.
  • Filing taxes. 

You’ve already made the trip out, and the pros of sticking it out outweigh the cons, but you’re still indifferent. And you know you’ll be upset with yourself if you just trudge through and underperform. If only you knew how to snap out of it and get yourself motivated. 

We talked last time about appropriate ways to talk to yourself and prepare when you’re finding that your self-talk is dragging you down. But it’s one thing to be getting down on yourself and another to just not be into it on a certain day. We’re going to tackle that second one here.

First things first: Let’s get that energy up. Sure, relaxation is nice. But there’s a theory in sport psychology called the Yerkes-Dodson Law that holds true. This law says that when we’re too hyped — whether it’s the good or bad kind of hyped — we don’t perform at our best. But the reverse is also true. When we’re too relaxed or apathetic, we also don’t perform at our best. So we’ve got to find that happy medium. 

Step 2: Even before you’ve set foot on the course, focus on what excites you about golf. Picture the most exciting golf shot you’ve ever watched (for many of us, it probably wasn’t our own). Try to channel the energy you felt watching it. If you’re a stick, you might channel the energy you felt making it. Transport yourself back to that moment. 

Step 3: Think about something inspiring. Maybe it’s a quote or a song. I know I have a go-to song that gets me fired up every time. And then I have a few backups as well. I can pull together a quick 15-minute playlist that gets me ready to go regardless of the task. Think about what your mantras or songs are, and play them on shuffle in your mind. 

Step 4: Close your eyes and picture the course you’re playing for a moment. Take a few breaths and think about how it will feel to hit the ball, really picture it. And remember to always visualize perfection. Lord knows the only time we attain perfection is in our minds, so take advantage of that. 

Step 5: As you get your clubs ready and head toward the first hole, identify 3 things you want to accomplish in the round. It’s OK if one of those is as simple as “Get to the end.” But if you pick 3 things, it will help you focus on what you’re doing and give you something to center you, rather than allowing that grumpy, pessimistic part of your brain to take over. 

And if all else fails, just think about the burger and beer you’ll enjoy at the end of the round because you’ll have earned it. (Or maybe I’m alone in being motivated by the food I’ve earned at the end?) Know that we all have days when we struggle to get motivated. If you can try to implement a few little tricks to get your energy up at the start, the rest of the round is likely to build on that and hopefully it’s smooth sailing to the end. 

Want more from Dr. Day? Check out “How to Give Yourself a Pep Talk in Golf.”