If you really think about the phrase “you are what you eat”, it’s kind of ridiculous. I’m never actually going to turn into a sleeve of Oreos… right?! You know what you CAN turn into? Your thoughts. When it’s a positive, intentional thing, we often call it manifesting. You also might have heard the phrase self-sabotage when referring to the negative. 

Our thoughts direct our actions, our movements, and our behaviors. When we talk about the idea of muscle memory, we’re really talking about the thoughts and memories stored in our brain that can occur without us being aware of them. Our muscle fibers can’t actually store memory, but our brain stores the right signals to send to the muscles. 

The more you practice your swing, the less you have to think about what you’re doing. And if you’ve ever tried to make small changes to your swing, you know how hard it can be to override that muscle memory and learn something new. 

This applies to our thoughts as well. There’s this thing that us psychologists call automatic thoughts. This is when an event happens and it leads to a thought pattern that we are hardly aware of; not that dissimilar from picking up a club and being able to swing it without much thought. But similar to a wonky swing, unhelpful automatic thoughts can totally derail our performance. They can be hard to change because they’re so automatic. 

These could be thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m never going to get better at golf”. This can lead us to thought patterns that hold us back and keep us from improving. If we want to improve our golf game, enjoy it more, and strengthen our physical game, we have to be aware of our thoughts and if they are helpful or unhelpful. 

If you want a quick assessment of your automatic thoughts, pick a round where you can slow down and examine your thoughts. Write down your internal dialogue after each shot. Take a second to dig a little deeper on it. Ask yourself why you’re thinking that and where it’s coming from. It’s awareness that is the key to any change. As you become more aware of your thoughts, you’ll have a better ability to change the ones that are less helpful.

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.