Using “anchors” and “triggers” can be a powerful way to permanently imprint those successful feelings and behaviors that your want to produce in your golf performance.
Let’s start out by discussing what is exactly meant by “anchors” and “triggers.”
I’m sure the concept of anchors and triggers are somewhat familiar to you but if not they are most closely associated with NLP (Nuero-linguistic Programming) You can find out more about it here: Neuro-lingustic Programming.
First, what exactly are “trigger” words? They are simply words (or short phrases) that “trigger” or recall recall behaviors. “Anchors” on the other hand, are stimuli that call forth thoughts and feelings.
Remember that song you heard when you were dancing at the prom that you never forget when you hear on the radio? That song has been “anchored” in you and you almost automatically recall those special feelings of yesteryear when you were dancing the night away when that particular song is replayed.
For example, when watching a golf major, when professional golfers are playing exceptional golf makes me want to go to the range and hit balls or play—watching them is “triggering” in me the behavior that I, too, want to play exceptional golf.
I like like to think of trigger words as another tool I have access to (if I need it). I don’t always use them but when I do they are usually to focus on something I am working on in my swing or just a general state of mind I am trying to produce/maintain.
Rory McIllroy recently brought “Trigger” words back to the forefront in the golf world by revealing he used two of them after his 2014 Open Championship win in Royal Liverpool. The two he used were “spot” and “process.” “Spot” helped him focus on the line for his putting and “Process” was just a general trigger word to remind him to stay in the moment, not get ahead of himself and focus on his “process” before he swings.
One value of “trigger words” is that you can be as creative as you like with them. One trigger word I use often is simply, “be still.” To me, this phrase helps me “be quiet” in my swing. It help suggest stillness, efficiency and less moving parts. Make up one that feels right to you. Sometimes it does take a bit of finagling to get it right but when you do you’ll know it’s right.
The beauty of “trigger” words is that they can suggest much more than they initially seem. It’s sort of like a vitamin—it’s power packed with much more goodness and value than seems from the outside.
Here are a few trigger words that you might find useful: be still, quiet, spot, process, swing in molasses, one-piece, smooth, let it go, transition, yes, tempo. Gee, maybe you could even associate “Baba-Booey” with something positive 🙂
Of course, you can also use a visual trigger (or a sound or anything else for that matter). Louis Oosthuizen was famous for the red dot he had inked on his golf golf on his way to winning the 2010 Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
It was a visual trigger for him to “stay in the moment” and not get ahead of himself. He mentioned that often his thoughts race out ahead of him and that is was a way for him to trigger a state of focus where he could optimize his performance.
You can also use “anchoring” which you might want to do after you hit a great shot. We’ve all seen the famous “Tiger Twirl” after he hits a terrific shot. He simply twirls his club and stares down the shot with those penetrating eyes. He knows it’s a well struck shot and wants to “anchor” it in his subconscious.
That’s the value of a anchor after hitting a terrific golf shot, you somehow want to record or “tag” it so you can recall all those positive feelings. In a way you’re creating a new neural pathway/pattern of success in your mind. The more you do it the more you recall it, etc. etc. — it’s the ultimate upward spiral!
Jim Furyk after a non-optimal shot, as part of his process, will rehearse physically a “good” shot immediately after. Think about it—what a great way to positively anchor a a so-called “bad shot.” The last thing you leave with is a positive physical (and mental) gesture of an optimal shot. Keep in mind, it does take discipline to do this so you need to initially make it a conscious part of your process.
Ways to use Anchoring/Triggering
- Identify one or two areas of your game that might benefit from a trigger (your focus, tempo, posture, etc.)
- Brainstorm some triggers. Use what I have given above or create something new. Maybe a physical gesture, like making a fist and saying to yourself “Yes” or stomping your foot or even a wink.
- Create a new positive anchor after you hit a bad shot. Again, word, gesture, whatever. Maybe immediately see (or physically rehearse) yourself hitting a perfect shot much like Furyk does.
- Feel free to change them for the circumstance. Create a unique one just for that important tourney or 4-ball or any other special event.
- Anchor or Trigger using one of the many wearable devices on the market.
One note: Be wary of trying to get the “perfect” trigger or anchor. There is no such thing. Just pick something that feels right to you and implement. You can always change it later. I say this because I have been so guilty of this so many times—really getting frozen over the “right” whatever. Just decide on something and move from there. Good luck!