While not an avid golf fan, I couldn’t help but be drawn in to the story that unfolded last weekend at The Masters in Augusta. Tiger Woods, derided and written-off as a spent force, triumphed once more and reclaimed the coveted Green Jacket. Coming back from adversity is no mean feat and it made me think about the tools required to achieve it. Not least of all, the mindset of a champion.
That Tiger Woods was a legend is beyond doubt. His fall from grace was as unexpected as it was rapid. It’s often been said that at the peak of his powers, competitors used to talk less about who would win, and focus on who’d be in second place!
Some poor life choices, injury, surgery and an addiction to overcome, all but ruined Tiger’s career. He is quoted as telling another all-time great, Jack Nicklaus, that he ‘was done’. At one point, Woods could barely walk without pain, let along swing a golf club.
And yet, a miraculously short time later, Tiger Woods once again reigns supreme. Physical therapy that must have been lengthy, painful and consistent over years not weeks, has enabled Woods to get back to the required level of fitness. Playing multiple rounds of golf in all weathers is surprisingly challenging!
Yet, it is the mental element that has been awe-inspiring to many, including myself. Having been crushed by the weight of the negative media spotlight and the derision of many around the world, Woods has reclaimed the mental and emotional control that saw him lift trophy after trophy.
Mindset work is one of the more underrated (and under-publicised) parts of peak performance. Where the mind goes, the body will follow. Or not. This is as true in sport as it is in any situation where one feels like giving up.
So, what might this have to do with academia, tuition, or exam results? There are many parallels to be drawn, however the main one I’d like to stress is this:
It is not over until you quit!
In this time of intense pressure, with revision in full flow ahead of the exams, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by fear and weight of expectation of others. Remember that mental composure is a prerequisite of exam preparation and success. Once cannot expect perfect recall if one’s head is fizzing and popping with uncontrolled panic and jumbled thoughts.
A further consideration is that as described above, life is full of second chances, with academia no different. A little perspective around the implications of exam outcomes and what is indeed a ‘failure’, will go a long way to creating the mindset to operate optimally. This is not to say it doesn’t matter because one gets a second chance. Rather that the release of unnecessary ‘do or die’ pressure enables the clarity of thinking needed to achieve top marks.
As Tiger Woods has shown so admirably, it’s possible to come back from the brink of disaster even in the most pressurised and public of circumstances.
Taking a leaf from his book on mental fortitude, calmness and focus will take you a long way in life, not just the exam season.