Milton Erickson learned to walk as Tiger Woods learns to play Better Golf


Thinking further on my recent post about Tiger Woods apparently using an unorthodox form of anger management, to help him release bad shots, got me thinking. The way we learn anything useful in life tends to be on the basis of trial and error. We try something new and it works, we learn from it. We try something new and it doesn’t work, we learn from that too – possibly even more,

Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy, often used the story of how he learned to walk again, at the age of 18 after severe bout of Polio, by watching his baby sister learning to walk. He describes it in his book The February Man.

“When she first learns to walk, she picks up her right foot and moves it one step ahead. And then after that she has had the experience of moving her right foot so she moves the right foot again and takes another step ahead. She doesn’t learn to walk all at once, by putting one foot up and then the other, so she learns to walk this way and then she tumbles. But the baby has to learn to do it one foot after another. She makes mistakes in learning to walk, and she learns how with the fewest possible tumbles and without trying to hurry too much.”

He goes on to describe how, when we are very young, we seem to be programmed for this trial and error style of learning and we gradually piece together our experience of what works. That way we come up with our own personal method of doing things. That’s probably how you learned to walk, to tie your shoes, to ride a bike and to drive a car. Hopefully with more trial than error with that last example!

Erickson often used this story as a metaphor for a wide range of learning situations and it applies equally well to our lifetime learning of the wonderful game of golf.

So every time you make a mistake on the golf shot and maybe hit a bad shot, learn from it then release it to the graveyard of all the bad shots anyone ever hit. You’ve taken your learnings from it and discarded it. It will never bother you again, unless you dwell on it. You can also use the same technique to learn from other people’s successes and failures whether they be your playing partners or the players you’re watching in a tournament.

Maybe Tiger’s learning from and then rapidly releasing his bad shots when he rants, raves and cusses after a bad shot. I’d rather he didn’t, but it seems to work for him. And he seldom follows one bad shot with another – unlike a lot of people I know – not you or me, of course!

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