I recently participated in the annual E-gineering golf outing, which was held at the Golf Club of Indiana. The weather turned out to be excellent for spending the day with my fellow co-workers and friends of E-gineering.
Our foursome ended up +4 on the day, which is not anything to brag about in the standard Florida Scramble format. Of the 76 shots that comprised our score, I would guess I ended up taking about 62 strokes throughout the day. Thus, for our entire foursome, close to 250 shots were made.
When I wasn’t the one taking the shot, I would often stand at a distance and observe my fellow golfers as they first took a few practice swings and finally their actual swing. What I consistently noticed was the difference between the last practice swing and the actual swing made by the golfer – which made some form of contact with their golf ball. Only in rare cases was the last practice swing worse than the actual swing. Certainly, the pressure from actually hitting the ball introduces factors that are not apparent during the “practice swing” phase.
The obvious difference between a practice swing and an actual swing made me wonder how this same analogy applies in other aspects of our lives.
One easy example, still using a sports theme, is often found with the field goal kicker for a football team. By attending a football game it is easy to see this same phenomenon at work. Watching the field goal kicker during pregame will often result in very high success rates – even at long distances. However, when the field goal matters and the result of the game is on the line, the pressure from actually making the field goal introduces factors that simply do not exist during the pregame warm-up session.
Stepping away from sports and focusing on the human emotion side, I believe this same phenomenon exists.
Consider the situation where a major decision is about to be made. Prior to actually making the decision, the “practice swing” phase is in play as the mind begins to comprehend the situation and try to plan for a world on the other side of the decision. At this point, things are pretty much stress-free as the individual can explore the possibilities with very low impact on their life or the life of others potentially impacted by the decision.
Just like in golf, the time between the last practice swing and the actual swing is when things start to get complicated. The human mind naturally begins to introduce stress and additional factors (perhaps fear, uncertainty, doubt, guilt, etc.) into the decision – which did not exist during the “practice swing” phase of the process.
In the sports examples provided above, the golfer ended up taking the shot and the field goal kicker ended up attempting the kick, but with human emotions there is an alternative path – which is to simply not make the decision and to abandon the decision process all together.
Depending on the amount of time and effort that has been invested into the “practice swing” phase of the process, abandonment of the decision is a short-term solution at best. When this happens, the mind has helped convince the individual to give the current situation one more chance. That perhaps maybe everything isn’t as bad as originally thought, that the decision will impact too many people (so it is just best to leave things as they are), or maybe both are valid in the mind of the individual facing a decision to make.
While abandoning the decision might seem like it is the path of least resistance and something that can be tolerated, all the reasons that drove the individual towards wanting to make the decision in the first place will soon re-emerge to the forefront. That not too long down the road, the individual will again face the crossroads of having to make that same decision again.
Two quotes that I wanted to share:
- In the end, we regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.
- A chance not taken is an opportunity missed.
The second quote truly applies to the golfer and the football kicker above. The reason they actually take the swing or attempt the field goal is because they believe their attempt will be successful. Additionally, if they don’t make an attempt, they have no way of knowing the result.
So, applying this to the human emotion side and the major decision example, it is important to keep in mind the conditions that led toward the “practice swing” phase of the process in the first place. It is far easier to walk away from the decision and pretend that the world will be just fine without having to go down that path. However, doing so abandons the opportunity to have a better life experience. And all the other individuals, whom the individual thought were being protecting by not making the decision, could also be missing out on a far better life experience as well.
Taking a chance often includes risk, fear, uncertainty or other not-so-great emotions. However, not taking a chance can include these very same emotions … but also introduces the regret of not knowing how much better things could have been.