The ‘how to’ guide to Think Aloud: Understand your in-game thinking

In the last blog, Dr Phil Birch and Dr Amy Whitehead outlined a step-by-step guide for ‘how to’ Think Aloud.

Since then, if you have been out on the course and have recorded thinking aloud whilst playing – good work! You are now in a position to move forward and better understand your in-game thinking. If you haven’t managed to yet, we would encourage you to do so to get the most from this post.

In the following article, Phil and Amy provide you with a means to understand and analyse your own thoughts, to enable you to become a better thinker!

How thinking can impact your game

First of all let’s consider how different thoughts can impact your game.

Golf is full of variety and given that no two shots experienced are the same, there is a clear need to possess an ability to adapt to each situation you are presented with.

Be it our swing, our approach, or our mindset, we must adapt. By adopting either a positive or negative mindset (something that many golfers do), you encourage a black and white, all or nothing, appraisal of performance. You limit your ability to adapt. Doing so can cause you to question your ability, enjoyment, or love for the game. To choose your approach as either positive or negative is, fundamentally, unhelpful.

A more better approach is one that can adapt. The ability to adapt, is built upon an understanding of your in game thinking tendencies or thinking patterns.

So, rather than simply focusing on being positive, or trying to avoid being negative, you are better served to pay attention to ‘helpful’ over ‘unhelpful’ thoughts. Helpful thinking patterns can underpin what you want to do. Our brain is built and structured in such a way that means you are better served (whilst playing) to ‘activate’ helpful thoughts by consciously choosing to focus on aspects of your game that support your ability to perform the shot that you intend.

Understanding your ‘in-game’ thinking

To help you with this area, this section talks you through process to follow to help you explore your ‘in-game’ thoughts in greater depth. Whilst (initially) we are asking you to consider positive and negative thoughts, by the end of this activity, we want you to consider (in detail):

  • Which of these thoughts help me to perform?
  • Which prevent, challenge, or limit my performance?

This process aims to identify which thoughts are important to your game, and which enable you to play to your best. To get the most from this exercise, listen back to your audio file and using the table below record a number of your in game thoughts, note when you had them, what impact these had on your performance and also how you would consider changing these thoughts.

To give you an idea of possible ‘thoughts of interest’, see some examples below in blue.

Negative thoughts (any thoughts you deem to be negative towards yourself and your game).

  •  “Man that is poor. Why do you always slice it down this hole?”
  •  “What sort of swing was that? Wow that was bad”

Hesitations (when you’re not sure when preparing to hit your shot).

  • “Another dodgy yardage. Right between a 6 and 7 iron. Shall I hit a big 7 or a three quarter 6?”
  •  “Looks like it’s breaking left to right from this angle. But then from the other angle it looks straight.”

Positive thoughts (thoughts that you have verbalised which are either encouraging towards yourself, or you feel have contributed to a successful shot).

  • “Ah I’ve absolutely ripped that. Lovely baby draw. Great shot.”
  • “Right, see the shot. You can do this.”

Look at the table below to see how one of the example negative thoughts has been explored in more depth. 

Grab a blank piece of paper of blank word document, and using this table format (alongside your recording), explore each thought from recent your game in depth. This is the first step to changing, or improving your thinking around the course – self awareness. Repeat this process for each ‘thought of interest’ that you have recorded.

Following this, with a series of completed tables, you have a personalised review of your in-game thinking. At this stage, you are now in position to consider:

  • Which of these thoughts help me to perform?
  • Which prevent, challenge, or limit my performance?

Now you are able to act on what you see.

Your completed table provides you with an outline of when these thoughts arise, the outcome associated with specific thoughts, and reflections on whether you would change any thoughts in future. Armed with your analysis of your own thought processes, you have taken the first step to consider what  ‘thinking clearly’ looks like for you (and your game).

Happy with what you see? Then your action is clear – implement the same next time out!

Surprised by what you see?, want to change what you see? or lessen the impact these thoughts are having?  Then you are now in the position to recognise and develop helpful thought processes.

Think clearly by choice, not chance, and keep an eye out for the next article which outlines how to change, improve, or maintain your thought process from James Lambdon.

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