Swing Changes and Life Changes

I’m sitting here watching the Bay Hill Classic and right now Tiger Woods has the 36 hole lead.  It’s been a long few years for Tiger, but he seems to be getting things together just in time for this year’s Masters.  I hope so; I’ve always been a Tiger fan.  I started following Tiger when he was a 15 year old phenom.  By 1997, then just 21 years old, Tiger Woods was on top of the golf world.  He was destroying golf courses like no one had ever seen before.  That year, he played in 21 tournaments, made the cut in 20, won 4 and finished in the top 10 in five others.  He won the Masters by a record 12 strokes over Tom Kite, playing the last 63 holes in an incredible 22 under par!  Who can forget the patented fist pump on the last hole?

After Tiger’s amazing 1997, I couldn’t wait for the 1998 golf season to see what he would do.  So what did he do?  He spent the entire year deconstructing and completely overhauling a golf swing that had just produced one of the most successful seasons in golf history.  I thought he had gone completely crazy and so did much of the golf world.  And, as it turns out, 1998 wasn’t a great year for Tiger.  He won only one tournament and his earnings for that year remain the lowest of his career.  What in the world was he thinking?  Why in the world would he overhaul the purest swing in golf, a swing that was good enough to win the Masters by 12 strokes?  Although Tiger has never really answered the question directly, others have speculated.  But his results since that time have proven his decision to have been a wise one.  In fact, a year after Tiger’s swing overhaul, he put together what are almost certainly the two most dominant seasons in golf history — in 41 tournament starts in 1999 and 2000, Tiger finished in the top 10 in 33 and won 17.  Now that’s strong!  The product of the swing remake was a swing built for even greater success and one that was built to last.  Today, Tiger’s in the midst of yet another swing change.  Apparently, he thinks an overhaul is warranted every 10 years or so.

I think he’s right.  Sometimes what’s gotten us to our happy place, becomes suddenly insufficient to keep us there.  What has worked in the past, suddenly no longer works in the present and is of no help for the future.  Said Laura Winner, in her book, Still:  Notes on a Mid Faith Crisis,:

My friend Ruth’s mother once told her, ‘Every ten years you have to remake everything.’ Reshape yourself. Reorient yourself. Remake everything. What struck Ruth about this was not just the insight but the source: she had imagined that her mother, her steadfast loving mother, was static, was always the same. She didn’t know that her mother had remade everything seven times, eight times. Sometimes the reshaping is not big, not audible; not a move, a marriage, a child, a heroic change of course. Sometimes it is only here inside, how you make sense of things. Sometimes it is only about how you know yourself to be.

Sometimes, swing changes are forced upon us. Death and divorce, for instance, force us not only to come to terms with our loss but to redefine ourselves in relation to the loss. Becoming an empty nester forces us to redefine ourselves in relation to our adult children who not only are not as physically present in our lives but probably don’t need us (or think they need us) as much as they once did. Who are we under those circumstances? How do we define ourselves? Certainly not as we did before the circumstance change.

Sometimes, our spiritual life is in need of a swing change. The nature of our relationship to the devine is dynamic, rarely static. We respond to some of that change with minor tweaks. But there generally comes a time when we realize that the aggregation of change requires a complete remake of our relationship to our higher power. The stories of our youth are no longer compelling, inspiring or even believable and our faith takes a hit and we lose our confidence and begin to sink.

And sometimes, it us that needs a remake.  Sometimes what got us this far, suddenly won’t get us any farther.  Our relationship with ourselves begins to sour and we find ourselves lost and not sure exactly who we are any more.

I think we generally know when it’s time for a remake.  It’s something we can feel. But that doesn’t make it easy.  It’s not easy to remake ourselves.  It’s hard to fix that which isn’t truly broken.  It’s not easy to overhaul a swing that has won us millions of dollars and lots of tournaments or a life that has made us very happy or a faith that has carried us through some really tough times.  But sometimes we have to.  And sometimes we have to do it again and again.

Are you due for a remake?  Am I?  What’s holding us back?  If what got you here won’t get you there, consider overhauling your swing.  It’s hard work.  It’s scary.  But often, it’s necessary.  It’s worked for Tiger.  Several times.  Tee it up.  And let it rip.

Your Turn:  What about you?  Have you made a swing change recently?  Are you in need of one?  What’s holding you back?  Share your thoughts.


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