The 4th Secret
The next secret of golf is to overcome inertia. Muscles have a mind of their own and do not like to make any move unless impelled to do so. Once they begin to move, the muscles do not seem to care. We must harness this tendency in ourselves to continue doing what we are doing, and may have to take rather sly means of shifting our actions toward practice. Once shifted, the muscles, like Newton’s law of motion, prefer to continue golfing unless acted upon by some outside force. This is what we mean by overcoming inertia.
Some people have trained themselves to do, without procrastination, whatever must be done. These people have no problem with inertia. Most of us have to “use psychology” to get ourselves going. In my younger days, I decided that I wanted to build a house with my own hands. Each day I had great difficulty getting started. I asked an old carpenter how he managed to get to work without hesitation. He told me that he once had the same trouble and cured himself.
“How?” I asked.
He replied, “Pick up something.”
When I was in college we were instructed on how to overcome inertia in buckling down to necessary study. We were given essentially the same advice. “Open the book.”
I was once engaged in doing tedious research and writing on the history of an old mental hospital. I had the duty of organizing a psychological staff for the hospital and, as a preliminary step, I felt it necessary to know the background of the institution. At that time, I was the only psychologist on the staff, and we had more than 10,000 patients. By supper time I was pretty tired, and it was most difficult for me to stir up any enthusiasm for history. I succeeded in getting the job done by tricking myself into it. I would say, “I will walk to the office after supper, but I will not go in.” When I had gotten that far, I continued with, “I will go in but I won’t do any work.” The next step was, “I will get my data sheets out, but I will not do any writing.” Finally, I told myself, “I will write one paragraph and quit.” I finished the manuscript eventually and it proved very useful in developing plans for the hospital. I have derived more personal satisfaction from this unknown effort than from those which attracted more attention and were more profitable financially.
An engineer I knew in Austin, Texas, told me he always had all the professional business he wanted but his big problem was “getting started.” Finally, he hit on an idea. He would jot down everything he knew about the project. He did not care how irrelevant the information was to the problem of design. He found that when he had done this, out of the welter of useful and useless information, the design of the project would begin to take shape and the next thing he knew he was actively translating his ideas to the drawing board.
In south Georgia, farmers grind sugar cane in what amounts to an over-size coffee grinder. A horse pulls a lever arm around and around until the day’s work is over. On occasions when there is no work to be done, it is not unusual for the horse or mule to leave the barn at the usual hour, go to the sugar mill,and begin nudging the lever arm. If the arm is out, he will begin plodding his circular path. Although a number of interesting morals could be derived from this expression of obsessiveness, it is enough for us to note its application to the overcoming of inertia.
I rather enjoy practice, but there are occasions when I do not particularly feel like it. This may occur after a lay-off due to unavoidable circumstances. I am able to seduce myself into beginning by saying, “I will practice five minutes and then quit.” I have yet to quit after I once get on the practice tee and, in addition, I invariably enjoy the session—even in uninviting weather.