When I’m in line at the grocery, I read the latest celeb magazines. If there’s an article about Tiger Woods, I’ll read about his wife and his yacht and, of course, his relationship with his father, but I’ve never been interested enough to take the time to see what are golf’s and Tiger Woods’s hold on so many people.
However, a column by New York Times writer David Brooks gives me a new perspective on Tiger Woods and also on Brooks himself.
According to Brooks, writers, in particular, “get rhapsodic” over Woods’s ability to focus, partly because “Woods seems able to mute the chatter that normal people have in their heads.”
Brooks contends that in our over-extended, overwhelmed lives, Woods is “the exemplar of mental discipline,” “stone-faced,” “locked-in, focused and self-contained,” “self-controlled.”
Woods “achieves perfect clarity, tranquility and flow.” There! Now I’m on board! “Flow” I understand. In flow, he is using his top strengths and talents, but he is also being challenged. He can be at one with his game when he is in flow, unaware and uninterested in the world about him.
Brooks, who is no slouch and obviously has been in flow many times himself, confesses that his own focus as a writer is far from perfect.
He describes his restlessness and inability to stay focused, in contrast to that of Woods’ intense focus, saying “As I’ve been trying to write this column, I’ve toggled over to check my e-mail a few times. I’ve looked out the window. I’ve jotted down random thoughts for the paragraphs ahead.”
Brooks also suggests that his readiness to yield to distractions are fairly normal. For sure–I prefer to check email rather than steel myself to surrendering to the writing, but I wonder what would it be like, if, like Woods seemingly has, I could silence those gremlins in my head for good and never be distracted by them.
What would it be like to step into a writing challenge and yet be perfectly calm? To breath regularly and to hear nothing–no negative chatter rising to the deafening level of a rock-concert? I’ve had those moments of calm focus. I’ve been in flow when at I’m at one with my writing, and I want more of that.
What would it take to have more of the steeliness that Woods has?
What do you think? Does Woods give us a model for mental toughness, the kind of mental toughness it takes to finish a dissertation?
I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s to flow and mental toughness,
Your Dissertation and Academic Career Coach