Advance Performance | Any state of mind is temporary – the comeback of Tiger Woods
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Any state of mind is temporary – the comeback of Tiger Woods

Any state of mind is temporary – the comeback of Tiger Woods

“You never give up. That’s a given. You always fight. Just giving up’s never in the equation.” – Tiger Woods

When Tiger Woods won the Masters at Augusta earlier this month, it was arguably one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time.  Winning his 15th major by just one stroke, coming from behind after 54 holes that achievement in itself was a first for the golfer. But Tiger was wearing the green jacket for the first time in 14 years, it was 11 years since he won a major golf tournament, and it was only two years ago that this man announced “I might be done” with the sport. And yet, this sportsman reclaimed his status as a champion and legend at the age of 43.

Although there are a number of great comebacks to championship in sports, Tiger Woods has undergone a particularly difficult journey both physically and mentally.

What are the life lessons we can take from this comeback journey of Tiger Woods?

A mental state is temporary – Tiger Woods was clearly hit very hard emotionally by the death of his father Earl in 2006, the man who had been his mentor, his best friend, his counsellor and first fan. Looking back at Tiger’s spiralling behaviour after 2008, we can see his grief as the catalyst for his car crash in 2009, the breakdown of his marriage after numerous affairs, his growing obsession with the military, paranoia, and his loss of his public reputation. But this depression and the behaviours reflected a very difficult period that was temporary.

Time is a great healer, and Tiger has rebuilt his mental resilience, developed a trusted new team around him, and even found a new stable partner as well as rebuilding his relationship with his ex-wife and his children. Thoughts are temporary, attitude is temporary, and even beliefs are temporary if we are determined to create new beliefs, thoughts and behaviours to form healthier and more positive habits. Tiger proved you can move forward from a deep depression. Step by step he regained his name and his game even though he then faced tremendous physical obstacles.

Dealing with the physical obstacles is a state of mind  By 2017, with years of suffering from nerve damage in his back, Tiger was overwhelmed by pain almost 24 hours a day, but he kept searching for a solution.

After three unsuccessful attempts at surgery, Woods turned to Damian Fahy, consultant spinal surgeon at the Fortius Clinic, for advice. Fahy’s recommendation of bone fusion led to surgery in 2017. Relief from pain was his first aim. Fahy reports that it was Tiger’s determination, commitment to his rehabilitation programme and resilience which ensured his recovery.

“You never know how a person will recover – most of it will depend on the patient’s strength of mind – but if he was to get back to playing golf at all, we saw that as a bonus. To get back the point where he could win the Masters is incredible. It took a tremendous amount of courage to go through what he did. He had achieved everything in the sport. A lot of people would have accepted that and retired to a quiet life, but that wasn’t enough for Tiger.” 

Tiger faced his rehabilitation programme day by day with little steps to strengthen his back and improve movement with commitment , professionalism and a resilient mindset. By 2018 he was slowly building his way back up the rankings with each championship.

Be supportive of others when they are undergoing the tough times – a journalist with ESPN wrote an article in 2016 about Tiger’s demise at that time, focusing on how this legend should accept his glory days were over and he should prepare for retirement. Tiger’s friends are quoted with their advice that he should acknowledge the end of his career and he would never regain his reputation. The negativity from his friends and peers could have persuaded Tiger that he should give up on his sport forever. Their “friendly” and “well-meaning” advice could have caused Tiger to take on habits that would ensure he would never win another championship, but Tiger wasn’t “done”, he didn’t listen – he was quietly still planning his return.

When someone you know is experiencing a tough time, remember to be supportive but also positive that the situation IS temporary. However low the person may feel, that mental state is temporary even if this leads to negative behaviour. Resilience and changing their thoughts and beliefs to rebuilding positive habits can empower a person to achieve new goals, rebuild relationships and even redeem their reputation.

Tiger Woods has taught us all a major lesson in life this month – however low we may feel, that state of mind and situation is temporary. We are in control of our thoughts and we can choose our attitude towards any situation. By focusing our thoughts and behaviour to changing our habits, we can make build our resilience to achieve the seemingly insurmountable goals. We can positively change to be our best selves and support our peers to be their best selves as well.