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Phil Mickelson on the Art of Recovery and Winning Over 40

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I played a beautiful round of golf last week. First one in years -- round that is. I am not much of a golfer. But I sure can appreciate the beauty and depth of the game when I play. Sport in general, golf specifically, holds a lot of lessons for success in life. One lesson witnessed in watching Phil Mickelson win the British Open today, coming from five strokes back, deserves our particular attention.

At this moment I'm coaching a group through a very focused, intensive 12-week transformation. One of the questions I get almost every week is, "Shawn, how do I get back on track?"

Be it a diet, a physical challenge, a transformation or the most important golf tournament in the world, from time to time, we slip -- we screw something up.

Perhaps we over-indulge, we slack off or we smack the ball into the deep rough. Or, as in Mickelson's case, we come into the entire tournament just having blown the U.S. Open when it was "in the bag."

Like a child learning to walk, we fall. And like that child we must get up, and take the next step. A child doesn't have a negative story about his most recent fall. He's all in and it's a given that falling is just part of the process.

Too often myself and my students do what Mickelson has admittedly done throughout his career. We turn a slip into a disaster and tank all our good efforts.

If you watched and listened to Mikelson you could hear the crystal-clear importance he placed on being in THIS moment, letting the last shot go, the last hole, the last match. He very consciously had to decide not to let the crushing loss at the U.S. Open ruin his entire year.

Then five shots back, starting the final round, he simply focused on what he had to do.

As he steadily climbed up the leaderboard through the round, he birdied 15 to take a share of the lead and his a perfect shot on 16 that ran back, far off the green. Unlike years past, he recognized it, labeled it, let the bad story go and played the ball where it was, not from where it "should have been."

The Next Right Shot

A lot of us don't like where we find ourselves today -- be it physically, mentally or even financially. It's hard not to be enjoying the life we feel we deserve, not to be living the peak of energy and abundance. You can get mad, you can condemn your efforts, talk harshly to yourself, even blame circumstance or others. And when you're done with that, when you come to see that none of that changes anything, you can get up, dust yourself off and play the ball where it lays.

For the hallmark of a champion, the formula that wins is the same one we see in our children. The focus on forward and willingness to get up and completely let go of that last shot -- good or bad.

It was my golf partner, Bill, the other day who said it best to me. He'd just played a round at the country club with three pros. I asked him what he learned, and he said:

"The most impressive thing wasn't how they hit the ball, or how perfect or long any shots where, but how well they recovered. Just like you or me, they'd hit bad shots. But they don't make a bad shot into a bad hole. They calmly and joyfully played the ball where it was and moved on."

Like golf or hate it, this my friend, is a lesson in life and success you must fall in love with. Imagine how many times a day, a week, a month this approach will save you -- two, three, four or 10 strokes in life.

Blow your diet? Go off the rails this last weekend? How do you get back on track? Simple, like a child learning to walk or Phil Mickelson winning the British Open... you just do. You get back up, play the ball where it is, and let go of any negative story or energy about it all.

What last bad shots will you release now?

On Winning Over 40

I really appreciate the golfer and the man that Phil Mickelson is. He's always smiling and bringing a positive energy whether he's winning or learning from a crushing defeat. But I also pull for Mickelson because I like that he's not "over the hill" at 43. His game is still getting better when most pros of previous generations would have considered themselves done.

A very interesting fact that was not lost on me is that the last three winners of the British Open, the land of the most unforgiving golf courses, have been over 40. Perhaps there's something to this wisdom and age thing -- and what we're seeing is an example of athletes growing up and embracing the wisdom of a child. Once again willing to get back up from a fall and take the next right step.

For more by Shawn Phillips, click here.

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