Friday night, PGA Tour rookie Charlie Beljan was wondering if he'd live another day. On Sunday afternoon, he was standing in the winner's circle of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic just outside Orlando, Fla.
In Friday's second round, Beljan, who was previously 139th on the money list, shot a 64 including two eagles and six birdies -- all while suffering difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat and feeling like he was going to faint. Immediately following his second round, Beljan was rushed to a nearby hospital, with all tests coming back inconclusive and it being called anxiety and panic attacks. What's more is he wasn't released from the hospital until early Saturday morning, getting about one hour of sleep before his third round tee time.
Those who suffer panic attacks will tell you it's one of the most terrifying experiences -- the ultimate fight or flight response causing an array of both mental and physical symptoms including: a rapid heartbeat, numbness, sweating or chills, uncontrollable shaking, lightheadedness, confusion, shortness of breath and a barrage of negative and horrifying images that make you feel as if you're about to die, lose control or need to escape the situation you're in.
It's remarkable enough that Charlie Beljan was able to confront his anxiety and step back on the golf course, and it's truly incredible he went on to win the championship. This is the ultimate example of mental toughness -- and there are lessons to be learned for all of us.
Champions Handle Fear like a Snake Charmer
The relationship performers have with fear is a significant distinction between amateurs and professionals. Amateurs are controlled by their fears, while professionals learn to embrace fear. The great ones use the energy and intensity of fear to drive them to great heights. They learn how to become comfortable while performing in an uncomfortable state of mind.
Repeated exposure to their fears systematically desensitizes them, eventually depleting the fear. An interesting phenomenon often occurs after this desensitization process: performers fall in love with the activity they used to fear. Whatever your fears, be it public speaking, flying, spiders or anything else, the freedom you will gain from overcoming these fears will leave you wondering what took you so long to confront the fear in the first place.
Beljan will undoubtedly have to learn to control the fear and work through it better, and if he can, the sky is truly the limit.
The World Class is Obsessed with Their Goals
The pressure was on and Charlie Beljan needed a strong performance to move into the top 125 money earners on the tour -- the cutoff for full exemption for the 2013 season. Average performers set their goals on New Year's Eve and don't look at them again until the next New Year's Eve. The world class is in a constant goal-setting mode. Champions are goal-setting machines -- they know the cornerstone of all achievement is mental clarity.
Professional performers are evolving so rapidly they usually find it necessary to review -- and sometimes reset their goals on a daily basis. The mind of a pro is like a guided missile, always adjusting and correcting to maintain accuracy towards the target. Despite the difficulties that Charlie Beljan faced this week, it was ultimately his goal of breaking into the top 125 that kept him going -- and helped him win.
The Great Ones Never Hesitate to Seize Opportunity
Amateur performers are perpetually waiting for their ships to come in. They're waiting for the man on the white horse, singing, "Here I come to save the day!" The masses seem content to wait to inherit their fortune from some long-lost rich relative or by winning the lottery. The pros don't wait for opportunities; they create them. The great ones know they are completely responsible for how their life turns out. Average people keep hoping luck and circumstance will favor them. Meanwhile, the champions are out impacting the world. At the heart of this difference in philosophy is a lack of fear. Don't be paralyzed by fear that you never get in the game. Don't come to the end of your life arriving safely at death.
Champions Never Say Die
The middle class will persist until they become uncomfortable. The upper class performer will persist until it becomes painful. The world class never says die. As Charlie Beljan showed us, champions are comfortable being uncomfortable. Do you just have a desire to win or are you truly committed to winning? There is a substantial difference. Failure to manifest the vision is not an option; champions will do it or die trying. The mantra they love to espouse is, "Whatever it takes." The great ones, like Charlie Beljan, are masters of self-denial, suffering and sacrifice.
They say golf is a mental game and certainly more proof of that this week. If Charlie Beljan is capable of winning under these conditions, imagine how good he will be once he gets his anxiety under control. It starts with mental toughness, and it's a skill that can be learned, and the tougher you get, the bigger you'll dream and the more fun you'll have. Mental toughness is the ticket to becoming one of the great ones.