Murphy Peak Performance is the culmination of my 30 years of training and experience as a clinical psychologist, educator and golfer. My interest in peak performance led me to train in the area of mental game coaching with Dr. Joseph Parent, founder of Zen Golf. Working with Dr. Parent has provided me with a greater understanding and appreciation for how the practice of mindfulness facilitates the experience of peak performance in golf and in any other meaningful endeavor.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction), defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Over the past 40 years neuroscientists have provided scientific evidence for how the 2500-year-old practice of mindfulness promotes improved focus, emotional balance, resiliency, self-understanding, motivation, improved problem solving, self-discipline and the effective use of the sensory system for enhanced performance. These same capacities are critical to golf’s mental game and the mastery and the achievement of peak performance.
Peak performance is defined as the experience in any endeavor where you perform at the highest limit of your capabilities. While the study of peak performance has historically focused on athletes, this concept is also a primary goal of dancers, musicians, actors, students, teachers, business people, and others. This experience is unique to each individual, because it is defined by his or her particular performance. You don’t have to break the course record or win a competition to experience peak performance. As a golfer, your peak performance is that round where you were focused, calm, and in total control of your game, which resulted in you posting your best score ever.
Research tells us that peak performance is most likely to occur when you are in a“flow” state, also referred to as “being in the zone.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, studied and identified this experience. He describes flow as a creative and intensely rewarding state of mind where you are fully immersed and focused on your participation in an activity for it’s own sake, free from worry about results. The practice of mindfulness promotes flow and peak performance, because it improves your mental capacity to fully direct and channel your strengths and skills in the present moment.