In Zen & The Art Of Disc Golf, I talked at great length about how your disc golf bag can be seen as a metaphor for all the baggage that you carry around with you from day to day and how if you do not place your bag on the ground (“dropping your baggage”) you severely decrease your accuracy and ability to achieve your goals.
Today, I would like to talk to you about what we place in our bags and how we hold onto discs and equipment that serve no other purpose than to “fill out our bags.” It’s very interesting to meet and talk to so many new players who begin playing disc golf and starting with the same habits. I believe a psychologist could make a reasonable study of disc golfers to extrapolate trends in human behavior. We often talk about how newer players tend to buy high speed drivers in hopes that the numbers on the disc alone will put our tee shots where we want them in the fairway with little attention paid to our throwing technique, but another habit that we have is being pack rats or maybe “bag rats” would be a better term.
It typically begins like this: A new player begins with 1-3 discs, in their minds, not enough to buy a huge bag and fill it out with unnecessary equipment. As a matter of fact, a newer player may look at other “big bag disc golfers” and scoff to themselves, seeing no point in carrying so many discs. Then this player tries out one or two of his friends discs and again mistakes a good throw for a good disc. Now, he heads to the store to buy those discs – and maybe 1 or 2 more while he is there, now he has 6 or 7 discs. He/she can’t carry that many discs comfortably on the course in their hands and heads back to shop for a new bag, and feels they may as well get a bag they can grow into, so they buy a 10-12 disc bag, and maybe 1 or 2 more discs. Now they own a 12 disc bag and 8 or 9 discs that are banging around in the bag when they walk on the course, so they need to fill it out with a few more discs. Before they know it they have bought enough discs to fill a bag instead of ones they actually plan to throw. They continue to throw just a few discs from the bag but continue to carry a plethora of extra weight. Extra weight is great for burning calories and looking cool but bears no correlation to how well you play. In fact by hole 18 you might be 20% more tired from bearing extra weight you never used during your game.
Now, there is nothing wrong with carrying a full bag of discs. There are two schools of thought when it comes to bag size. The first school is learn how to shot shape a few staple discs and the second is have a disc for every job and to know those discs. Neither is wrong, but speaking purely metaphorically how often do we carry unnecessary discs that don’t serve our game and are mainly souvenirs from the disc golf store? And similarly how often do we carry negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions around with us on a daily basis that don’t serve us in the game of life, and wear them as if they are badges of experience.
Every emotion that we have has evolved within the human experience to some extent as a way to aid us in recognizing imminent threat or bodily harm.Emotions generally remov the concept of rationality in attempt to simplify our mental processes, in other words if we had to constantly scan and rationalize every experience we have as being helpful or harmful it would be exhausting, so emotions take away some of that mental processing and put our bodies in states that allow us to survive without constantly scanning whether or not an experience is good or bad. Emotions take on some of the work and they help prior experiences stick in memory so if we have similar experience to one in past that was previously harmful we may begin to feel what we felt during that harmful experience without the brain having to work to rationalize that this is an entirely new experience.
For example, one major feeling or emotion that I want to touch on is worry, because worry is generally experienced in much longer periods than some other emotions and as a result loses much of its rationality because it doesn’t serve to protect us against some imminent harm. And isn’t it true that most of the things we worry deeply about never occur the way we worried they might?
Worry is negative visualization. It is praying for what you don’t want to happen.
So if you step up on the tee box and worry about hitting that tree you seem to always hit, you may just hit that tree. Especially if you announce to your group that you probably will hit that tree because now you have made a verbal plan to hit that tree.
If you refuse to play in that tournament you have been thinking about playing because you are worrying how you will feel when you hit that tree with everyone looking – the worry you feel in that moment is visualization of that happening, and because your brain can tell little difference between reality and your visualization of reality – the worry the you feel is just as bad as the embarrassment you think you might feel, and the worst part is you never even had to hit the tree in a real tournament to feel embarrassed. In other words the worry is worse than the embarrassment!
Some people wear their negative emotions and feelings as a badge, like a souvenir for their misgivings. In the case of worry, some people like to reframe their worry as caring. For example they worry about you and call it caring about you. But the worry only serves to only see bad outcomes for other people – now I ask you, is seeing only bad outcomes for other people really caring for them or is it discouraging them from reaching for their goals? Some people wear the badge of anger and carry it as a souvenir for their misgivings and bad experiences. They will qualify it as a means of self-protection, but really it only harms themselves by not letting the good that life has to offer in. It often keeps the good away – good feelings, good experiences, and good people. They may think its protection but really, to the outside world, it’s victimization – believing they have something to always be angry about makes the assumption that they will forever be a victim. Some people carry the badge of sadness, as a souvenir for their misgivings and bad experiences. These people have resolved to never be happy because the world is a cruel and awful place. What they really want if for someone to feel sorry for them. Asking another person to feel bad with you is one of the most selfish things you could ask for.
Once again, emotions have their place. They warn us of imminent danger or threat but once the danger or threat is removed, they are to be recovered from. Holding onto emotions past the point of recovery is similar to hanging onto discs that you don’t need to carry because they “fill out your bag.” Every once and a while, you should open up your disc golf bag and see what extra weight you are carrying remove it like you would weed a garden. Still can’t throw that Nuke, Viper, or Spirit? Why weigh yourself down with discs you don’t need? Create room in your bag for an extra Valkyrie, Stalker, or Lace. Do the same with your mind:
Where worry lives, there’s no room for contentment. Where anger lives, there’s no room for forgiveness. Where sadness lives, there’s no room for gratitude.
This is not to underestimate the tragedies that we find ourselves in from day to day. As I mentioned above, emotions help us deal with negative situations that are often times not preventable, however humans were not designed to live with long term sustained negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When we sustain these feelings it actually does physical harm to our bodies, makes us ill, and as I mentioned above keeps the good stuff away. Disc golf has helped lead thousands of people through bad times as a way to reflect and find focus in a world where sometimes coping takes all the energy you can muster, but for many this may not be enough. We all need help from time to time being the best possible versions of ourselves and we need mentors and coaches we can return to help us progress. For some people that might be friends or family and for others, doctors and counselors. The first step is recognizing that you are carrying a badge or souvenir from long ago and that life would be much better if you were somehow able to just let go.
Just because you were handed a bunch of negativity many moons ago doesn’t mean your still required to carry it everywhere you go.
And that’s another tool for your Disc Golf bag.
This blog originally appeared in ZDGP EP26.