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Beyond the Tree -- Writer's Poke #435

In Disc Golf, a player throws a disc at a goal. Sounds simple enough, but often times, the person throwing the disc must avoid trees and other obstacles. Avoiding a big tree should be easy enough, but when the focus becomes the tree and not the goal, “ironic effect” error can come into play – much to the detriment of the poor tree.

Why is it so easy to focus on the obstacle or the problem rather than the goal or the solution? Well, in the case of the tree in the above example, it sometimes becomes the most obvious place to focus. It may, in fact, literally hide the goal from view. The goal is there, but it’s out-of-sight.

When I first started playing Disc Golf, one person taught me to turn my back to the goal. Visual the goal in your mind, he said, and approach the shot mentally. Know where the obstacles are, yes, but don’t make the obstacles the focus. Make the goal the focus.

Blind people play Disc Golf, and some do really well. I’ve often thought that the blind might have an advantage, as they cannot succumb to the temptation of peeking at the obstacles along the path. Yes, they need to know they’re there, but it seems like they have a natural advantage to avoid catching a glimpse of the tree in their peripheral vision.

I still have trouble avoiding the trees from time-to-time, but sometimes I avoid them by throwing with my eyes closed.

Have you ever experience “ironic effect” error? What do you do to avoid it?

“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” – Venus Williams


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