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Tiger Woods spent 11 years in the wilderness, both professionally and personally. And on one brilliant, sunny afternoon in Augusta, Georgia on April 14, 2019, he proved a lesson that should reverberate through boardrooms and offices throughout the world.
The lesson: no matter how seemingly massive, every one of your setbacks is just a comeback in disguise.
Most thought they’d never see a sight like Sunday’s again: Tiger Woods, at the peak of his game at the vaunted Masters Tournament, pulling on the fabled green jacket given to the tournament’s winners. Before Sunday, Woods hadn’t won a major tournament in 11 years, and it had been 14 since he’d won the Masters. And yet there he was, a 43-year-old Tiger Woods in all his glory — practically back from the dead — Masters champion once again in 2019. It was a story as unlikely as any in the history of sports.
And the reason is that Woods fought each of his battles in public, for all to see.
One of the most decorated golfers of all time and a truly transcendent presence in sport, Woods’ star began its tumble in 2009 when a personal scandal engulfed his marriage and led to an extremely public divorce. Four years later, Woods missed his first ever Masters tournament with a back surgery that started a tailspin.
His back troubles compounded year after year, and he consistently missed qualification for tournaments he was used to winning. After four more back surgeries in the next few years, Woods was arrested for driving under the influence in 2017, and he quickly checked himself into addiction rehab. If the majority of fans hadn’t written off Woods’ once-brilliant career as a total loss already, it was hard to find anyone who expected Woods to win another tournament period, let alone one as massive as the Masters.
Woods’ one-stroke win at the Masters is a lesson. It proves the value of mindset, and how an unconquerable mind can overcome anything. And the incredible news is that the path Woods took to his unbelievable comeback is available to you today. All you have to do is decide.
You can follow Tiger’s lead by engineering your own comeback from any situation you face: a lost job, a missed promotion, a divorce, a failed project. Do what Tiger did and create your very own Masters comeback by following these mindset-strengthening steps.
1. Control your self-talk.
Affirmations form the backbone of an unleashed life. In a sport as cerebral as golf, it would’ve been easy for Woods to dwell in the darkness he’d experienced over the previous few years. But nobody achieves success by telling themselves negative stories. They replace, "Here we go again" with "I can’t wait until this shot lands on the green, right next to the pin."
When everything seems off, and life appears to be spiraling, notice the way you speak to yourself. How are you reinforcing the setback with negative self-talk? Once you identify recurring negative thoughts and phrases, choose to borrow positive self-talk from times in your life when you feel strong and confident. Replace the negative with the positive, repeat your affirmations over and over, and watch your setback turn into a comeback.
2. Break your habit loop.
The habit loop forms around three steps: a trigger, a response and a reward. Woods’ addiction (he admitted an addiction to painkillers in 2017) was forming a negative habit loop in his life. He’d experience pain or stress and he’d respond with painkillers, and his reward was briefly eliminating that pain. But he was numbing it, not dealing with it, and that only compounded the problem.
So he broke his negative habit loop and replaced it with something more positive. He got help. He still felt the trigger, and he still got a positive reward, but his response now wasn’t to turn to addiction-forming chemicals. His response was turning to more beneficial things that built him up instead of tearing him down. Recognize in your life where your responses to external triggers aren’t serving you — maybe you get anxious or angry or uncertain in certain situations — and control them so you can unleash your results.
3. Unlearn and relearn.
Woods wasn’t just ailing physically. He was also inside his own head about his swing. His repeated back surgeries had a negative effect on Woods’ actual golf swing, to the point that he’d learned all this negative programming that wasn’t serving what was once the purest swing in the game.
So he had to unlearn the hitches and stutters and negative influences on his swing. He had to go back to his roots, but first, he had to unlearn all the head trash keeping him from doing the things he knew to do 100% of the time. This took time and repetition, but he had to purge those things from his mental processor so he could get back to the swing that won him tournaments. And he did. Just the same, find those negative things you’ve adopted that you need to unlearn to push yourself to the next level.
4. Conquer your self-image.
Nobody had more excuse to shrink into the shadows than Woods. He’d been battered in the public eye (sometimes for good reason), and he heard time and time again that his career was over. His back was shot. His mentality was shattered. His swing was gone. He was too old. Might as well pack it up and go home.
But Woods overcame that. How? The self-image he had of himself was different than the self-image the world gave him. Yes, he’d made mistakes. But his rebuilt self-image was that of a champion. He no-doubt visualized himself holding that green jacket thousands of times before he actually did it. Just the same, you can’t achieve that next level of success if you don’t have a positive self-image of yourself doing it in your own mind. Your mind is your own greatest ally. Use it wisely.
5. Talent is just effort in disguise.
So many people wrote off Woods’ early success as that of a gifted child prodigy. "He was just born with it," so many said. That obviously neglects thousands of hours put in training, but how do you square that with what happened in 2019? How is it possible that he could overcome so many negative external and internal factors and win on the sport’s greatest stage when nobody thought it was possible?
It wasn’t simply talent. It was because he put in the effort nobody else would. He showed up to practice and committed himself to rehabbing his back even when nobody thought it was possible. He fixed his swing, kept in shape, and pushed himself harder. Always resist the temptation to attribute someone’s success to genetics. The story Woods wrote in 2019 is proof that effort is infinitely more important than whatever skills you were born with.
You can create your own Tiger Woods story. All it takes is a decision.
April 15, 2019 at 10:24AM