ATD Blog

Are You Focused on What Matters?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Golfers say that the game of golf is at least 80 percent mental and less than 20 percent physical or technical capabilities. Yet to improve their game, what do most golfers spend their time working on? They practice the 20 percent or less that’s physical. They spend far more than 80 percent of their practice time on what they know is only 20 percent of the game. 

Why? What compels golfers specifically (and human beings in general) to continue to behave in ways that are opposite to what they know? It would be much more logical to focus on the 80 percent—on the behaviors that will actually make a difference and lead to change. But more often than not, we fail to do what makes more sense.  

This principle of 80 percent was driven home by a recent experience I had with a CEO I was coaching. This executive (we’ll call him Bob) was wrestling with his organization’s inability to “walk the talk” around customer service. He had diagnosed that a significant part of the problem was that senior managers were spending more time at their computers instead of leading and coaching sales people. 

When I asked him what made it so difficult for him to change that behavior, he described being buried at his desk with everything he had to do. In other words, he was modeling the same behavior he was describing as a problem in his senior managers. 


As we continued our conversation, he eventually volunteered, “I know if I lean right, the whole organization will lean right.” At this point he sat back in his chair and said, “So I’m the problem?” I replied, “And therefore you’re part of the solution.” 

Humans are funny. At our core, we are creatures of habit. Once we are comfortable, we lose awareness of our patterns and behaviors. But not only is it possible, but it‘s simple to free ourselves from the patterns that continually trap us. 


An easy starting point is to ask ourselves what is the one thing I could do more—or less—of that would make me more effective. More to the point: What is the simple, obvious thing you can do to free up your best self? Most likely, it is something that you already know about, but have been ignoring. 

Interested in more insight? Join Alan for his presentation, Unlocked Potential: You Already Know How to Be Great, part of ASTD’s Career Week and sponsored by Citrix GoToTraining.

About the Author

Alan Fine, co-creator of the widely recognized GROW Model, is the founder and president of InsideOut Development. Alan is considered a pioneer of the modern coaching movement, and many of the world’s most respected organizations have adopted his InsideOut approach to performance improvement, including IBM, NASA, Honeywell, Gap, and Coca-Cola. Alan has dedicated the past 25 years to helping people from all walks of life elevate their performance and unlock their potential, including athletes such as Davis Cup tennis star Buster Mottram, record-breaking triathlete James Lawrence, and PGA golfers Phillip Price, David Feherty, Colin Montgomerie, and Stephen Ames.

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