For reasons I can’t explain, I routinely subject myself to the most mentally tortuous sport known to man: golf.
Back in 2011, I experienced one of the most memorable, astounding moments of my life.
I want to share it with you … not so you can laugh at and ridicule me like all my jerkface friends … but to show you what I learned.
At the very least, I hope you’ll find it entertaining. Here goes …
It was a Wednesday, mid-summer … one of those days where you gaze out the window and think to yourself, “I really wish I was out there right now and not sitting here at work.”
4 p.m. hit and I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to skip out of work early and get nine holes in. I got to the course and it seemed to be one of those rare moments in life where everything plays out exactly as you want: 78 and sunny with a light breeze, golf course in perfect condition, and not a single person on the course except me.
It was glorious.
I don’t think I played exceptionally well that day, but it didn’t matter, because I was on the golf course instead of at work.
Nothing could bring me down from the Cloud Nine I was on.
Or so I thought.
I approached the ninth hole, my last one of the day, around 6:00. I smacked my drive on the lengthy par 5 right down the middle of the fairway. My second shot I decided to go for the green in two … and I hit my worst shot of the day. The ball sliced way right and thankfully hit a tree, which sent it careening into some deep grass.
I start walking in frustration toward my horrendous shot, hoping I still had a chance to reach the green.
As I approached the tree my ball hit, I started to notice a strange shape taking form.
There was a bird near the base of the tree.
At first I thought the bird was injured so I walked closer to get a better look.
And I realized this bird was not injured.
It was the one doing the injuring.
It was a MASSIVE hawk devouring a fresh kill.
I stood about 20 feet away, being careful to keep my distance. I watched this spectacle of nature for a good five minutes, trying to get a look at what the bird was eating.
Then, the hawk suddenly flew off, giving me a sensational view of its majestic wing span as it soared high up into the giant old Oak tree above.
So at this point I start walking away to go find my ball … but for some reason I decide to turn back.
My inner explorer beckoned. I needed to find out what that hawk was eating.
Maybe it was all those Planet Earth specials I’d been watching on the Discovery Channel.
I don’t know.
So I turn back the other way and slowly start walking toward the kill zone. I remember glancing up a few times to make sure Big Bird was out of sight. He’s gone … I’m all good.
I get about 10 feet away and I see an unrecognizable pile of blood and fur. I inch closer. 5 feet. 4 feet. 3 feet.
And then …. BAM!
It felt like someone hit me on the back of the head with a baseball bat.
I stumbled and caught my balance, and looked up just in time to see a truly colossal red tailed hawk flying back up into the tree.
I’m talking 5-foot wingspan. This thing was a beast.
Now my head is ringing. I’m seeing stars. And I feel a trickle down my neck and reach around and feel the back of my head. I look at my hand and it’s covered in blood. I feel around a bit more and notice there are several gouges on my head.
From its talons, I quickly realize. Its blood-and-guts-covered talons that just tore apart that poor animal in the grass.
Anyways, as I slowly regained my senses and cleaned my bloody head and neck with my dirty golf towel (it was all I had with me), I stood there for several minutes pondering what had just happened.
Holy shit I just got attacked by a hawk.
So what did I do next? What any self-respecting golfer would do: I finished my round.
And in the ultimate twist of irony, I actually birdied the hole. I swear on my life I’m not making this up.
The talon wounds weren’t deep enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, so I went home, cleaned myself up, popped some aspirin, and went to bed.
The next day, I visited my doctor, who was as baffled as you will ever see a licensed medical professional.
“Wait, you got attacked by a what?!”
Turns out I had a concussion … which I suppose will happen when a 3-pound aviary that can reach diving speeds up to 120 miles per hour comes crashing into the back of your head.
I had to get a rabies shot directly into one of the talon wounds too. Not cool.
When it was all said and done though, I learned a valuable lesson from my encounter with this impressive raptor, which is surprisingly applicable to your health.
The Lesson Here
First and foremost, do NOT let your curiosity get the best of you when a gigantic bird of prey leaves its dinner in your vicinity. Bad idea, trust me.
Second, resilience is a choice.
You will get beaten down by life. You will fall gracelessly. You may even get attacked by a hawk.
The point is, how you choose to respond will determine what happens next. Will you dust yourself off, learn something, and move on? Or will you dwell on past misgivings and let them haunt your present and future?
This is important … especially if you’re struggling with your health.
For example, let’s say you’ve been eating healthy for several weeks. You’re doing great, and you’ve lost a little weight. Then you go out for your friend’s birthday one weekend. You’re surrounded by your pals and the food and drinks are flowing. You give in and have some pizza and a margarita. Then another. Might as well have a few bread sticks too. And now you’re a few margaritas deep so one dessert won’t kill you.
The next day, you feel like absolute crap. You’re hungover so you skip your workout. You feel like you’ve taken five steps back. You convince yourself you’ve failed, and your “get healthy” plan fizzles out shortly after.
Slip-ups happen, and your brain will do everything possible to convince you this is the end.
Think about all you’ve been through in your life though.
Injuries, heartbreak, betrayal, bad breaks, losing people you love.
But you’re still here.
Because we live to fight another day.
Research tells us we are much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, especially in the wake of tragedy. If there’s one positive that comes from suffering, it’s that it gives us perspective.
We just don’t realize it.
How to Be More Resilient
There’s a reason I talk about the power of mindset so much: when you learn how to harness your mind, you’ll realize how much you’ve been holding yourself back.
An extensive research review of 475 different journal articles tells us that the best ways to increase your perseverance and resiliency are:
1. Be mindful of how you react in certain situations. Most of our reactions to bad stuff that happens are a result of learned behaviors. So when someone cuts you off in traffic, you have learned to behave and react in a certain way. “Active coping” means mindfully thinking about and addressing your reactions in these types of situations. It takes practice and can be hard to do in the moment when your emotions are a-blazing, but it will help you develop more self-control.
2. Have faith. Whether or not you believe in some form of “God” is your choice, and I don’t want to start a theological debate. But research proves that spirituality makes you more resilient.
3. Master new skills. Change is scary. Famed psychologist Albert Bandura advocates guided mastery–a series of small successes–to help people gain courage and overcome resistance to change. Goals that are impossible to reach in one giant leap become manageable when you take small steps, and have guidance from someone knowledgeable in the field. If you want to lose weight, for example, take the time to learn the right way to do it, ask for help from experts in your circle, and then take small steps every day.
4. Seek inspiration. Living a healthy lifestyle is hard. Sometimes it feels like a constant struggle. When you can’t muster the motivation from within, look elsewhere. Read. Write. Talk to people who have been there. Watch videos like this one.
Resilience isn’t set in stone. It’s a skill you can improve with a little practice.
Whether you want to exercise more, eat less sweets … or even finish up a round of golf after getting attacked by a hawk, your success will ultimately hinge on whether or not you choose to persevere through the inevitable bumps in the road.
In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe