I’m reading the book Practice to Learn / Play to Win, which is available for free on the website. I don’t yet know if it’s any good or not, but something in it has already resonated with me.
He’s talking about play (competition – playing a sport) and how it may be best to treat practice more like competition and competition more like practice. Treating practice more like competition is a good idea, although somewhat difficult to accomplish as it requires making practice more emotionally meaningful, which can be challenging logistically (maybe you can make a bet, but what if you’re practicing alone?). At the very least you can try to put yourself in situations that are more similar to competition (if you’re playing golf then try to force yourself to make more challenging shots from more challenging lies).
The concept that resonated more, though, was about treating competition more like practice. I’ve had the inkling of this for a while in my own thoughts. I’ve noticed with golf that if I approach a challenging shot, for example hitting out from under a tree, I’m more likely to think about the shot differently and more likely to hit the shot correctly, even though it’s a more challenging shot.
So the idea that you approach each shot like it’s an interesting challenge (like you should in practice as well), rather than a bad break or an easy shot, does a good job of capturing the mentality that I feel when I approach a shot from behind a tree. I think it forces you to think about the shot more holistically.
Another way of capturing that feeling might be to treat it like a trick shot. I think both mental exercises may go a long way toward ensuring you make a quality attempt at the shot.
Again, you can get the book for free from the website: Practice to Learn / Play to Win, although I can’t yet recommend it.