Mind & Body

Are you living the same six months on repeat? That was a question I was asked at the end of 2023, and I loved it! Are you just going through the motions in life, or are you taking on new exciting challenges and making sure your life looks different in six months’ time?

I hope your life does look different (in a good way), but I know that change and growth come with stress and it can be quite daunting. So, if you are a rookie on a new Tour, have just turned pro, or maybe just want to make sure you’re a better golfer (and person) in a few months’ time, here are some tips to help.


So much research shows that mentors have an exponentially positive effect on success in life. You are not meant to take on challenges alone. The feedback, wisdom and support offered by a mentor is invaluable. This is something we all know and have heard hundreds of time, but have you ever thought about how to pick a mentor? Hear are some great tips (taken from Daniel Coyle’s book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills):

a) Avoid someone who reminds you of a courteous waiter: You are not looking for someone to make you comfortable, you need someone to help you grow, and sometimes that requires making you uncomfortable.

b) Seek someone who scares you a little: Find someone who you know observes everything, is not afraid of saying it as it is and who demands action from you.

c) Seek someone who gives short, clear directions: Often it is just a short sentence that can have a profound impact – you don’t need someone who gives long speeches. The person needs to distil information down and deliver it with impact.


Dr Kirsten van Heerden chats to former Springbok and Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane about his love of the game and life after rugby.

d) Seek someone who loves teaching fundamentals: A great mentor loves the foundations of golf and life, and understands that although they may not be the most flashy parts, they are key to success.

e) Other things being equal, pick the older person: You really can’t buy experience.


Much research around grit and resilience have shown that people display those traits when they are doing something that has meaning and purpose to them.

Dan Ariely, a world-renowned behavioural economist, conducted a fascinating study showing how meaninglessness affects us. He had two groups of people build robots out of Lego pieces – for each robot they built they would get $1, then the next $0.95, then $0.90 and so on until they decided to stop. The only difference between the two groups was that when they finished a robot, the one group had it dismantled in front of them and they could then use those pieces to build the next robot. The second group had their robots taken away and were given new Legos to use to build their next robot.

Which group built the most robots?

The second group. Why was this? Well, they found the task more ‘meaningful’ than the first group. Imagine building something, having your work destroyed in front of you, and then building again and having it destroyed again. People really battled with that – it seemed meaningless (even though the money was the same as group two!). At least the second group knew there were more and more robots accumulating so the task seemed more meaningful, and they persevered longer.

Meaning, even a small amount matters. I am not here to tell you what that meaning should be; every one of you would be unique, but you need to be very clear what it is. Sometimes it is about money. Many golfers want to turn pro because they can earn money, and they find what they can do with that money very meaningful. Maybe they can look after family, give people they love experiences, or maybe help others in need. Others find the process of improvement very meaningful, others find it in being able to meet people from around the world and form friendships.

The point is, when you take on a challenge, you really need to hold tight to what you find meaningful about it.


The most successful people in the world are lifelong learners. As you take on a new challenge know that you have much to learn, and that’s OK! You don’t have to know it all now. Trust that you will learn along the way (with help) and that as you do, you will navigate your way through the next year.


About the author

Dr Kirsten van Heerden is one of only a few people in South Africa to have represented her country as an athlete and hold a PhD in sport psychology. She has worked and travelled extensively within high performance sport for more than 15 years. She has published a book on the challenges athletes face when they retire from elite sport called Waking from the Dream and hosts her own podcast called ‘Behind the Dream’ where she talks with some of the world’s best athletes about the ups and downs of being a professional athlete. She is also the founder and chairperson of Girls Only Project – a non-profit company focusing on women in sport issues. She is in private practice at Newton Sports Agency.