Understanding this made me calmer as I grew older

Alex Mathers


As the son of an English diplomat, I spent some years in my early teens living on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

It was there that I was introduced to the game of golf. I would occasionally join my father and his friends on palm-fringed golf courses, and it didn’t take me long to get a feel for the game.

I also very quickly gained a very real sense that this was to be the most infuriating sport I’d ever have the opportunity to play.

To get through a round of golf alive is to have your character tested to its very edge.

The margin for error is so slight, that to hit the ball with the club-face a mere degree off, could have your up-until-then winning ball hurtling towards a watery demise.

Golf could reveal an inner rage in me that often surprised myself, let alone my poor father. A red-faced, cursing son kicking golf balls across the 12th green wasn’t the idyllic scene he had envisioned.

I’m by no means enlightened today, but I have seen a notable shift over the years in response to stressful and potentially annoying stimuli.

Many things have informed this change, from merely maturing into adulthood to experiencing and learning more from life.

There is, however, one element that has had an increasingly dominant effect on my ability to remain calm in triggering situations.

And that is the cultivation of what I call: ‘generalised presence.’

Much like some of us manifest generalised anxiety through consistently overthinking, we can create the opposite.

We can cultivate a generalised connectedness to the world around us, including the spirit that runs through all of us, by spending more time being present.

Over the years, as an avid student of self-help, I’ve learned a lot about managing thought.

One of my most significant breakthroughs was in seeing that our emotional experience is rooted in our thinking, not our circumstances.

This is crucial.

Our thoughts dictate our emotional experience, not our surroundings.