It’s January. A major snow storm is slamming the east coast. Tour players are blessed with warm temps in Palm Springs, Hawaii or Abu Dhabi.  Even though the official year for the PGA Tour started in October, it’s just getting underway now with the sightings of Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler, Stenson and Phil the Thrill.  I like watching golf on these winter weekends because each one that goes by brings me a week closer to spring.  Any sign of warm weather will give me a chance to brush off the rust and see where my golf year will take me.  I’m sure many of you are in the same boat if you reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

What are you expecting for this new golf year?  Maybe you’re planning a trip to the ultimate destination with close friends.  If a major championship or the Ryder Cup is coming your way perhaps you’ll get up close and personal with the best players in the world.  A new instructional regimen might be on the docket.  Certain areas of your game might be placed under the microscope.  You may possibly be searching for fewer putts, better shorts shots, hitting more fairways or eliminating penalty strokes.  Whatever your ambition I have a suggestion as to how you might go about things while still enjoying your game.

The secret is “little successes”.  You might remember an old Bill Murray movie, What About Bob.  Richard Dreyfuss played Bob’s (Murray’s) shrink and promotes his new book, Baby Steps.  Of course Murray does his best to pursue the doctrine but in the end everything that can go wrong does.  It’s a funny flick with Murray acting like a goof although some might question if Murray needs to act at all.

It might be similar to making New Year’s resolutions but as the calendar page turns to a new number golfers set goals for their season.  Some are heightened, some more realistic.  Yet when things don’t quite fall into place the results can have a dramatic impact on players.  They get discouraged, they try to figure things out by running through a lengthy checklist, or they just try too damn hard.  Golf is a tough game.  Don’t allow it to disrupt your life.

The fact that it is a game is key.  There are plenty of other things that should be placed higher on the priority list.  Say what you want but being outside on a green parcel of land with a few buddies simply doesn’t allow for a bad time does it?  Not in my book.  As I age the scores that matter most are the smiles and laughs had in 18 holes.

But this isn’t to say I don’t look for ways to play better.  However there aren’t any drastic changes I’m searching for.  Instead I want to pile up as many “little successes” as possible.  Those might change from round to round but I’ll take note of any positive changes and seek to keep them in the bag for the next round.  I see it as a trip up a flight of stairs.  I want to climb as many steps without slipping backwards.

For my students I want them to be as realistic as possible.  Rather than placing number goals in front of them, I encourage them to focus on playing the game better, smarter, with more imagination, with less effort.  Any little success needs to be “banked” in order to raise the confidence level for future rounds.  Confidence is king in this game and once a player grabs hold of it improvement can occur quickly..

So check your ego at the door this year.  Pick a few steps that will lead to those little successes. Make them yours, not someone else’s.  Yes it would be great to putt like Jordan Spieth or hit your driver like Rory but chances are you don’t play for a living.  Be who you are.  For 2016 adopting this approach of achieving little successes will lead to big gains.  Be like Bob — take Baby Steps.