Creating A Shot of Joy with Your Family over the Holidays

“If you look closely enough at something, it will reveal its secrets to you.” This insight from George Washington Carver helped him to discover over 300 uses of the peanut. I also found it to be true about golf. I am sure that most people who play the game would be delighted to have a few secrets revealed to them on how to break 100 consistently. However, I have discovered some of the best secrets of the game have nothing to do with scoring on the course. Rather, they have to do about scoring in relationships. And what better time of the year than around the holidays to make better connections, especially with your family. So if you are dreading to see Uncle Boe-boe head at your annual Christmas dinner as much as you do hitting a shot over a monstrous looking lake, take heart! Here are 5 secrets on how to turn strife-filled family relationships into fresh family joy. I call my golf-inspired strategy “creating a shot of joy.”

1.Golf is series of shots that you hit one at a time. Like golf, relationships are made and transformed by making one relational connection at a time. Most people look at a difficult relationship and think that it can not be changed because they are focusing on the whole relationship. If you just focus on making one shot, that is one relational connection, you have a better chance at seeing change.

2. Hitting shots is intentional. The best players “call their shots” before they hit them. For example, a pro might say, “I am going to hit a slight fade around this tree and play it safe to the middle of the green.” The best relational connections are made by being intentional, too. That means you have to decide on what you want your shot to look like. You can’t be passive. What kind of connection do you want to make with your challenging loved one? Most people would simply like a real conversation or a real memory. You can create a great memory without reconciling the entire relationship.

3. To make a good shot, invoke your imagination and visualize your shot. The best shots in golf are hit from the most impossible lies. Ever see Tiger Woods caught behind a tree with his ball lying deep in the rough? Next thing you know, he hits a great shot and it lands right next to the pin. (Well, at least he used to hit these shots!) How did he do that? He invoked the power of his imagination to see the shot before he hit it. Forget the mechanics of your conflict for a second . Instead, take a minute and imagine what you want your relational connection to look like. Where will you meet? For how long? What will you be doing? What emotional resolve will you have to make to execute the shot? Will you need give the person a heads up about your intent before you meet? The greatest power you have is the power to create.

4. Choose the right atmosphere in which to hit your shots. I’ve always played my best games in a positive, fun atmosphere playing with my most enjoyable golf buddies. We cut up, tease one another, and evoke a positive emotional space to swing free. In relationships, there is always at least one positive “meeting place,” of common interest where people enjoy one another’s company. Where do you experience a positive connection with your challenging loved one? In cooking together, shooting hoops, fishing, playing card games? In what scenario is it easy for the other person to engage with you? Find it and go there. You can’t change a person, but you can change the atmosphere.

5. Hit the shot! If you don’t have the courage to hit the shot, you will never know what the possible outcome can be. To hit a shot of joy, have the courage to set up your shot, execute it, and then let go of the need to control the outcome. Just release the shot and see where it lands. If it doesn’t land where you intended it to go, put another ball down and hit it again!

One time I was in a big argument with my mother. I knew I immediately needed a shot of joy before we both ended up being fodder for Court TV. I decided to set up a shot of joy and change the atmosphere. “Mom, why don’t you get dressed up? I’d like to take you out to dinner right now.” She looked at me quizzically and then agreed. Once at the restaurant, we had to wait for a table. Knowing that she liked beer, I asked if we could sit in the bar area until our table was ready. I asked the waiter to explain to my mother what kind of beers they had. He rattled off a list that included Coors, Budweiser, and Pilsner. Mom thought about her options for a second and then replied, “Give me one of those Pillsbury beers!” The whole place cracked up. We did, too. We laughed about that shot of joy for the rest of the evening and it remains one of my funniest memories of Mom. My shot of joy lifted us out of our conflict and into our sweetspot.

Mary was dreading to see her family over the holidays. She loved her mother, but was at odds with her step-father. She needed a shot of joy. I asked her, “What is it that you want from your visit?” After we talked it through and located her heart, she said, “I want a fresh connection with my mother. I missed her birthday and we’ve been not as close lately.” “What would your shot look like?” She replied, “I’d like to have my siblings gather around Mom with me to give her a gift and spend a few minutes together sharing privately.” “What kind of gift would create a great connection?” She replied, “When we were growing up we had these red and white checked shirts. We had the best memories around our family all wearing those same shirts. I will get that shirt again for each of us.” “Great!” I said. Now let’s set up your shot. I directed her to call her mother ahead of time, tell her she wanted to get together with her and her siblings before the family dinner for 20 minutes to share something special.” Her mother agreed. Mary executed her shot perfectly! It created a fresh intimate connection with her mother and sisters—and created a cherished memory for years to come.

Unlike golf where you forget most of your shots, you will never forget hitting your shots of joy. So while you are unwrapping your gifts and maybe feeling a little separation, go ahead and tee it up. The best shots come from the most impossible lies.

For more information on how to create a shot of joy,  visit for a 4 part coaching audio weries.

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