Lessons People with T1D Can Learn from Golf

Apr 11, 2022

Both golf and type 1 diabetes can be frustrating and unpredictable. The similarities don't stop there. There is a lot you can learn from playing golf that can help you deal with the emotional burden of diabetes.

Let me start by saying I am not a good golfer. I like to get out on the course and have fun. Sometimes I hit a great shot, but most of the time I don't. No matter what, I always get the ball in the hole - eventually. Recently, I realized approaching diabetes the way I approach golf can take a lot of frustration out of diabetes.

Play strategically

When I started playing golf, I took shots that had little chance of success. Over the water? Through the trees? On the green off the tee from 300 yards? I tried all these shots, and most of the time, failed miserably. Once I started playing smarter, my game improved, and I was a lot less frustrated. Aggressive diabetes management – for example, rage bolusing and overtreating lows - usually also leads to trouble. A patient, strategic approach to managing diabetes will also almost always get you where you want to be more quickly and with less frustration.

Perfection is not possible

If I expect to hit a hole-in-one, I'm setting myself up for failure. It's just not possible without a lot of luck. What I can do is play my best and try to go easy on myself when I don't hit a great shot. Just like with golf, you can't expect perfection with your diabetes. You can try your best and work hard to improve your management, but in the end, it's not possible to have perfect blood sugars all the time.

Flexibility is key

Golf is a game of problem-solving, with conditions constantly changing. When I play golf, I try to be flexible and prepare for things not to go as planned. Diabetes can also be unpredictable, always throwing challenges your way. If you are flexible and mentally prepared for the unexpected with diabetes, it will be easier to deal with problems when they do come along (and they will).

A fresh start

Every hole in golf is a fresh start, an opportunity to do better. Just because I didn't do well on the last hole doesn't mean I'm doomed on the next one. The same is true with diabetes. Yesterday does not have to define today, and today does not define tomorrow. If you had a rough diabetes day (or month or year), tomorrow is always a chance to reset and do better.

I can't always control where my golf shots go, but that doesn't stop me from getting out there and playing. As frustrating as it is sometimes, I like playing golf. My enjoyment of golf, and my success, depend on my strategy and my mindset.

The same goes for diabetes. It's going to be tough sometimes, but with the right expectations and mindset, I know I can handle whatever diabetes throws my way.

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