Good luck, a term used to express wishes of success. That would be the google definition. It is not uncommon to say ‘good luck’, it seems to fit a variety of situations. In this context let’s apply it to playing a round of golf, or in a tournament. I think we can agree that wishing another player good luck is a common sentiment, and it is meant to be encouraging and positive.You think that you are wishing them well. But, is it a positive command? I believe it has absolutely zero value, unless you are using at as a sarcastic remark. The human brain works with positive commands. It does not understand negative commands like “don’t hit it in the water”. Your brain just hears “...hit it in the water.”. Although the conscious mind will not receive the message that way, the subconscious mind will and it is the master. “Good Luck” is not a positive command and it doesn't direct a course of action. In the gym, we are teaching movement, just like a golf instructor is teaching a movement. It is most productive to instruct an athlete to do something. As a coach, I can get a better response from telling an athlete to ‘sit their hips back more’ during a deadlift, rather than saying ‘don’t squat so much’. The ‘don’t’ lacks instruction. Good luck, also lacks instruction, but offers ambiguity.
What does good luck imply?
It implies that you have no control of the outcome, of what you are about to do. When someone tells you good luck, your subconscious is not receiving anything that it can use. You are receiving a message that disempowers you to play well. Saying good luck is the equivalent of telling someone to pray for success. Instead of saying “Good Luck”, I tell all of my players to “play well” or “hit lots of green”, or something that is relevant to their performance on the course. These positive directives can have a huge affect on performance.
Self-talk that offers instructions can be very empowering. What is your own internal dialogue before, during, and after a round? Would you ever tell yourself (internally) “good luck” before a round? Think about the self-talk that goes on in your own head. How do you react to different situations? Do you face problems and obstacles as opportunities to be challenged and learn? Do you get excited about difficult shots? Or, do you decide, “I can’t do that, this will be a failure”, or “I am not good at that”? Instead how about a positive command that directs an action or outcome? Just like telling a friend to “play well” instead of “good luck”; you can apply this to how you talk to your ‘self’ on the course. When the greens are super fast, you tell yourself “I love fast greens”. Or when there is water on the left, you tell your ‘self’, “Put it in the fairway”. This is a whole shift in mindset and as you learn to apply it to your ‘self’ on the golf course, you will start to apply it to other aspects of your life. Before you know it, you are adding positivity and growth to the lives of the people that you interact with. Is it more productive to tell your kid to ‘stop yelling’ or is it better to say ‘lower your voice’? You will get a completely different response from modifying the words you use in your relationship with others and your ‘self’.
If you are saying “good luck” to a friend, it is time to rethink your choice of words. It is almost as if you are telling them that you have no faith in them. So, tell your golf buddies to “play well” and save saying “good luck” for your competitor in a match play event.