Take a walk in the woods. While you are walking focus on the sights, sounds and smells of what’s around you. While you are washing dishes, experience the texture of the soap on your glasses, plates and silverware. While cooking, focus on the textures, colors and tastes as you prepare the food. Have you ever missed a rare bird while walking in the woods or broken a glass or burnt something on the stove? Much of this occurs because you aren’t being present; in the moment. As an Elite Performer it’s important to try to be in the moment with whatever you do otherwise you don’t have control, you don’t have control of the process (leading to the outcome) and you lose site of what you are doing.
What is focus
If you can give your full attention to the present moment it’s not only energizing but it enables you to control your current reality. If in any given moment you are focused on the past or the future, what happens to that current moment? It’s lost and then it becomes part of the past. Suppose you are lost in thinking about your fear of your current interval workout: I hate this, I don’t think I can do this again, this is going to continue being painful, there is no way I can do this, etc. Because you weren’t paying attention and the treadmill was on interval speed it sped up and you fell off the back. If you had stayed focused on the moment, you would have been able to react in this situation. Because you were focused on something other than the moment you took a situation you were in control of, lost that control and gave it to something/someone else. In this situation focus not only ceased this workout but maybe future workouts. Your lack of focus fed into what you were thinking. This is called self fulfilling prophecy.
You may not have realized this but as a performer not only do you need to have the ability to focus but you need to have the ability to change focus from broad to narrow (and visa versa) and from internal to external (and visa versa) .
How do we lose focus
There are internal distractors and external distractors of focus. Internal distractors come from within. They are the thoughts and worries that distract our focus from the task at hand. External distractors refer to environment stimuli that divert attention from the important cues relevant to what you are doing. The external distractors include: visual distractors (other performers) and auditory distractors (cell phones, music). Distractors increase as the demand increases and the pressures are more intense.
We all get distracted from time to time but the key is how efficiently we bring ourselves back to the present moment: refocus. The first step to refocusing is awareness. Be aware when you lose focus. Once you realize when you lose focus you can develop a plan to refocus. I like to work with clients to hone their focus using mindfulness exercises: walking in the woods, washing the dishes, tasting the lemon, etc. There are many other great ways to help bring you back into focus using: energizing words, positive phrases, your breath, imagery, etc.
Your focus is similar to a camera lens: the center is the sweet spot and around the sweet spot is the periphery. Your attention should be on the sweet spot and not the blurry periphery. However many Elite Performers get caught up in the periphery where most distractions are negative which send them spiraling out of control. That is why they are called distractions. Your brain is overloaded with information that doesn’t have anything to do with the task at hand and it shuts down. The good news is, you can learn how to improve your focus.
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