Focus – Simple not Easy – Different things to Different People
Many athletes have issues with focusing. Problems can come from focusing on the right things at the wrong time; wrong things at the wrong time; and from the inability to refocus when needed. So if you are one of them you are not alone. I trace the ability to focus in both a macro and micro levels as the root to a majority of mental game issues.
Think of it like a chain reaction. Each can be captured in a formula.
- Focus on negative thoughts + competition = doubts = hesitation = error
- Focus on pressure to make a last-second shot to win = over-thinking = stress = tension = missed shot
- Focus on future outcomes + competition = present inattentiveness = opponent advantage
- Focus on intimidating foe or situation + competition = fear = anxiety = inability to execute = loss
- Focus on barriers encountered + training program/workouts = doubts about ability to accomplish goals = skipped workouts/quitting program
- Focus on past poor performances or error committed + competition = dwelling on past event = present inattentiveness = opponent advantage
- Focus on past poor performances or failure = doubts = quitting before you even get started
You get the idea. What you focus on generates self-talk.What you focus on governs your current behavior. That current behavior and self-talk guide the execution of skills.
So when someone asks how to focus, it is not a simple or straightforward answer. It is not a single technique that will solve your inability to focus.
In the macro view (long term), focus is derived from goals. If you do not have clearly established goals then any behavior is ok because any direction is ok. When doubts and barriers cloud your mind it is your commitment to reaching a goal that helps you refocus your energy on what you can do – right now – to keep moving in the direction of your desired outcome. No goals = no focus.
Building on this, you must have process goals that provide the foundation and everyday direction that lead towards your desired future outcome. Process goals can come in the form of training programs, season competition schedules, cross training & injury prevention exercises and mental game training integrated into your day-to-day training. So, this focus is near term (daily/weekly) and helps maintain momentum while giving various measurements of progress on your journey towards your long term outcome.
At this point you want to be able to make the most of your training sessions and a current competition. In training this means purposeful workouts. You should know for every workout:
- Why am I doing this specific workout?
- What role does it play in my development that will lead me to my ultimate goal?
- What specifically in this workout am I going to hone in on; work to perfect; or prepare me for competition?
- What will I do to enhance my mental game in this workout?
If you cannot answer these questions then you already have a focus issue. Making the most of your training is what you must focus on in order for you to be the best prepared athlete possible.