In his book In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win in Sport and Life Through Mental Training, author and sport psychologist Terry Orlick outlines his techniques that have helped Olympic athletes and ordinary people maximize their potential and achieve their goals. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to take advantage of these same techniques; they will work for ordinary people like us too.
Here are some of the author’s thoughts on how to focus (concentrate):
1. Try to ignore the outside world and concentrate on what you are doing. Orlick provides great examples of how well we are able to push ourselves when we are not aware that we are being "scored." Does your focus change when you realize people are watching you?
2. Focus is something that requires practice. The author describes a technique using an index card with a dime-sized black dot on it. He tries to study the dot until there is really nothing else in his world other than the dot. It becomes almost like a controlled daydream. Practice imagery to help you be your most effective.
3. Learn to put less thought into all of your reactions. This will take some practice, but try letting yourself go a few times and see what happens. Don’t over-think everything you do.
4. Learn to use reminders to help you refocus. If you experience problems concentrating, keep working on this skill and just let it happen. Focus is not something that can be forced, like everything else worthwhile, it takes practice.
The difference between your best and worst performances in competition, exercise and life, usually comes down to focus. In our worst performances, we most likely let negative, anxiety-producing or distracting thoughts rule our emotions. Keep your thoughts positive and concentrate on the immediate task at hand.
Here are some focusing strategies that will help:
• Focus only on your immediate goal. Think about one thing at a time.
• Reassure yourself that you have worked hard and that you are ready to compete.
• Remind yourself of successful past performances.
• Remember that your goals are realistic; simply do your very best.
• Focus on doing what is right for you. You are the best judge of that.
• Imagine perfect execution of your skill whether physical or mental.
• Concentrate, stay in the present moment, and don’t let your mind wander.
• Intensify your focus on form, this will take some practice.
• If you hate it, leave it and find something you love.
Start today. You can do it!
Judy Schmoeger, a longtime resident of Lee’s Summit, is owner and general manager of Anytime Fitness.