The power of mental focus in achieving goals

Get ‘dialled in’, give it your all, and watch your performance soar!

Focus – the differentiating factor

On the 29th of June, Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake beat world record holder Usain Bolt by 0.11 seconds at the Jamaican national championships. It’s still anyone’s race, and there are at least 5 sprinters out there who can potentially dethrone Bolt.

That being said, it’s not that far out to wonder what would happen if you lined up 10 different sprinters with matching genetics and technical skill to boot, and race for a winner? Who would have the edge? What pushes one competitor to outperform or out last his or her opponent when it comes down to the white line?

It’s been proved time and time again by champions that their edge, that one advantage that they leverage the hell out of, that spark, sits deep inside their conscious beings.

Razor sharp, precision driven, exclusive, laser like focus.

Have you checked out wrestler Sushil Kumar’s training? Or what weightlifter SA Jaehyouk eats? Do you think Michael Phelps puts down pizza after pizza when preparing for the Olympics? It’s a whole new zone, a whole new level of committing to their goals that pushes these athletes to greatness. Here are a few thinking stones that most of my clients jump over to help them really focus.

1. Decisions: Make a few, and see your focus improve

Have you truly ‘decided’ to make a commitment to improving your health and fitness? If you haven’t decided, but merely maybe ‘expressed’ a desire to get fit, you know why you cannot focus! It’s because you have too many other things that you can do with you time. A real decision is when you’ve taken new action to back it up. If there is no action, you haven’t really decided.

Deciding to improve the quality of your health and fitness:

1)   Forces you to become accountable to yourself

2)   Helps you focus on the next steps – because the hardest part is done!

3)   Relieves you of the uncertainty, the ‘grey’ area, the sitting on the fence and waiting for results

4)   Opens up choices: you know what you want – now you have a host of ways to get there

2. Set your sights on a goal, and quantify your effort

Project or write down your goal: What is it? Taking 10 kilos off your weight? Adding 12 kilos to your bench press and reaching that lovely target of a bodyweight bench? Or do you want to complete the 10k in 45 minutes and not look like something out of an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’?

It’s really hard to focus on an ambiguous goal. What if there is no goal? Well, then it’s really, really, hard. It’s like that person in the gym (we all know this one) who’s been trying to ‘lose weight’ and ‘get fit’ while lifting weights, going for the occasional zumba class, hogging the elliptical and turning up religiously 3 days out of 30 to train at the gym.

Write it down, define it, make it measurable. Focus then, comes easy.

3. Build positive images: See yourself in the future, doing what you want to

Imagine that you’ve suddenly been transported into the future, 4 months from now. You’ve put in the hard work, avoided the friendly neighbourhood watering hole more weekends than others, and the aunty next door now gives you fruit instead of pokoras when you pass by.

How do you look? How do you feel? What do you, in your mind’s eye, see yourself wearing? Is the new you the ‘real’ person you want to be? Is there an attractive person who now notices you when you meet your friends on the weekend? Do you feel and act empowered? Is the mass of bone and tissue surrounding your ‘self’ a tool to help you have a great life?

Feeling good? Hang on to those feelings. Play the images back in your head as you train. See who you are in the future, and soon enough, you’ll develop the focus needed to re-arrange priorities, eat clean and stay motivated!

4. The real world: Train to perform and you’ll automatically give it your best!

Remember that a large part of your training in the gym should mimic the way you wish to perform. Motor recruitment patterns take years to develop, and fire automatically when called upon. Imagine learning how to play the guitar – how you position your fingers while initially learning a few chords ultimately becomes automatic with practice. What if you hold the chords with the wrong fingers? You still can play, but it’s harder to improve after the old ‘wrong’ motor patterns become automatic.

When you train to match how you want to perform, your effort will be easily transferrable, and this will reinforce your ability to focus on training.

5. Always assess and evaluate: Is it working?

Is your action taking you closer or farther from your goal? Maybe the action was honest, well-meaning and done in earnest – for example: hiring a trainer or joining the nearest gym. What if the trainer takes the ‘tough love’ approach while you prefer the scientific ‘big bang theory’ approach? What if your gym turns out to be more of a discotheque than a place to train? Do you quit? Or will you assess, make a decision, record it and back it up with action?

If you don’t periodically check where you’re heading, you’re going to lose sight of the goal.

If you’ve always trained while chatting, not sweating, and trying to catch a stock quote on the gym TV, you are unconsciously telling your body ‘this is what training feels like’, ‘this feels good’ and ‘this is me getting a good workout’. It also means that you are not focussing!

It’s not surprising that a majority of trainees sign up for yearly memberships and fall out in a couple of months – it’s also where most gyms make their money, because everyone signs up, but few show up!

If you find your attention waning, and your focus floundering, take yourself through the sequence mentioned above, it will help you stay focussed on your effort, and ultimately, your results.

Written by Fareed Majeed, Fitness Trainer

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