Focused Connection to Goals

“Nothing is more important to the future of an idea than the first step you take to try it out.”
–O.A. Battista

Focus comes from having a clear mind. In the middle of a big game or a stressful moment, this may sound impossible. But the most elite athletes, like the ones competing in the Super Bowl this past weekend, have learned to compartmentalize their thoughts, or divide them into distinct parts. In sports terms, this simply means to not think about anything else except the moment. In order for a kicker to score the winning goal in a soccer match, he has to be able to clear his mind. If he fails to do so, he will lose focus and be overwhelmed by anxiety and worry.

It is crucial to have an uninterrupted connection between you and your goal. This focused connection allows you to complete every move and task required in a given game. Without this mental skill, you will find yourself thinking of your big exam the next day, rather than focusing on the ball in front of you.

Without a focused connection to your goal, it is also easy to be bogged down by adversity. When you’re down 20 points in the third quarter, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and try to force big plays and get everything back at once. But with a focused connection to your goal, you can work one step at a time—yard by yard, play by play—to make a comeback in the right way.

Everyone can benefit from focused connection. The mental skill it requires will help you reduce anxiety and improve performance.

For former fighter pilot Chris Hadfield, compartmentalization and focus were crucial to a successful flight.

“When you are flying on an airplane 500 miles an hour, there are all kinds of things that don’t matter and there are few things that really matter. In a high performance airplane, things happen quickly. The next ½ mile or 15 seconds is all that matters— you need to completely compartmentalize and disregard things that don’t matter— bills, problems at home, etc. Even though it may be extremely important at another time, you don’t have to pay attention to it. You need to focus on the task at hand.”

Here are the two key focuses that help you focus on the task at hand:

  1. Focus Practice
  • Listen closely to the person speaking. Clear your mind and connect fully with what the person is saying.
  • Focus on different thoughts during a work out. Think “quickness,” “float,” or “power.” Do this ten times in a row.
  • Do a body scan. Focus on different parts of your body. Are my calves relaxed? Focus on specific parts of your body and think relaxation.
  • Sit quietly, relax your breathing, and pick an object to focus on.
  1. Focus Strategies
  • Return to the basics.
  • Reassure yourself that you are trained and prepared.
  • Remember that your goals are realistic. You want to perform at the level you are capable.
  • Remind yourself to stay in the moment. Focus on doing your job.
  • Training and performing should be enjoyed. Embrace the good aspects.

The outcome of focused connection to small goals will be in your favor. When you give 100 percent to each play, you are capable of embracing each moment for its challenges and rewards.