Direct your Focus and take Control!

Direct your Focus and take Control!

We have an epidemic in our society that relies on wins and losses, likes and followers, the opinions of other people, and the idea of perfectionism as a measure of success!  There is a fragility of our personal strength and reluctance to rely on our own resources because we have put such a heavy emphasis on outside influences that give us the “feeling” that we are talented and successful.

The truth is the real power and source of our greatness comes from our ability to influence the things that we can control.   Life is unpredictable and results are uncertain, therefore we must trust ourselves and practice our resilience by dealing with uncomfortable situations and getting gritty about solving problems.  The formula for success is having faith that there is a bottomless well of energy and ideas that are deep within us and this is what generates our personal power.  On the other hand, power placed on outside influences are very limited and conditional and will only take you so far on your journey for success and happiness.

For those of you who know me,  I am a huge Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo fan.   I knew that a big part of his mental fortitude comes from focusing on what is in his control.  I searched high and low for a video of him expressing just this.  I found one!  Click here to view the video:

Giannis, “The only thing you can control is your attitude and effort.” 

One of the most important exercises I do with every single individual and team that I work with is to define the exact things that they can control for the particular situation that they would like to master.  Most of us are unaware that our thoughts are so easily drawn to things that lead our energy and attention astray. Therefore, the awareness and preparation of how to direct your focus are crucial to staying strong and giving your best at all times!

Have you ever been stuck in traffic so there is no possibility you will make an important appointment?   Our thoughts get completely fixated on the problems that will result from missing the meeting, whereas, your best use of energy is to accept what is and start thinking of ways to formulate a new plan.

Athletes tend to focus on other opponents, the weather, the conditions of the course, and the results.  All of which is out of the direct control of the athlete and therefore will lower confidence and create doubt and anxiety.  Again, a very fragile place to put your attention and source of power.

When working with a previous golf client who was frustrated with his current level of play, we discovered that his lack of confidence going into a round began during the warm-ups.  He worried about executing a particular, low percentage shot, during the round so he mostly practiced this shot right before his match.  This left him feeling tight and tentative during the round because the attention was on a potential problem.   To take back control, he practiced the shots that exploited his assets so he could begin the round with greater confidence and energy.  He developed an intentional warm-up that focused on maintaining the trust he had to play the game to the best of his ability.  These types of strategies alleviate stress because it gives the mind a direction to know exactly what to put the focus on.  We create the reality of what we want for ourselves by what we focus on now.

As Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

In this post, you will learn about 5 basic areas that we can direct our focus in order to take control of any situation.   I encourage you to list specific things that are within your direct control in each of these areas.  Pick one or two that are a priority for you and focus on doing a particular action for a day or two, then notice the shift in your results and in your psyche.

These are the 5 areas that you can take control of to succeed in your game and in your life:

1. The Breath – To create a mental environment that is clear and aware of what is needed to take control, the breath is the very first tool to utilize.  In a previous post, I discussed the box breath (breathe in 4 counts, hold 4, exhale 4, hold 4, and repeat) or just feel and notice the breath to center yourself.  Your nervous system will respond favorably and you can then harness your energy and focus on what is needed next.

2. Attitude and Reactivity – As Giannis said, “attitude and effort” are the only things he can control.     The energy and motivation that comes from within are pure and endless when we can tap into our internal resources.   The result is an attitude that is forward thinking and in charge of emotions.   We cannot control our opponents, a bad referee call or traffic jam, but we can react with clarity and flexibility in any situation we encounter that is challenging.  If you tend to be a perfectionist,  what happens if something doesn’t go your way?  A great mantra for perfectionism is “Expect nothing, grateful for everything.”  We are never entitled to be the best at anything, it is up to us to work hard and earn it.


3. Thoughts and Beliefs – I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say something negative about themselves or how they suck at something just before they are about to perform and put themselves on the line.  Our behaviors like to take the direction of our thoughts and words like a heat-seeking missile.  What you tell yourself, your quality of self-talk will play out in your actions.  Are you aware of how you speak to yourself?  I also like to chuckle a bit when someone says “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible.”  This is just like saying you are not very strong so you won’t do strength exercises.  The thoughts that you say to yourself can often be self-limiting and keep you from doing awesome things!

Our beliefs and thoughts are in our direct control.  Believe that something good is going to take place.  Have the resiliency of spirit that has the depth and desire to outlast!  Have a positive intention and create images in your mind that look beyond any slumps or setbacks you may be facing.  This is a lifestyle approach and will bring you optimism, joy, and adventure to you!  Maybe you will even like yoga 🙂

4.  Physical and Mental Preparation –  We are in control of our effort and responsible for the training of our skills both physically and mentally.  Physically, you can train and practice the skills for your area of expertise.  For instance, when giving talks, I have to rehearse over and over again to feel comfortable and clear with the information I will be delivering.  A tennis player practices their serves repetitively for consistency and power.  Honest awareness of skills that are weaker will encourage goals to improve them.  Playing and performing regularly, strength training, proper nutrition, rest and recovery are all under your direct control. Mentally prepare by setting intentions and visualizing yourself in your most optimal performance state or positively overcoming a challenging situation. Imagine yourself performing, living, being the person that you want to be. Imagery is a powerful skill that requires training.  We are the only ones to control our bodies and minds, so we must be in charge of our preparation to determine our results.

Imagine yourself performing, living, being the person that you want to be.

5. Attention and the Present Moment – The present moment is where the magic happens!  The present moment is the only time we have total control over all of our skills and abilities.   When we are focused on the process, what is needed to execute in the here and now, we will live and play with confidence and flow.  With present moment attention, our thinking is clear and our mind is free to react with agility and creativity. Focusing on outcomes can result in stress and pressure because we do not have control over the final results.  Likewise, when we are unable to let go of past experiences, we allow disempowering thoughts to control us.

One of the best ways to strengthen the mental muscle of being present is through mindfulness meditation.  As in step #1, the breath is a fabulous way to recenter!

These areas of focus and control are the main tenets of sport psychology and are universal to living and giving the very best of yourself.   I can’t wait to share with you more in-depth tips and resources on how to harness these areas of control in future posts!

Please share these posts with anyone you feel may benefit or contact me and we can dive into what specifically you can do to strengthen your focus, confidence, and control!