In today’s day and age, having the ability to “focus” seems like a real superpower, given the popularity of multi-tasking and the incredible amount of distractions around us. Most people would argue that having this ability is something innate. However, contrary to popular belief, this is false. “Focus” is actually a skill that can be (and should be) developed through consistent practice. The problem is that we just haven’t been taught how to “focus”!
More specifically, “focus” can vary in terms of its width and direction. On the one hand, it can either be broad or narrow. For example, an archer can “focus” only on the bullseye in front of him/her (narrow) or the trees and cheering crowd behind it (broad). On the other hand, “focus” can either be internal or external. For instance, before releasing the arrow, an archer can “focus” on the tension in his/her shoulders (internal) or the target (external).
Below are the basic instructions on how to improve your “focus” during a performance:
- Give yourself 30 minutes to complete this exercise
- Determine exactly what kind of “focus” will help you perform to the best of your ability
- Do you want to have broad, medium, or narrow “focus”?
- Do you want to have an internal or external “focus”?
- Pick a word or short phrase that will help you regain your “focus” during a performance
- Make sure that your word or short phrase is positive and meaningful to you
So then, let’s suppose that you are a long-distance runner. Through self-reflection, you figure out that a narrow and internal “focus” is ideal for you and you pick the word “feet”. Therefore, when your mind wanders during a performance (e.g., you think about your aching muscles, you worry about the weather), then simply tell yourself the word “feet” and bring your “focus” back to the sensation under your feet. Do this whenever you notice your mind wandering during a performance.
If your job or sport requires you to have a narrow “focus” for an extended period of time, it’s important that you develop an effective strategy for managing your “focus”, since it’s nearly impossible to stay fully “focused” all the time. In a commentary, Dr. Tribble, a world leader in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery mentioned, that it’s important to create a rhythm between having a narrow and broad “focus”. Like swimming the breaststroke, “you come up for air, transiently becoming aware of more of your surroundings, and then you regain your focus during the next stroke with your face in the water” (Tribble & Newburg, 1998).
Although you can improve your “focus” during a performance by following the instructions outlined above, you can also increase it at home. A great way to do this is to meditate regularly! Luckily, I will be covering this topic next week. In the meantime, refer to my blog post entitled “body scan” (tweaks 2 MYC #18) to get started!
Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.
Tribble, C., & Newburg, D. (1998). Learning to fly: Teaching mental strategies to future surgeons. Journal of Excellence, 1, 6-19. Retrieved from http://www.zoneofexcellence.ca/Journal.html