Pay Attention: The Skill of Focus
Written by: Dr Ivan Joseph
Self-confidence is what I call a master skill. We acquire it when we practice and become proficient at five supporting skills: positive thought, team building, grit, higher expectations, and focus. Read on to know why focus is important for self confidence.
A quick story on the skill of focus:
When I was coaching at Graceland, I had a young Mexican player named Isaias Diaz on the team. He was a decent player but not as good as he could be. In fact, at times, he had an upside-down spoon on his foot. But he had an incredible capacity to control his focus, such as when our team traveled to Brownsville, Texas, for a game, and we encountered a racist crowd…
The fans stood right at the home team’s sideline and yelled racist slurs at my Latino players.
As the game progressed, it was clear that my right fullback was having trouble concentrating on the game. The crowd was succeeding at what they had in mind: they were getting him off his game and fragmenting his focus.
So Isaias, who was on my side of the field, said, “Give it to me, Coach,” and we swapped the fullbacks.
Throughout the entire first half, Isaias played with only one focus—the game. He didn’t even hear the crowd. And when we switched ends at the half, he went back to his side so that he was still right next to the hateful crowd.
His focus did not extend past what he needed to do on the field, and so he was able to succeed.
In sport, there are generally two categories of focus: broad versus narrow, and inner versus outer.
- The first category, broad versus narrow focus, is the difference between a quarterback who needs to see the whole field and a golfer who has to concentrate exclusively on a single target.
- The second category, inner versus outer focus, is the difference between knowing what is happening inside you (heart rate, blood pressure, nervousness) and what is happening around you (what other people are doing, the weather, the ambient noise).
The idea is that, depending on the situation, the athlete needs to develop and apply the appropriate kind of focus.
Knowing this changes the way a coach sets up drills in practice and the way skills are developed for game-day execution.
In ordinary life, you shift focus all the time, but if you don’t know it or aren’t able to see what kind of focus is needed for a particular role or task, it’s easy to zoom in on the wrong thing.
Learning how to focus and how to determine what kind of focus is needed will help you improve— especially if you allocate time effectively to the tasks and activities that get you where you want to go. And once you learn how to control your focus, your belief in your ability to accomplish the task at hand grows.
Here are 3 steps to develop the skill of focus.
Focus Builder #1: Focus on What You Want
Have you ever been in a situation where a noise is bothering you and, no matter what you do, you can’t stop hearing it? Someone chewing gum on the train or tapping their pen in a meeting?
This happened to health coach Daniel Cox, when he lived in an apartment on the main floor of a house. For weeks he obsessed about the noise from the family living above him: loud voices, stomping feet, music playing, chairs dragging.
He grew so irate about it that he complained on his Facebook page. Some of his friends saw it and told him that the problem was with him and that he just needed to stop focusing on the noise.
He took the feedback to heart and decided to get on with his life and try to ignore the racket.