Directed Attention – Part 1

Part 1:  What’s in a word?

Focus!  Your teacher, coach, or parents have all snapped that word at you at some point, or a lot of points.  The word focus has become the standard to garner attention.  However, the word itself has become dull, unoriginal, and lost meaning.  Focus also has many different meanings, which makes it even less potent.

The word itself has become a bugaboo for athletes in particular.  Many athletes think they have to completely “lock in” to perform, which often leads to tension and self-doubt in ability.  Focusing solely on raising intensity and energy is often the wrong place for athletes to focus.  Additionally, the idea to just “focus” is so vague that athlete’s don’t believe they have control over their ability to do it.

The definition of focus, which is often used as a verb in athletics, is defined as one’s ability to direct attention.  When working with athletes, I often talk about directing attention rather than simply focusing.  When the athlete understands they can direct attention to a needed action they become more in control of what they need to do and have a better grasp of how to take ownership of their attention.

Many athletes become so focused on the result that they lose the ability to direct their attention to their needed process.  The ability for an athlete to direct their attention to things in their control, rather than things that are out of their control, often determines an athlete’s ability to perform in the moment.  By simply “focusing” and not directing attention, the athlete loses control over their own focus.  Giving them something to direct their attention to will allow them to get back to the moment when they drift awry.

Directing attention to controllables such as effort, attitude, and self-talk often give the athlete the best opportunity to succeed.

Next week in Part 2, find out how to direct and control your focus!