Are there times when you struggle to focus on the task at hand? Perhaps that’s because there’s too much going on in your attentional field. What’s that? It’s a term used to describe everything within your attention span – your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, sights and sounds around you. Right now your attention is on the website reading this, but you may at the same time be distracted by other things like the mug of tea you’re sipping, the sound of your child or pet in the background, the thoughts of a deadline looming later today.
Focus is the ability to attend to internal cues (what’s going on inside of you, your feelings and thoughts) and external cues (what’s going on around you, like the knock on the door) in your attentional field. In all areas of life, whether you’re giving a presentation at work, having an important conversation with your spouse or training for a marathon, in order to excel you need to be able to focus.
What can you do to learn how to focus better? Here are two main skills you’ll need to master:
- In order to tap into the tremendous power of concentration, determine what the relevant cues to the task at hand are and learn to focus only on them. We learn to selectively focus on or block out cues every day, otherwise the background noises and activities would drive us crazy.
Think about a star ball player. He must be in tune to his technique, his opponent, the score, the referee, the coach, and time remaining on the scoreboard, to name only a few cues vying for his attention. What would happen if his focus shifted to the pretty girl in the bleachers? He, in all likelihood, might miss the ball flying towards him. Hence at this point and time, that pretty girl would be considered a performance-irrelevant cue that must be ignored.
- So the second skill for achieving better focus is determining what the performance-irrelevant cues are so you can ignore them as you strive to excel. These would be anything that would hurt your performance when you must accomplish a task.
There are two types of harmful cues that you’ll encounter:
Interfering cues are those that directly hurt your performance such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and concern over what others think.
Irrelevant cues are those that distract you from an effective focus including what restaurant you’ll go to tonight, the project that you must finish by tomorrow, or that pretty girl in the bleachers.
Each of us has a different dominant focus style, which is what we default to under stress. We pay attention in two distinct ways. These two focus styles are…
Internal-focus style. These people are totally and consistently focused during a specific activity like a presentation, a practice session or a competition. They need to keep their focus narrow, thinking only about their performance all the time. The down side of this intensity is that they also tend to be easily distracted by their surroundings.
External-focus style. These people only focus on their specific activity when they’re about to begin the event or competition. They function better by taking their mind off of the activity at all other times, because they tend to over-think, becoming negative, critical, and anxious. For them to excel, they must focus on other things when they’re not actually performing.
Neither approach is right or wrong. The important thing is identifying your focus style and utilizing it to improve your powers of concentration. If you’re trying to force yourself to adopt a style other than your own, you’ll find that under pressure you’ll revert back to your normal style and that could really throw you off your game.
Would you like assistance in utilizing your personal style to excel at everything you do? We can work together in person or via Skype. Please contact me and I’ll be happy to help you identify your weakness and learn how to tap into your strengths.
A good place to begin is by taking my 7-Point Wellness Assessment. You can download your free copy by clicking here.
“A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.” ~ Joyce Brothers
Did you know that how you see yourself in your own mind has a great impact on your fitness level? Scientists and sports coaches have found that when you imagine yourself as fit and healthy, the brain believes it, which encourages you to make choices that consistently support your self-image as a fit person. To reinforce this positive shift you can definitely benefit from mental strength training.
That’s right! To improve your physical fitness you need to strengthen your mental fitness. Why? Because mental strength training will help you shift your self-image so you are empowered to reach your potential. Imagine how your fitness will improve when you can…
- Focus and deal with distractions. Rather than having a result-oriented focus, you’ll be able to focus on the present moment rather than becoming self-conscious.
- Develop a fearless mindset. You know that one event doesn’t define you as a person so you’re not afraid of embarrassment or failure.
- Control your emotions. You’ll be able to deal with setbacks and errors as you stay composed under pressure to perform.
- Improve endurance. You’ll be able to perform at your peak for a longer period of time when you are able to work in the “zone”.
- Find your true motivation. You’ll be able to deliver your optimal performance because you’ll be doing things for the right reasons.
What mental training techniques can you use to create a better self-image and boost your fitness level? Here are a few techniques I like to use with my coaching clients:
Relaxation: Calming your mind and body relieves tense muscles, which is essential to allow your muscles to stretch without tearing or pulling your skeletal frame out of alignment. By relaxing and contracting mindfully through all of your muscles groups you create deeper mine/body awareness that allows you to move more freely.
Visualization: Imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of reaching your goal. Do you want to reduce one size? Visualize how great that feels…how much better your balance is…how much stronger you are…how much more stamina you have…how well your clothes fit…how happy you are with the renewed energy to take that mountain hike or play ball with the children. The more engaged you become in this, the more your brain actually believes it to be true.
Anchoring: An anchor is a preset response to a specific stimulus. To help you feel like working out, recall a time when you had an awesome workout. Visualize the experience fully, and at the peak moment set an anchor or cue that makes your brain relive this feeling each time you employ the anchor.
Reframing: Identify your unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive statements that support a positive self-image. Remove the phrase “I should” from your vocabulary. Instead use “I can do X now, which is so much more than when I started.” Also, get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality by refusing to personalize or over-generalize each event. One event does not define who you are as a person.
Mental editing: Whether you perform an exercise routine or only picture it, you activate many of the same brain connections that link what your body does to the controlling brain impulses. It also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. For example, Jack Nicklaus excelled because he practiced each shot in his mind before taking it.
You’ll get the best results if you enlist the assistance of a trained coach who can teach you how to do each of these techniques correctly. Mental strength training is all about taking you from where you are now and enhancing your fitness and self-image incrementally until your mind/body health transforms you into a top performer. Contact me and we’ll schedule an appointment so you can get started on your path to an excellent self-image and improved fitness.
“Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
…just throw away all thoughts of
and stand firm in that which you are.” ~ Kabir
Can anyone achieve excellence? How do high achievers attain their success? Is it because they’re born with some special power? Not at all! They achieve excellence because they are able to channel their energy effectively under extreme conditions.
Many would say that they consistently tap into their inner strength, their self-control, or self-discipline. I like to think of them being very intentional and deliberate. Rather than getting caught up in checking emails or social media, watching TV, surfing the web, they choose to use their time for developing what really matters to them, enhancing their skills, improving their health and inner being.
Being centered undoubtedly helps you become more intentional. However, don’t be surprised at the beginning if learning to center yourself is challenging. It will involve some effort as you develop new muscle memory. You might be used to being slightly off-balanced!
Also, once you are centered you can’t expect to stay centered for very long! You deplete your energy resources throughout the day, especially during stressful situations. This is why you need a committed practice that keeps you refueled and replenished. Over time you’ll even expand your reserves so you can live life more richly. Consistency is essential to your centering practice.
To illustrate: What happens if you center yourself at the beginning of the day and then stress arises? Will your early morning centering carry you through? It will help, but consistently centering yourself throughout the day is essential to maintaining your balance. Even when you are not feeling particularly emotional or in need of centering, you’ll find that it deepens your practice.
What can you do to begin a steady centering practice?
Anything that helps you feel still and aware can become your centering practice. It’s a way to connect with that space within you that is always calm and at peace. This space is often referred to as your “calm center”. Decisions made from this calm center will be more in alignment with your values; actions taken from this place will be more deliberate and purposeful.
I personally have several practices that help me with centering. A few times a week I practice Aikido at a local dojo. The name Aikido is composed of three Japanese words: ai, meaning harmony; ki, spirit or energy; and do, the path or the way. Aikido is the way of the spirit of harmony. Through this weekly practice, I continue to explore ways to stay centered in my body, to use my center to interact with others and to harmonize with the world in ways that are both self-promoting and life enhancing.
I also practice archery. I’ve done so for the past four years and just recently I’ve started training as a horseback archer. To me horseback archery is not just a cool and fun sport. It’s the harmony of four elements – horse, rider, bow, and arrow – into a powerful center. It’s about moving forward with purpose. It’s a centering practice and a metaphor for life.
My daily Feldenkrais practice also aids centering time to my life. When I lay on my mat or table and I sense into my self through slow, mindful movements. I cultivate that center that’s so useful when I need to be calm, resourceful and perform.
What these three practices have in common is that, in order to perform them, you have to find, develop and express your center. It’s not necessary to spend hours cultivating a centering practice. You can start small, exploring what you enjoy and can practice consistently with ease and pleasure.
Would you like to develop your own customized centering practice to help you cope with stress and live more fully? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and learn how somatic coaching helps you engage your whole mind and body in achieving excellence.
“If you are centered, you can move freely.” ~ Morihei Ueshiba
Have you ever experienced a tense or stressful moment when your heart starts pounding, you’re short of breath, you start sweating and feel light-headed? I think we all have. Maybe you took a deep breath to calm yourself down. You probably didn’t realize that this is a natural way of “centering” your body!
There’s more to centering then an occasional deep breath but the good news is it’s one of the simplest and most helpful forms of calming practice. The “center” refers to a relaxed yet focused state of mind. Being centered means remaining in your calm center amidst the busyness of everyday life. Being centered means not allowing your inner being to be overshadowed by stressful circumstances or negative thoughts and emotions.
When you are centered,
you are in a state of clarity, focus, peace, flow and balance.
When you are not centered,
you are unclear, unfocussed, stressed, and off balance.
Centering is especially helpful in the midst of strong emotional states like excitement or anxiety. It’s often used by athletes, public speakers, actors, or anyone who wants to feel stable and prepared before a potentially stressful event. When life becomes chaotic and demanding, the ability to maintain a relaxed body and focused state of mind can be VERY valuable.
The reasons for cultivating this ability are immense, so start where you are and increase your skills over time. You don’t need to begin with daunting, time and energy consuming activities at first. As I often say, “Start Small!”
You don’t want to wait until you’re confronted with a stressful situation to get started. When practiced often, good centering techniques will require only minimal attention, allowing you to keep some of your attention on the activity at hand.
I personally find that the quickest way to center my mind is through my body. When my spine is alert and soft, my heart is relaxed and open and I stand midway between my back and my front leg, I feel more centered.
I invite you to use centering as your practice for the next three weeks, every day. You’ll need daily intent, discipline, and a curiosity for deepening and learning from the practice to follow through. I suggest a minimum of 5 minutes each day, working up to 15 minutes a day toward the end of the three weeks.
Here are the centering basics to get you started:
- Focus your attention on your sensations and aliveness.Feel what is present in this moment.
- Purposefully bring your attention to your center (2 inches below your navel). What changes in your body as you do this?
- Center in Length. Drop into gravity and your lower body and lengthen up the spine. This promotes dignity, self-worth and your highest vision.
- Center in Width. Balance left to right. Widen from your centerline. Fill out and beyond your edges. This promotes connection, community and interdependence.
- Center in Depth. Fill in, feel the space behind you, inside of you, in front of you. Don’t pull back, nor push forward. This connects you to your past, present, future.
- Center in Purpose. Speak your commitment to yourself. Or center into your calling or longing. Say out loud, “I am a commitment to…”
Are you interested in learning how to center yourself to improve your quality of life? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and learn how somatic coaching can help you engage your whole mind and body in achieving greatness.
“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” ~ Albert Einstein
When it comes to choosing a mentor or life coach it’s definitely not a one size fits all scenario. What’s right for your spouse or best friend may not be a good fit for you. What do you want and need from a mentorship experience?
If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, the time you spend with your mentor will not be as meaningful. So mindfully think about your life. What is the one area of your life you’d like to improve right now? What do you want to change?
There are fundamentally five areas of life to consider when you’re trying to pinpoint who will be the best life coach or mentor for you:
- Relationships and Intimacy
- Life Purpose, Personal Growth and Spirituality
- Goal Setting, Creativity, and Motivation
- Career Planning & Development and Life Balance
- Lifestyle Improvement, Self-Care, and Stress Management
After you identify which area of life you want to grow in, you’ll be able to narrow down what you specifically want to achieve. Then you’ll be ready to seek out a mentor (or several mentors if you want to work on a few areas at once, such as a fitness expert and a business coach) who can help you formulate a sensible plan to help you reach your goals.
But how do you know if a mentor is right for you? Look for a life coach with the following seven consistent characteristics. Consider whether he or she…
1. is available to talk with you on a regular basis so that you can learn, grow and become a better person. Consistency is very important!
2. has qualities and values you admire and want to reflect in your own life.
3. has successfully traveled the road you want to go down and has the patience and skills to show you how to do it too.
4. has a depth of knowledge and wisdom in areas you lack and is able to give valuable advice.
5. will support you as he encourages you to reach for higher goals, to take the next step and to push yourself in ways you never thought possible.
6. will push you harder and keep you going by asking the hard questions that challenge you to come up with hidden answers.
7. will help you dig deep and pull out more of the person you’re meant to be as you reach your full potential.
Which of the above characteristics best fits the place where you are at right now? If you’re in a very fragile place, you may need more nurturing rather than someone pushing you hard. Or if you’re ready to grow but are holding back because of fear, you may need that extra push right now.
When you find the mentor who is right for you, approach your mentoring relationship with an attitude of openness to reveal yourself and willingness to receive feedback. And don’t forget this is a give and take relationship. You have value to share with your mentor as well. As your relationship grows, you very well may have found a best friend for life.
I’m thrilled to work with women in private coaching and group coaching sessions who are ready to expand their ability to consistently make choices that contribute to personal happiness and that of others. If you are ready to partner with me to help you reach your goals, please contact me and let’s talk.