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Creating a refocusing plan

This is an excerpt from In Pursuit of Excellence, by Terry Orlick, PhD.

Think of a recent situation at work, practice, competition, or in your daily life when you lost it-blew your cool, lost your temper, abandoned your positive focus, or lost your connection with your performance. Think about how you could have responded more positively or more effectively. Then imagine that you are confronting the same situation, but you don’t let it bother you. You stay positive, focused, and in control. You rise above the distraction. Everything that you might have previously seen as negative bounces off you with minimal disturbance. You stay cool, calm, focused, and effective, and you get back on track quickly. That is what I want you to be able to do in your real world. How can you get yourself to do it?

Your focus dictates whether something becomes a distraction or problem for you in the first place. Your focus also has the power to eliminate the distraction or potential problem. Essentially, your focus can create the problem or distraction and can also allow you to eliminate it, which is why developing an effective focus is so critical to your performance and your life.

Every self-initiated positive change begins with three simple steps:

  1. Create a vision. In this case, create a vision of a better way of viewing and responding to potential distractions.
  2. Form a plan. In this case, develop a plan for how you can respond to distractions or potential distractions in a positive, effective way.
  3. Make a decision to act on the plan, again and again and again.

Developing a personal refocusing plan and acting on it will help you make the changes that you are seeking, so that you are more in control and more focused on the right things when you face potential distractions in your performances and your life. You can begin designing your personal plan for distraction control right now by responding to the following questions:

  1. What do you want to change about how you see and respond to distractions or potential distractions in your practices, performances, work, or life?
  2. Why do you want to change how you see or respond to distractions or potential distractions in these parts of your performance or life? Why is it important for you to make these changes?
  3. If you come up with a personal distraction control plan right now, can you decide to act on this plan repeatedly until you gain control over your focus and your distractions? If your answer to this deciding question is yes, then you will make the changes that you are seeking. If your answer is no, then rethink why it is important for you to act on your plan, because to control distractions or to focus through distractions in the real world, only action counts.

After you have answered the three distraction control questions, you are ready to complete the distraction control plan (see figure 7.1). Many of the athletes I have worked with have successfully used this tool to help them pinpoint their distractions and their reminders for dealing effectively with those distractions. Some of them carry that one-page plan with them to competitions and major events until their reminders are automated and inside their heads.

In the first column on the distraction control plan, list the major distractions or refocusing situations that you have faced in the past or are likely to face in the future, those that have interfered with your best focus or best performance. Think about the key events that happen in your world or in your mind that prevent you from being your best, feeling your best, or performing your best. The distractions that you list and target for improvement can be in any area relevant to you. For example, you might identify something that happens to you before, during, or after a practice, competition, or performance, or what happens at home, at school, at work, or within your daily interactions or relationships.

In the second column, indicate your typical response to these distractions in the past. Consider what you were thinking, saying to yourself, or focusing on when you faced these distractions. In the third column, indicate how you would prefer to respond in each of these situations now and in the future. What would you prefer to think, say to yourself, or focus on the next time that you face this potentially distracting situation?

In the fourth column, write down a strong refocusing reminder that you can use in that situation to get your focus back to where you want it to be, back to where it is most beneficial to you and your performance. List key reminders that you can say or think to yourself the next time you face each of the distractions that you have listed in the first column. Write down reminders that you can use in the heat of the moment to refocus and quickly get back on a positive track.

Effective real-world refocusing reminders in potentially stressful situations often begin with a reminder to breathe. You are probably breathing anyway, so you can just focus on your breathing-take one long, slow deep breath in followed by one long, slow, deep breath out. Then you can shift to a focus reminder that has personal meaning for you. Here are some examples:

  • Breathe, relax.
  • Focus, focus, focus.
  • Decide, decide, decide.
  • Change channels.
  • Focus only on my preparation-my game plan.
  • Focus only on what is within my immediate control-nothing else matters
  • This does not have to bother me-park it or tree it.
  • Let it go and focus on the next step.
  • I can perform well regardless of what happened before this moment.
  • Be totally here. Be in this moment.
  • I control my focus-it’s my choice.
  • Shift focus back to what will do me the most good-now!


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