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Focus Like an Elite Athlete

Focus Like an Elite Athlete

Thirty seconds is left on the clock. The game is tied. It is the finals. He has the ball, it is do or die. He has imagined this scene many times before. The pressure is on, but he has a job to do. That is what he is paid to do. He shoots the ball into the hoop and scores a three-pointer. The crowd goes wild.

The above scene sounds dramatic. But it is something that happens all the time in professional sports. Elite athletes condition their mind to perform in many situations. They accomplish what most people only dream of. They know how to operate in the zone and often do the impossible because they are relentless.

A part of being relentless, and subsequently unstoppable, is that they condition their minds to do the work. Their level of focus is off the charts. But can an average person learn to focus like an elite athlete?

Focusing.

You cannot maintain a high level of focus the entire day. However, you can focus for blocks of time during the day. In sports, they talk about being in the zone. Elsewhere, it is about being in a state of flow. In the book Humans in Flow, author Zander Garcez says that reading gets you into a state of flow. How many times have you gotten lost in the pages of a book because you were so engrossed with the story?

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written extensively about being in flow. He published Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. I have read both books, and they are not the easiest books to read and understand. Despite that, there are instructions to help you get into the state of flow. You get more work done in less time because you are super-focused on the activity you are working on.

[Related: What the World Cup Can Teach Us About Success]

Getting into the flow.

Here are instructions for getting into the flow when reading, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

  1. You have clear goals and know exactly what to do.
  2. You get immediate feedback on your actions. You know exactly how well you are doing.
  3. There is the right balance between the challenge of the task and your skill-set.
  4. Your action and awareness are merged. When you are in flow, you are focused on the task you are working on.
  5. You exclude distractions from your consciousness. You are mindful of what is relevant now. Flow is the result of intense concentration on the present.
  6. You are not worried about failure. You are so deeply focused on the task at hand that there is no room for worry.
  7. Your self-consciousness disappears. You are so focused on what you are doing that your ego remains in check.
  8. Your sense of time becomes distorted because time quickly passes and hours may seem like minutes.
  9. Whenever most of the above are in place, you start to enjoy the task that causes the experience. You start to enjoy the activity for its own sake.

The above nine things tell you how you will feel when in the flow. But that is not enough, is it? I have been in the flow and experienced all the above. However, if you asked me how to get into the flow, I wouldn’t be able to answer until now.

Technology and getting into the flow.

Garcez mentions some apps he has used with great success. I talked with him, and he walked me through his process. What he made clear was that it was experimentation. This means that an app that I have had success with may not give you the same results.

You need to find one that works for you. Additionally, by talking to people and sharing information, I learned about more apps to try.

[Related: Three Strategies for Women to Take Control of Their Visibility and Impact]

Brain.fm and Brainwave 35 Binaural Program.

Choose blocks of time in which you will do focused work. I use the audio apps when I'm reading and writing and a few have worked very well for me. I've had success with Brain.fm and Brainwave 35 Binaural Program.

The first is for both iOS and Android devices and the latter is only for iOS devices. Brain.fm took me into the flow faster, and I found the experience intense. Before you use the audio apps, you should read the disclaimers first. And experiment to find what works for you.

For instance, I have noticed that some settings of the Brainwave 35 Binaural Program do not get me into the flow. The Critical Thinking, Focused and Alert, and Concentration settings get me into the flow, while the Problem-Solving one does not.

Other apps to get you into the flow.

I will be testing Brain Wave Pro, Brain Wave Therapy Pro, and Binaural Beats Study Music. I am not endorsing these apps. They were referred to me by people who have had great success.

A few people have asked me if I listen to the apps to get into the zone, then turn them off and proceed with my work. I turn on the apps before I start my work, and I continue to listen to them as I work. On the other hand, I know someone who listens to the audio to get into the zone, then she shuts it off.

Here are a few audio apps you can experiment with to get into the zone. I know people who have used the free versions with success.

  1. Brain Waves - Binaural Beats by MynioTech Apps (I have the pro version).
  2. Binaural Beats - Study Music by Craftsman Spirit.
  3. Brain Wave Therapy (Binaural) by Black Coffee Programming (I have the pro version).

Now you can blend technology with the old school way of getting into the flow.

[Related: Olympic Gymnast Carly Patterson on Patience, Perseverance, and Overcoming Disappointment]

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Avil Beckford, the founder of The Invisible Mentor, is an expert interviewer, published author, and writer. In two years, she wants to get 1,000 professionals reading a book every week. She will help you to learn, stretch, and grow to aid you in your career development. To do this, she created the Performance Accelerator plan to help professionals read the right books to learn key skills to succeed, while developing intercultural awareness since you will also be reading the world.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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