How to focus on what you want

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text margin_bottom=”10″]Working as an endurance coach with athletes, or as a life coach with clients, one consistent challenge that people face is how to focus on what you do want.

In a majority of cases, human beings find it much easier to focus or share what they don’t want. For runners, this might be, “I don’t want to start too fast and then slow down”; “I don’t want to let my team mates down”; “I don’t want to get sick or injured just before race day”….and more…

The problem with this is that whatever we focus on we empower, and perpetuate. If you focus on what you don’t want, that is what you are likely to achieve. To give you an example, when I first started endurance running as a born again runner at age 28, I ran the only way I knew how, on my toes. I had spent my youth as a sprinter, running 100 & 220 yards on the track. My heels never touched the ground, there was no need to…fast forward to training for a half marathon 10 years later, and my calves would cramp up consistently after about 6 or 7 miles, trying to still run on my toes. I would find myself on a run thinking, “don’t cramp, don’t cramp”. Of course, what would inevitably happen is I would cramp up. I went through many frustrating training runs thinking I had overcome this challenge, only to be slowed to a stop again.

Then one day something made a difference. I started focusing on what I did want, to keep relaxed, to keep mobile, and to keep running. Once I had made this mental switch, it also made it possible for me to understand what was happening physically that was making my calves cramp – I needed to drop my heels. My calf muscles didn’t get a chance to relax with each stride, and over a period of time would literally cramp up from being in constant tension. Over a period of a few weeks, I worked on focusing on dropping my heels, thinking about it while running, and visualizing how it looked and felt in between runs. It worked – more than 30 years since that time, my calves haven’t cramped for a long, long time, and I still carry with me those words of wisdom that came to me: “relax, let your heels touch, relax…”

15241275_1534689099894281_830110817198214930_nWe recently included back to back posts on social media that in some ways had a similar message, while were also worlds apart from a mental focus perspective.

The first was “Clear your mind of CAN’T” – the image is on the left. The message is apparent, clear your mind of thinking that you can’t do….whatever it is…
Now this may seem like a great idea. I want to stop thinking I can’t do something, so just stop thinking that way. Easy yeah?
Well, no. The problem is we recognize words as pictures and sounds. In a recent article in Scientific American Mind, researchers suggest “that words are fundamentally processed and catalogued by their basic sounds and shapes.” The meaning of the word gets lost, and we instead process and catalogue another example of “can’t” when we focus on that word, and make sense of it by adding it to the library of “can’ts” that we have developed over our lifetime. The same exact process works for any other word we process – focusing on a word that we don’t want to engage in merely ensures that another layer of belief that actually, we can’t…whatever it is, is added to our experience.


15284847_1536097393086785_7841368065204192421_nThe second post was “Fill your mind with CAN” – this image is also on the left. Now the message is very similar, however the effect is strikingly different.
We have a very different catalogue reference for “CAN” do something. Now the sound and shape is linked to a very different achievement experience.
Not only do we recognize and catalogue words by their sounds and shapes, words also elicit emotional responses too. Saying you “CAN” do something is energizing, inspiring, uplifting, joyful, and more.
The word “CAN” engages us with something that has a very different emotional and process experience. Filling your mind with “CAN” builds a powerful positive neural  library that informs and advises present and future challenges.

The Bolder Boulder is the third largest race in the US, and has been named the all time best 10K by Runners World. Their mantra taps into the strength and power in using positive words, empowering the more than 50,000 runners to believe they can achieve their dreams and aspirations: “OH, YES YOU CAN!” This message is seen not only by all the runners, 70,000+ spectators also see consistent messages that reinforce the “CAN” message.

So, how do you focus on what you want? Here are four key steps to help you:

  1. Use only words that reinforce and help you focus on what it is that you want. Be diligent in choosing words that elicit positive processes and emotions. If you find yourself using a word or words that take you away from your goal, bring your attention back front & center as soon as you notice you have strayed.
  2. Your imagination is a powerful and fertile place that is ready to be used whenever you want to engage it. Use guided imagery or visualization to create a video of you achieving what it is that you want. Remember to engage all your senses, and to say out loud the word or mantra that links with your vision to make it even more potent.
  3. Focus on the important components to you. Keep present and centered on the parts that matter the most, and don’t let fear cloud your ability to be persistent. You CAN do this!
  4. Tell the whole story. Remind yourself on a regular basis what is your bigger picture, your why, and the reasons this is something you really want to achieve. This will empower you to ensure you take those key steps toward your result that fulfills your dream.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text margin_bottom=”10″]Terry Chiplin, the visionary behind activacuity, provides positive coaching sessions for clients, working with athletes to enable a positive focus on their status and goals. He can also create personalized guided imagery sessions for clients, delivered as an mp3 audio file that you can listen to on multiple devices.

activacuity provides a daily dose of positive guided imagery or visualization sessions. Find out what you can do when you make that mind-body connection – check out our subscription options here.

From Estes Park, Colorado, USA, the home of the POSITIVE RUNNING MOVEMENT™.