Today, I am talking about how I help my hypnotherapy clients (especially athletes) to enhance focus and concentration, both of which are considered vital for enhanced performance.
In his 1998 book The inner game of golf, Gallwey suggests that when performing their sport, an athlete should make sure they have three main points of focus. These three points to focus upon are:
Firstly, making sure you give your best every time. Giving the best account of yourself, as is possible. This area of focus is all about delivering as good a performance as you are capable of, not just in races and competitions, but also when training, making sure you hit your targets for each session. The effects of training are diminished if that training session is not approached in the best possible way, with the same vigour and enthusiasm as when you are involved in a race with crowds and lots of runners. Don’t let anything you do become a chore, get focused and engaged with it.
Secondly, that you pay close attention and fully analyse that performance. This focus is whereby you examine your performance and do all you can to learn from it, use the experience and insight to move forward with more effectiveness. When you run a fabulous race, or get a personal best time at 10km or a half marathon, you can look at the conditions and observe in great detail what you did and how you made that happen. Then also, if for any reason you were way off your target time, or you struggled with your race or training run, then you examine what went wrong and how you can eliminate the same thing happening again.
Thirdly, that you enjoy it and have fun training and competing. This is all about having fun running. I know from personal experience that not every training run is going to give you the highest level of joy, especially when it is dark and wet and cold early morning winter training runs preparing for the marathon and you feel like you are the only person in the world crazy enough to be doing what you are doing and it would be so much easier to just roll over and snuggle up in bed for another hour. I know what some of those hill sessions and sprint intervals are like and we don’t always feel like they are fun when our lungs are bursting and we just want to lie down and writhe in agony.
What we aim for is an overriding feeling of enjoyment when we think about running and that as we engage in it as something we are part of (the running world) it was of fun and enjoyment. Anyone who deep down does not really enjoy any aspect of running is very unlikely to notice a huge amount of improvement in their performance, at least according to Gallwey.
I know it gets said a lot in personal development circles, but enjoying the journey as well as aiming for those goals and outcomes is equally as important – when running is fuelled by fun, things are so much easier and heck, life is for enjoying, right? We have so much more of a sense of purpose when it contributes something highly enjoyable to our life. When I ran a 10 mile race in Alton in Hampshire one year, my brother and I chatted about how beautiful the scenery was and how uplifting it was to be part of a community of people all partaking in this event on a gorgeous sunny Sunday morning; it became more fun than when I simply focused on my minute-per-mile timings and splits and what time I was going to come in at the end, almost wishing the race away.
It is obviously not necessary for a runner to use hypnosis and self-hypnosis in order to practice, but it certainly helps and with the combination of mindfulness skills in particular, can aid greatly when you focus on and examine your previous performance.
Focus is not just about having a theme of where to put your attention though, it can also be about concentrating. Let me explain…
Each year, the city of Sheffield here in England hosts the World Snooker Championships.
Have you ever seen a more hypnotic sport? I know that some people would argue that it just sends them to sleep, though it is extremely hypnotic and at times I have found it to be extremely relaxing and exciting and I am amazed at what those professional players can do with the balls.
Snooker players sum up a lot about what I think you need in other sports (and perhaps life in general?) to be successful – they have to practice and practice and practice to get to those levels, they have to be focus on what they want to the exclusion of all else at times, they have to learn from their mistakes and learn from each other. I know you can get metaphors to the same effect from most sports, it is just that in recent years, I was inspired by one particular snooker player.
The hero of the 2007 World Snooker Championship, for me, was the losing finalist – a 23 year old man by the name of Mark Selby. They call him ‘The Jester from Leicester.’ Not only was he wonderfully exciting to watch play snooker… He actually smiles during games!! He has fun, he makes jokes, he entertains, he has a look about him that is extremely endearing and I really warmed to him despite that year being the first time he had broken into the top flight in the Snooker World championships (he has gone on to be consistently one of the best in the world since then). Mark Selby seemed to really enjoy what he was doing and I find that so inspiring.
What really amazed me was this guy’s stamina too.
First of all, because in 2007 he was not in the world top 16 rankings prior to this tournament, he did not get an automatic place in the tournament, so he had to qualify with several matches. In the first round, he came from 5-0 down, to win 10-7. In the second round he beat former world champion Peter Ebdon, having trailed 6-2, he won 13-8. In the quarter finals he won 13-12 in a last frame decider. Then in the semi final, he beat another former world champion Shaun Murphy in a gruelling match, having trailed for much of it, 17-16!! A last frame decider again. Each of these games were hours long and the individual frames were often going on for very long times. The final, which he lost to John Higgins 18-13 went on until the early hours of the morning!
Wow. To maintain that level of mental endurance and concentration for such intense, pressurised lengthy periods of time is just incredible.
I get asked very frequently about how we can increase our powers of focus and concentration and so today I thought I would a simple self-hypnosis technique with you to help you do just that. This technique today can also be used for all manner of things including stress reduction,
Here is a simple technique to help you keep focused for longer periods of time.
Step One: Be in a place where you are not going to be disturbed for a while. Get yourself comfortable, with your arms and legs uncrossed. Then just focus on the moment, notice what thoughts you are thinking, notice the sensation of stillness and the rhythm of your body and just be an observer of your experience for a few moments. Just observe yourself existing in that moment, without interfering with it at all. Then take a slightly deeper breath and exhale slowly while closing your eyes.
Imagine that you can feel gravity pulling you to whatever it is you are resting on. Feel your body being supported. Tune in to the moment and feel how it feels to just relax and observe how and who you are at this moment. Then….
You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my Science of self-hypnosis book, use the free audio we give away on this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:
Heavy Arm Self-Hypnosis Induction Method
Using Eye Fixation for Self-Hypnosis
The Chiasson Self-Hypnosis Method
Hand to Face Self-Hypnosis Induction
Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis
The Coin Drop Self-Hypnosis Induction
However, with this process, an induction is potentially too much activity, so I teach my clients how to adopt a hypnotic mindset and simply have a mindset that is positive and expectant. Again, to really understand the cognitive set of the hypnotic mindset, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book where it is explained in simple but comprehensive terms.
Once you have induced hypnosis, or just adopted the hypnotic mindset, move on to the next step.
Step Two: Now bring your awareness in and concentrate on your breathing. Notice the parts of your body that move as you breathe in and out. Notice the wonder of your breath, be aware of the temperature of it – maybe it feels cooler when you breathe in and warmer as your breathe out.
Imagine that each breath is going deeper. That does not have to be a bigger or a larger breath, just a breath that relaxes you while you are keeping your awareness on it. Be sure at this stage to just let your breath happen without you interfering with it. Keep doing this for a little while as you notice your body relaxing around you and your mind slowing down, yet keeping your awareness on your breath – if your mind wanders, then just keep bringing it back.
Step Three: As you feel more relaxed, noticing the rhythm of your breathing, maybe it slows down slightly. Allow your breath now to move to other parts of your body. Imagine breathing in to muscles and parts of your body and releasing them, relaxing them and imagine the muscles softening and the nerves in those muscles just becoming still and quiet. Not having to do anymore than is absolutely necessary.
Step Four: When you are sure that you have sufficiently relaxed your body and are still focusing on your breathing, now move your awareness to your mind. This is where the key to this technique exists.
Using your imagination, imagine that in front of you is a clear glass jar. The jar is clear, it is clean, even shiny and it is well and truly empty. Really imagine details of the jar, the textures, the way light reflects off it, the top and bottom of it, what kind of lid it has – really get a good idea in your mind of how this jar is.
As you have been doing, observe yourself now. While you continue to observe yourself, imagine that unscrew the lid of the jar and remove it for now.
Look closely at this empty jar, become aware that it is waiting to be filled. Imagine it inviting you to put something inside. So this is your chance to let go of any burdens, any distractions, any unwanted thoughts and aspects of routines from your day. Whether they were generated by your activities, your work, any tasks you are wanting to perform, any errands, your travels, your apprehensions, any anxieties, your cares, any discomfort you may be experiencing or any other thing.
Observe carefully now as one by one you place them into the jar. Imagine that your mind pours it all from inside of you and places it into that jar. Continue now to fill the jar with any remaining distractions, burdens or unwanted thoughts or feelings.
You can have fun here and be creative. Maybe you can imagine a string of things pouring out from you, or a cloud with all these things inside, all travelling into the jar. Empty it all out in to the jar.
Step Five: Carefully and deliberately now, replace the lid on the jar. Give the lid one extra turn.
Breathe deeply now and observe that you stand and begin to carry the jar toward a door. Open the door. Outside, on the front step is a large shiny aluminum trash can. Open its lid now and place your jar inside,… Know that you may dispose of it now and forever.., or return for it at another time, if you wish…. Put the lid back on the trash can… turn from it… walk back through the door. Lock the door and return to your chair.
Affirm with yourself something along the lines of “I have true clarity of thought and supreme concentration and nothing can interfere with it until I have achieved ___________” Or something along those lines, using language that appeals to you and resonates with you of course.
I use this as preparation for speed interval runs as preparation to gear myself up and really focus on my outcomes for that training session; so I fill the blank in (as above) accordingly.
Imagine that you have a focused vision, a level of concentration and focus now that is going to serve you really well with whatever you want to begin focusing on now. Feel it, experience it, imagine brimming over with this track of your mind and imagine generating a state of being within yourself… feel prepared to really be this way.
Step Six: Bring your awareness once again to your breathing and notice its rhythm, pace and depth. Tune in to the moment that you are in once again.
Become aware of your toes and fingers, give them a wiggle or two and then open your eyes.
Hold your body in the way you would when you are focused. Hold your thoughts in a way that says “I am focused” and go about your day or the upcoming task or your run in a truly focused fashion. Spend some time getting yourself really focused and engaged in something that you wish to achieve and notice how much more you excel!
Have a great day.
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Has poor psychology held you back from performing at your best? Would you benefit from advancing your mental game?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others performa better?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Have you read my book Hypnosis for Running: Training Your Mind to Maximise Your Running Performance? It helps any runner, athlete or sportsperson maximise performance.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.