3 Simple Ways to Sharpen Your Mental Focus
There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur. When you own a business, all of the weight is on your shoulders. You are responsible for making it happen, not only for your own livelihood, but also for the people working for you.
Many entrepreneurs credit coaches and mentors with helping them stay sharp and get through difficult times. Over the past few months, I have been exploring the possibilities of working with a coach, and after some inner-circle networking, I connected with Chris Majer, founder and CEO of the Human Potential Project and The Drivers Seat.
Majer’s professional career evolved out of his early days as a competitive rugby player. In 1981, he began working exclusively with athletes to isolate and reproduce the elements of consistent winning performance, which caught the attention of the military. Majer and his firm then spent nearly three years working with the army to design new ways of training soldiers. In the following years, Majer began working with corporate clients, growing into a skilled team of professionals working globally. At his peak, Majer was the principal architect of transformational projects for corporate clients such as AT&T, Cargill, Microsoft, Intel, EDS, Capital One, Amgen and Allianz Life of North America.
I firmly believe that everyone is always seeking a mental edge, from entrepreneurs to athletes. Everyone wants to improve his or her performance and get ahead. That’s exactly what led to me connecting with Majer -- I wanted an edge.
In talking with Majer, he explained that it takes time and commitment to develop a robust set of mental fitness practices. I asked him to give me some simple ways to sharpen mental focus, and he gave me the three following tips.
1. Breathe properly.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation and need to calm down, breathing is the easiest and fastest way to do it. Stress causes your body to tighten and your breathing to get shallower.
“To reverse this," explains Majer, "take three deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let each breath be a deeper and slower than the previous. As you do this, relax your forehead, your jaw and your tongue. Most people have their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth all day -- let it relax with the rest of you. As you exhale, soften your chest muscles, bend your knees a bit and wiggle your toes. This is a quick, simple and effective way to calm yourself in any situation."
2. Discipline your mind to focus on one thing at a time.
The human mind doesn’t like discipline. That’s why it’s important to develop the capacity to focus -- to put singular attention on one conversation or activity at a time. We like to delude ourselves with the notion of multi-tasking, but the mind can only do one thing at a time.
I’m a huge multitasker, and it’s a very common weakness, according to Majer. He believes you should constantly tell yourself to focus, explaining, “Start with the breathing exercise mentioned first, and then put all of your energy into whatever it is that you need to focus on -- the person sitting across from you, the spread sheet on your computer, the email to complete, etc. Now, stay engaged and alert, and if or when you find yourself wandering off, bring yourself back to the moment with the simple, one-word trigger -- focus.”
3. Control your inner critic.
Everyone has a little voice in our heads. Whether you listen to that voice is entirely up to you, though. There are always going to be situations where you'll second-guess your ability.
You have to have complete confidence. The moment self-doubt enters your mind, the odds of failing greatly increases. You have to control and silence your inner critic.
“Go into every situation thinking only of the best possible outcome," Majer says, "staying completely focused on that specific outcome. This trains your mind to push out all negative thoughts that your inner critic would typically place in your head."
Breathe, focus and control your inner critic. These three techniques sound simple, but try them in practice and watch how they can help your daily productivity.