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Do you want to improve your focus in competition? Could your performance benefit from improved focus? Do you struggle with motivation or what to focus on when competing?

Focus is like a spotlight. You can control how wide or narrow it is and whether it is internal or external. For example if you are focused on your thoughts or on the environment. You never lose focus you just change it to incorrect or correct, relevant or irrelevant things.

The technique explained in this post is: Setting process goals for every practice and competition. This is a simple but very effective technique that has instant success at improving focus and performance during competition/practice. If you consistently set process goals before every competition this will direct your focus to relevant information and you will consistently have the correct focus for you to perform well.

How to set successful process goals?

  • Process goals focus on the process of playing and what you need to do to play well

  • Process goals focus on things in your control, for example strategy, mental skills, or technique

  • They should be specific and focused on task-relevant information for example instead of hit my serve to the backhand, it should be something such as: To clear the net high with spin and direct it towards the backhand 60% of the time

  • It is most important that you decide how to measure your progress. If you set a mental goal it may be hard to measure progress but one way to do this is rate it yourself. For example set a goal to use your pre-serve routine a minimum of 70% of the time during each match. Afterward you can easily rate and review whether you met this goal. It doesn’t have to be a perfect measure but as long as you can monitor progress it will work

How does this technique benefit performance?

By setting goals and deciding to hold yourself accountable after each competition, this directs you to concentrate on these goals because you want to achieve them. If you have chosen the correct goals you will be more motivated to achieve them. This will improve your focus, decrease anxiety and increase confidence.

If you think about these process goals when competing and achieve the strategies you identified, this technique will be effective in improving your performance. It is still surprising to me when I talk to or work with athletes who are not using goal-setting to benefit their performance. Don’t miss out on this simple but effective technique. Follow the steps below:

  • Choose the 3 most important things you need to do in your upcoming competition. You have identified the correct things if you know that when you achieve these 3 things you will be performing at your best. These should be things that you need to improve or are working on. Don't not set goals for things you already do automatically or that are easy for you.

  • Once you have done this identify 1-3 strategies that you need to accomplish in order to achieve each of these goals. These can include a specific technical correction, a strategy that is part of your game plan or important focus points or mental reminders. I have included specific examples from athletes I have worked with at the end of this post.

How can you apply this technique to improve your performance?

For each competition or game set 3 process goals including strategies to achieve each. For example a junior female tennis player developed the following goal: To clear the net high with spin and direct it towards the backhand 60% of the time. Her strategies were: Use my pre-serve routine and have the same focus points for each serve. You want to set 3 goals similar to this.

A second example is for a junior baseball player who set the following goal: Focus on one pitch at a time 70% of the time. His strategies were: Use my pitching routine and let go of the previous pitch quickly, no matter what happened.

A third example is for a female gymnast who set the following goal: Focus on good form for beam. Her strategies were: Take one skill at a time, remember my corrections by using cue words and, keep focused when waiting to compete by using my pre-apparatus routines to physically and mentally prepare.

For this technique to be most effective you need to review your goals after each competition. It is important to figure out why you achieved them if you did or why not if you didn't.

If you want to get more tips and exercises, sign up for my free newsletter here. You will receive my free e-book: Top Ten Mental Mistakes Athletes Make In Competition: What Every Athlete, Coach and Parent Need To Avoid To Improve Mental Toughness. Plus you get the strategies top athletes use to become mentally tough and get an edge over their opponents.

If you would like more customized tips and an individualized mental training plan you can Contact Me here. You can also find out more about my services and why you should work with me on my Services Page here.

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Zoe Littlewood, M.A. -
Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Skills Coach

Zoe specializes in working with individuals, teams, parents and coaches to produce performance enhancement, mental toughness and a winning mindset.

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