Direct Your Beam!

The relationship between one’s ability to concentrate and performance is undeniable. The better able one is to concentrate, on what is important in the present moment, the more likely one is to achieve a high level of success.

It is important to direct your focus to certain aspects.

However, obtaining this degree of concentration is often difficult for people to achieve. One way to increase concentration is to better understand the entire process which leads to one’s ability to concentrate.

This process includes attention, focus, and finally, concentration. When attending to something, one is aware of everything that can be seen or heard at one time.

This vast amount of information can be overwhelming and can thus lead to making mistakes and experiencing a decrease in performance.

Instead of attending to everything, one should narrow his or her attention by focusing on only the important aspects of the task at hand. This narrowed attentional focus will then facilitate one’s ability to fully concentrate or have a clear and present-minded focus.

To do this, try imagining that your ability to concentrate is centered around a beam of light.

A beam that can be expanded or narrowed, depending on what you are trying to do. When faced with completing a task, identify the important aspects of the task and shine your beam on only those aspects.

Try to keep all unimportant and irrelevant things outside of the beam. This will ensure that you aren’t focusing on things that have nothing to do with the execution of your current task.

Doing so will help you maintain a higher level of concentration and increase your overall performance – whether it is in the classroom, the boardroom, on the stage or in the field!

Get in Your ZONE!

Most individuals, whether an athlete, a student, a professional or performer, have an individualized zone of optimal functioning (IZOF) or range of bodily arousal (e.g., heart-rate, breathing pace, the degree of sweating, etc.) that is necessary to perform at a high level.

For some, that arousal will need to be high, for others it may need to be stable, and for a select few, it may even need to be low.

Regardless of the degree of arousal needed, it’s important that individuals are aware of their own zone so that if they are not currently in that zone, something can be done to get in that zone.

One of the best ways to determine if you are in your zone is to increase your awareness of how your bodily arousal is related to your performance. This can be achieved by conducting a quick bodily “check” prior to any performance.

Try and take notice of your heart-rate, your frequency of breaths, and whether or not you have any “butterflies” in your stomach. Then, go out and perform.

When you are finished, evaluate your performance and see if there is any connection between how well you did, and how your body was feeling.

After a week or so of conducting these types of checks, you should be able to see a trend emerge. Once you’ve identified your IZOF, if you conduct a check and find yourself out of your zone, you will then be able to take active steps to bring you back into your zone.

For example, an individual who needs an increased level of arousal to perform at an optimal level may try listening to energizing music, while one that needs a reduced level of arousal may engage in focused breathing.

Identifying your IZOF and using self-regulating techniques such as breathing, mental imagery, or self-talk to get you in that zone, will help increase your performance in the classroom, in the boardroom, on the stage or in the field.

Furthermore, getting into your zone on a consistent basis will lead to consistently higher performance.

Check out more content from Dr. Patrick Young!

Dr. Patrick Young
Dr. Patrick Young is a certified consult within the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (CC-AASP), and specializes in providing individuals with the psychological tools necessary to reach their full potential. He is an expert in sport, exercise, and performance psychology and has consulted with NCAA Division I and II athletes, junior college athletes, and amateur athletes of all ages. In addition to athletes, Dr. Young consults with students, business executives, and individuals within the performing arts. Dr. Young is also a Professor of Psychology at Wingate University, where he teaches Sport and Exercise Psychology, Performance Psychology and Health Psychology, and has authored several articles within peer-reviewed journals and regularly contributes sport and performance based articles on


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