Want to play mentally tougher? Want to consistently do your best when it counts the most? If so, then you have to learn to keep your eyes on the path, NOT the destination! All too often athletes get too hung up on where they want to go instead of keeping their focus and attention on what they are doing in the moment. Because they mentally get ahead of themselves, these athletes end up tightening up and then falling apart performance-wise.
Here’s a little metaphor for you: Imagine that you are running a race through a field of tall grass. Two miles in the distance at the end of the field, you can clearly see the finish line. Unfortunately, the field you’re running through is littered with rocks and exposed roots. What do you think will happen to you if, during that race, you keep your eyes completely focused in the distance on the finish line and getting a good time or place? That’s right! You’ll either snag a root or trip over a rock and, in either case, you’ll go down fast and hard!
Keeping your eyes on the path, on exactly what’s in front of you right now means that you have to discipline yourself to stay away from an outcome focus when you perform and instead, concentrate on the task at hand, moment by moment. You need to focus on this putt and maintaining the feel of “soft hands,” on this pitch and keeping yourself loose and relaxed, on this shot or on this play and what’s right in front of you.
Every time you allow your mind to drift to thoughts about the future, i.e. the score, “what if’s” or winning/qualifying and/or losing, it’s as if you have just raised your head to look towards the finish line and real soon you’re going to trip and go down! Instead, get yourself to concentrate on “each step,” one step at a time. That’s exactly how Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle recently pitched a perfect game, by keeping his concentration on the path, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time and NOT on the destination, a perfect game.