The Confidence Course
“What do I mean by concentration? I mean focusing totally on the business at hand and commanding your body to do exactly what you want it to do”
Concentration…The Fourth Layer
I love the saying above by legendary golfer, Arnold Palmer, in his discussion of what is meant by concentration. Arnold Palmer, by anyone’s standards, exemplified confidence whether he was on the golf course, doing hospital charity events, or even doing commercials. Everything about him said that he was filled with self-confidence and certitude! Even the way he walked and swung a golf club with his violent swing typified someone having the self-confidence to do things their own way. In fact, that was one of Arnold’s favorite teaching axioms: “Find your own game, find your own swing and swing it!”
But even more than his athletic ability to play golf, Arnold Palmer had a way of meeting people and making them feel extremely special by looking them squarely in the eye and telling them how nice it was to meet them! And he genuinely meant it! By having had the privilege of learning and playing with him a few times, I truly have a personal understanding of what he meant by this statement. When you are totally focused on exactly what you want to do, it provides you the direction of energy to after your goal because you have narrowed your focus to do this one thing to the exclusion of anything else in your way. By narrowing your focus on what you want to achieve leads to success.
To his credit, Arnold Palmer did a number of things because he was taught to do them a certain and special way by virtue of his role model, his father, Deacon Palmer. The elder Palmer made sure that his son signed autographs so that people could read his name and know that it was Arnold Palmer’s signature and that there would be no mistaking it! Another thing he took from his father was the simple habit of always taking your hat off when you entered a restaurant or public or private place of business, Even to this day, it is still a top priority of Arnold’s and is a hallowed trademark of the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida. Arnold also would take the time to focus on a little boy or girl in the crowd and run over and give them a handshake or a toss of their hair and make them feel special and later to learn that they would become lifelong fans. These were a few of the little things that he did that helped build up the love and respect of the man and the legend. But the reason I am listing the things that Arnold did was that they were little things that added up to discipline, focus and ultimately led to his confident nature about doing things.
To say concentration is the ability to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others is a common definition, but it is more about two dimensions that add to the ability to focus. One of them is attention and the other is your intention. Both of these dimensions add to the quality of great focus and concentration. Attention is more commonly referred to as the energy you are giving to the task at hand and what needs to be done to accomplish the job. Intention is the dimension that deals with the question of what you want to accomplish and where do you want to go with your energy? Both of them combined are what we know as the ability to focus.
What all of this has to do with confidence is that in order to be able to achieve many of your goals, you must have a form of focused self-discipline in order to carry out the orders of the task. This means that you have to compartmentalize and sort out the absolute necessity from the frills. This is a form of prioritization. I always love the motivational speaker and former football coach Lou Holtz, who used the acronym of WIN. Lou suggested that it meant: What’s Important Now! In this way, Lou was setting what could be done in this singular moment and what was top priority. As Bill Belicheck of the New England Patriots football team would always implore his players to “do you job”. By them doing what they could focus on and control, would lead to ultimate team cohesion and many times a victory.
Concentration by its very nature is the ability to focus on one singular thing, but it is a vital foundation in the Confidence Pyramid which allows you to stay engaged in the moment to achieve success during the act of performing. That is why it is a crucial aspect in your development. The following exercises will help you learn how to focus your energies on the tasks ahead.
Exercise # 1…..Breathing into Nothingness
This is a fun and easy exercise to start with because it requires very little effort and accessories. First of all, find yourself a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Be seated and take in a few deep breaths. With your eyes open, focus on a spot on the wall a few feet in front of you. You could focus on the corner of a picture or even the picture itself if you want. Now, breathe in slowly to a mental count of 3 and then hold for a second and breathe out slowly for a count of 3. Do this for about one minute. If you have any random thoughts, do not hold onto them, simply acknowledge that you have them and let them pass. The key in this drill is to learn to simply “be” and not be processing any information at all. Simply focus on your breathing and keep your eyes focused on the spot or picture in front of you. After about one minute, shut your eyes. Continue to do your breathing and notice the rate of which you are breathing. After doing this for a while, simply try to achieve a relaxed and quiet state of mind. You should do this for about three minutes in the initial sessions and try to do it for a maximum for five.
Merely allow yourself to relax and focus on the stillness of your mind as you breathe in and out. Focus on your breath moving in and out of your body.
Exercise # 2 Visual Concentration Grid
The following is a visual grid requiring that you start with a number or letter and find as many as you can in succession for a stated time. (suggested time 30 seconds) Start with numbers first and then move to the alphabet. For advanced concentration, start at the end of the alphabet and move backwards from Z to A.
Exercise # 3 Visual Centering and Refocusing Drill
In this visual concentration drill, your task is to focus from one colored ring and then progress to another. For example, you start with the red outer ring and hold that focus for ten seconds and then go to the blue and hold for ten seconds and then go to the center red bulls eye and hold for 10. Your eyes will want to shift and oscillate to outer and inner circles, but remain focused on the circle that you have shifted to. Do this drill for about five minutes. Then repeat in to out.
Exercise # 4 Visual Focus and Motor Skill Coordination Drill
This is where concentration training gets to be a lot of fun! Grab yourself two balls and start to juggle them. When you get good enough, add a third ball or even a fourth. The key is to go two different ways. One way is going clockwise or counter-clockwise with two or three. The Second way is to intersect and do the juggling cross-over. You can start by throwing one from your right hand to the left side and continue in that fashion. But juggling is a good way to create a nice integration of eye-hand-body motor coordination that also teaches you to focus in the here and now! Do this at your next party and be a rock star!