Blog Series 3.3

The third blog regarding George Mumford’s The Mindful Athlete:  Secrets to Pure Performance will discuss using mindfulness strategies for distraction management. 

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In sport, we constantly hear, “Focus!” or “Pay attention!” and every athlete knows that, at times, this is easier said than done.  Mumford describes the “monkey mind” where our mind is restless, agitated, and feels out of our control.  When our mind wanders, we lose the present moment, which distracts us from the task at hand.  This is particularly true when our mind wanders to the potential outcome of the task.  When we consider the potential outcome, we can’t help but attach emotional meaning to that outcome. 

For example, if an athlete focuses on possibly losing a playoff game, he or she might then think of all the negative aspects of the loss….my season is over, my college career is over, I won’t get drafted, etc. Mumford discusses how focusing too much on the outcome actually takes your attention away from the very thing you need to do to actually perform well.  If you are up to bat and you are thinking about how you want to hit a homerun, you lose the energy it takes to focus on your stance, pitch selection, and the pitcher’s tendencies.

The mindful athlete, on the other hand, calms this mental chatter by treating each task as the most important thing to focus on and brings their attention to the present moment rather than the game itself.  The mindful athlete takes a deep breath to connect to the present moment and lets go of the previous out and score of the game, and focuses on technique.  Mumford uses juggling as an example of how our attention should briefly touch on the moment and then move on to the next important thing (or objects being juggled). 

Our attention and ability to focus is similar to a muscle.  With practice, we can improve.  Mumford emphasizes how learning is a circular process and the more we practice, the more we pick up….even if we don’t realize it.  This can only happen if we are deliberate in our practice and truly attending to the task at hand, not what our teammates are doing, what we are having for dinner, or other thoughts that naturally distract us. 

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