One of the topics that I learned a lot about during my last months of nutrition courses was based on Focus and Re-Focus. Believe it or not, this is something we ALL struggle with, myself included! How many times have you gone online to look something up and then an hour later find yourself reading about the mating rituals of the black-eyed tree frog? Or how about when you go to the grocery store with only a couple of items in mind and leave with your cart overflowing with things you didn’t need, minus the items you needed? What are both of these scenarios lacking? FOCUS! Take a few minutes to watch The Marshmallow Experiment and see what happens when kids are faced with the decision to eat the marshmallow now or wait and get rewarded with a second marshmallow.
How do we train ourselves to re-focus and keep our focus?
Start off with baby steps. Remember, just with everything else… it’s a marathon, NOT a race. Here are a few examples of times we lack the most focus and what to do to re-focus:
The Grocery Store: The next time you go to the grocery store focus on just those items that you need. Grab your cart and go in the direction of the items that are on your list and put your blinders on to any of the other shiny, colorful things at the endcaps just screaming for your attention! Notice I said LIST. Never go to a store without a game plan, and NEVER go to the store when you’re hungry! When making your list, visualize your grocery store and list the items according to the store map. Have things grouped together vs. your first item at one end of the store and your second item way at the other end of the store. Lastly, set a timer on your phone (ex. 15 minutes) for how long you want to stay in the store. Treat it as a race against the clock!
The Gym: Are you one that gets easily distracted when you go to the gym? Perhaps you’re on your phone more than you are working out. You talk to others around you vs. getting your reps in. You walk around mindlessly trying to figure out what to do next, or… your just not FEELING it and give your workout only 50% effort. If any of these sound familiar, the next time you hit the gym visualize what you’d like to see when you look in the mirror. Would you like to see a strong, fit, confident and accomplished person? Then walk into to the gym with that image in your head and visualize yourself having a strong and successful workout. Are you one that’s afraid to increase the amount you are lifting or running that extra mile because you’re afraid of failure? Before you pick up those weights or step on the treadmill, re-focus your lack of confidence and focus on accomplishing that goal and what it will feel like before, during and after. Visualize that success and more times than not, you WILL accomplish that goal! Lastly, have a program! Never go in to the gym without a plan because that will cause you to lose your focus.
Binge Eating: Are you one that’s been known to indulge just a little too much or too often, only leaving you to feel like crap and disappointed in yourself? If you see donuts brought in to work, do you always have to have one because they are there or if you don’t have one of the cookies that Susie’s daughter made you’ll look like a jerk? When you watch TV at night is a bag of popcorn or a bowl of ice cream a constant ritual? Instead of giving in to temptation the next time you know there will be treats in the office or allowing for TV and snacks to go hand-in-hand, focus on an hour from that very moment and how much better you will feel without that guilt, of being one step closer to your goal, of being able to go to bed not feeling bloated or like you failed for the day. Some other exercises I have my clients with binge eating issues do:
Get up and take a walk, do jumping jacks or something active to remove the focus from the food and to re-focus your attention to something healthy.
Count to 100, 200 or whatever number that you think can get your mind off that item.
Picture yourself before you eat that item, imagine that first bite (sure, it will probably taste really good), then imagine the last bite (more times than not, it’s not as good as the first), lastly, imagine how you will feel once you’ve eaten it… and hour after you’ve eaten it… the next morning when you step on the scale and you aren’t where you wished you’d be.
Attention comes from intention. Focus demands a clear purpose.
In order to succeed, you have to WANT to succeed and that involves setting yourself up for SUCCESS. Here are some ways you can start doing so TODAY!
Go to bed being prepared for the day ahead. Go out and get a journal or notebook and keep it right by the side of the bed where you will see it every day. Before you go to sleep, make a list of 5 different things you want to accomplish the next day - it can be anything at all! When you wake up in the morning, look at those 5 items, remember them and get them done throughout the day. Sometimes it even helps people to also write those tasks on a sheet of paper and keep it in their pocket throughout the day. At the end of the day before you go to bed, go through the list of those five items and check off all the ones you accomplished. After you have done that, make a list of 3 things you did well that day. Finish your list off with your next five items that you want to accomplish tomorrow and repeat!
Keep your goals in check. Before you decide to do anything that is compulsive or impulsive, ask yourself “Does this fit in line with my goals?” If your answer is no, “Am I willing to sacrifice my goals for what I want right now?” Lastly, “Could I wait a little while?” Remember, sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of distraction to change your focus.
Plan ahead. This is where your bedtime journal can come in handy. If you know you’re going to the gym, grocery store, out to eat or if it’s donut day at the office, plan for that! Never go in to a situation unprepared. Make your game plan and stick to it! Start your day out with a healthy breakfast so you’re not tempted by all the pretty sprinkles. Have a workout planned out before you go to the gym, and if you’re one that really lacks focus when in the gym, program in timed intervals and rests so that you won’t have time to check social media to see what Jackie is making her family for dinner or that John is feeling annoyed because his team lost their game. Go to the grocery store with list in hand and make it a game to see how fast you can get out of there!
To sum it all up…
Take baby steps and keep your focus on small chunks vs. biting off more than you can chew.
Remind yourself of your goals, direction, values and priorities. Write them down and keep them with you!
Anticipate the different scenarios where you tend to lose focus and plan ahead.
Practice on making yourself re-focus when you get off track so you can return to your designated path.
Are you a former or current client? Send me an email for my full worksheet and assignment on keeping your focus! firstname.lastname@example.org