Imaginary problems are insurmountable. How can you solve a problem that doesn’t really exist?
The ability to direct our attention and then to act only on what we can control enhances our effectiveness as people and as athletes. To focus on things that are beyond our control is to misdirect energy, waste time, and doom us to frustration and failure.
Where to focus? Start with the proper time element, the present moment – the current task. The past is beyond our control; the future is not yet within the limits of control. The only opportunity for control lies in the athlete’s present, in the matter of the moment.
But focussing in the present is not always the easiest of things to accomplish. Stuff can get stuck in our brains and distract us. At times these distractions are instantaneous and startling (a loud noise or bright light) and sometimes these distractions are lifelong and omnipresent (abuse, unresolved issues). Psychologist and psychotherapist Albert Ellis created a list of personal beliefs that he felt resulted in most of life’s misdirected attentions. He spent his career trying to get people to actively avoid them. The page numbers are from his book, A Guide to Rational Living.
If drawing your attention to this list makes you aware of even just one thing that might be serving to distract you from being able to focus 100% in the moment during competition or training, then sharing it here is worthwhile.
10 Irrational Beliefs – Albert Ellis
1. You must have approval all the time from the people you find significant (101).
2. The idea that you absolutely must be thoroughly competent, producing every time, all the time (115).
3. Other’s, particularly superiors, must treat you fairly and justly and it’s terrible if they don’t (127).
4. Things must go the way you’d like them to, and it’s catastrophic if they don’t (139).
5. You must be miserable when you have pressures and difficult experiences; and that you can do nothing to make your situation better.(155).
6. It’s terrible if you don’t immediately find solutions to your problems (163).
7. It’s easier to avoid responsibility and be passive or even quit than to take charge of your life and situation (177).
8. The idea that your past remains all-important and because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today (187).
9. The idea that people and things absolutely must be better than they are and that it is awful and horrible if you cannot change life’s grim facts to suit you (197).
10. You can gain happiness by inertia or by uncommittedly “having fun” and passively waiting/hoping for the right things to happen to you. (207).