“Hocus Pocus! It’s time to focus.” I stole that line from an online forum, but I can’t track down the name of the woman who wrote it. For her, it is a quick mantra to get her moving when she starts to become complacent, feels a goal is overwhelming or starts feeling worn out. It is a mental kick in the pants to get her moving.
There are times everyone needs a kick in the pants. Whether it’s at home or at work, we need to bring our best game every day. The phrase (Hocus Pocus! It’s time to focus) was a simple way for this person to focus herself, one she repeated every day, numerous times a day. It’s a simple technique, but a very powerful one. You may remember U.S. Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps’ game face, a tight angry-looking grimace he drew on as he prepped before every race. It was his way of mentally preparing and getting “in the zone” while he talked to himself about what he was going to do in the water. He repeated certain phrases over and over again while he listened to music, which also helped him focus. He ran through several mantras to help him get to that top mental state of mind.
I should point out that I don’t use “mantra” in the same way Hindu or Buddhist meditation does. I think of it as a phrase that helps to direct my thoughts. It is a form of self-talk (which we do anyway) that helps guide and direct my thinking and mind frame.
I know that this may sound “New Age” to some of you, but this is nothing new in sports. Top athletes have been using something similar as part of their preparation for decades. From top golfers to star pitchers to Hall of Fame basketball players, they use mantras and self-talk to get them focused and ready to do their best. It helps to declutter their mind and bring about peak performance. There have already been several decades of scholarly research on the effectiveness of self-talk among top athletes.
There are many techniques for focusing yourself, and there are numerous books and articles you can find to help you figure out something for yourself. However, it is important to develop your own mantra. It did take me a long time to come up with my mantra. I tried other words and phrases. The second time I repeated it in my mind, I knew I had found my mantra. It just felt natural.
My own mantra is something I repeat to myself every morning. I repeat it in my mind for about five to ten minutes. Sometimes, I say it out loud. I also repeat it when I’m driving to work or an appointment. It’s simple: Purpose, Priorities, Focus.
Purpose: What’s my purpose in life? Priorities: What are my priorities in my life right now? Focus: What do I need to focus on today?
This is how I start my day. At first, I had to force myself to do it. I would forget some days and remember it later in the day. I wrote it down and posted it in several places where I would see it every day: my mirror, my car dashboard, my computer screen, etc. Now, it has become such a habit that I automatically start going through my mantra a few minutes after I wake up.
I can apply it to my work, community and personal life. On my way to work, it reminds me what my purpose/role is at work. What is my job? What am I supposed to be doing? This helps me to see my role within the larger purpose of the organization and helps me understand how I help others in the organization. It reminds me what my current priorities are. Priorities change over time in every organization. It also helps me to focus on what I need to do today. It helps me to weed out the frivolous things that come up every day. I can apply the same process when I’m on my way to meet with someone, on a sales call, a seminar, etc.
If it works for Michael Phelps, why wouldn’t it work for you?
Arnoldo Mata heads Leadership Resource Group, specializing in leadership and management training, grant writing and strategic planning, with more than 25 years working with non-profit organizations, community organizations, local governments and private businesses. He can be contacted at email@example.com.