Narrow Focus

by Grace Lin

Have you ever been confronted with a task that seemed impossible?  Okay maybe not impossible, but what about an extremely overwhelming task?  My guess is that you have encountered this before, and if you haven’t, you will.  So, how did you overcome the task?  Did you try to tackle it all at once?  Or did you break it into small pieces and chip away at it?  Probably the latter.

Recently, I have run into what seems like an insurmountable task: planning a wedding.  For those who are married and have been through this, you know what I’m talking about.  There are hundreds of decisions to make, tasks to do, things to coordinate, information to collect, and the list goes on.  And let’s be honest here, none of the things that go into wedding planning are “in my wheelhouse.”  When I think of all of the things that need to be done, I get overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  And then I think to myself, “Stop.  Narrow your focus.  It’s just like a chipper workout.  So, take it one step at a time and chip away at it.”  And all of a sudden, a seemingly impossible task seems extremely doable.  (Of course, I am getting help from my wonderful fiancé throughout all of this)

Now, apply this concept of narrowing your focus to your training.  You can apply it to conditioning sessions, for example, a long EMOM workout.  You look at a 30 minute EMOM and immediately want to die.  But that’s because you’re focusing on ALL of the work you need to do at once.  Instead, narrow your focus to one minute.  Complete that minute, and then tackle the next minute.  Complete that, and tackle the next.  And before you know it, you’re into minute 26 and almost done.  Taking long workouts one rep, movement, or station (however you want to look at it) at a time will help rid the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and give you a sense of purpose.  Finish a task, go on to the next, and keep on trucking.

You can also apply this to skill work or any movement.  When we first learn a skill or movement, we’re usually given a couple major points to focus on, and this helps us learn how to move properly.  Then there comes a point where the movement or skill becomes second nature – meaning we go on autopilot and don’t need to think when we perform the movement.  This is when narrowing your focus becomes imperative.  If you continue to run on autopilot, how will you ever improve?  

Take the muscle up, for example.  Let’s say you’ve learned how to do muscle ups and you’re pretty good at them.  You can knock out 5 in a row easily.  That’s great!  But what’s stopping you from being able to do 10 in a row?  What are you thinking about when you perform a muscle up?  If you don’t know the answer to that, then you’re probably on autopilot.  You need to narrow your focus and think about a specific cue that will help improve your movement.  This could be leading with the toes, staying tight in the arch and hollow positions (tighter is lighter), or popping your hips fast.  Don’t focus on performing the entire muscle up; instead, narrow your focus on a specific component of the muscle up to help improve it.  And once that becomes second nature, focus on something else.

Moral of the story, guys: Having the big picture is important, but breaking it down into smaller components is also extremely helpful.  You win the big battles by tackling the smaller components successfully.