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Keep Focused on the Process
Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.
Peak Performance Sports

Often in my work, athletes forget that winning comes from taking care of the process of execution one shot or play at a time. You can't get into the zone unless you can focus on the process of execution and release any worry about end results of winning or losing.

This is a key lesson I teach athletes. On a play-by-play scale, to make a good pitch, throw a touchdown, or hit a good serve, you must pay attention to task-relevant cues. It's easy to forget this simple concept when you worry too much about results and what the results "mean." "Don't strike out," "I don't want to three-putt again," "Are you going to throw an interception again?" These are examples of what a result-focused athlete says while performing. A result-focus—worry about the consequences of your actions—does not help you perform; it only creates tension and leads to self-doubt.

Even the best athletes in the world sometimes struggle with staying in the process. Sometimes it's human instinct that makes the mind wander the future. Make sure you "see" a positive result when you imagine yourself performing, but don't fixate on negative consequences. When you focus on execution good results take care of themselves.

Focusing on execution means knowing what the task-relevant cues are in your sport and keeping your mind focused on those cues. As a racer, you want to stay focused on reacting to the course ahead of you and visualizing how you will attack each section of the course. See it and do it. If your mind wanders to the end of the race before you start, stop and refocus on the first five seconds of the course.

Dr. Patrick Cohn is a leading sports psychologist who works with BMX Racers and athletes in all sports. For questions, email Dr. Cohn at or visit his web site at

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