The following is the planned introduction to a chapter in the manuscript of the new book I’m working on. The tentative title to the book is “A. C. E. Your Way to a Better Life.” The book is expected to be released late fall of 2020.

Chapter 2 Introduction

What is it about focus that makes it so important during the big games? There have been a countless number of times, a team I coached has faced elimination or played for a championship, whereby the ability to focus on relevant cues became more challenging. Examples of relevant cues would be strategy for the next point, swing, or play; breathing for relaxation and present focus; or a physical cue (i. e. active feet). Examples of irrelevant cues would be concerns about the outcome itself (future focus); dwelling on the last mistake; or what other people think of you. All coaches and players have seen the effect of irrelevant cues on display in themselves and in others if you are in the game very long.

Why is it harder to focus on what is relevant in the moment when it’s late in the game and the outcome is in doubt? I think the answer is because the outcome is about to be decided. If you win, you either get the opportunity to continue to play or you win a championship. If you lose your season is over, unless there is a third-place game. Consequently, it becomes critical for a team or an individual, to be able to focus on what is relevant in that moment. Winning is not what is relevant during the process of competing. Winning is certainly a worthy goal. But if you focus on winning while playing the game, you lose what’s important now. What’s important now is staying present-focused on what you can do now.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with former Houston Rockets head basketball coach Del Harris, after a game in Phoenix. This was back in days when you could go down to floor level after a game, and possibly get a chance to visit with a coach or a player 30 minutes after the game. I asked him about a winning mindset. He told me something I have not forgotten for 40 years. He said, “instead of focusing on winning, focus on the things that create winning.”

I had to figure it out from there. What I came to realize is you need to focus on the process. You need to focus on the things you can control during the game. You need to focus on strategy, communication, being present in the moment, competitive spirit, emotional control, and a belief in your ability to excel when you need it most. These are factors that affect one’s ability to perform in the upper range of what you are capable of doing. And if you do that, you improve the chances of getting the outcome you want. It starts with proper focus.