The Secret of Focus

Over the last 2 weeks, since this Bootcamp began, you’ve been training hard learning new things, we’ve had a couple of chats and I’ve shared lessons/ideas regarding nutrition, activity and mentality… and today I have another one!

Self-awareness is the foundation for true self-improvement – doing any game, activity or thought experiment that helps you become more self-aware is useful and being a more considered and deeper thinker while employing logic and critical reasoning skills will give you more informed opinions and in many ways liberate you… or in other words, life is better when you know yourself more.

The key to self-knowledge is paying attention to the right things… i.e learning how to focus, – which includes learning how to ask the right questions and employing enough discipline to face up to the answers. As luck would have it – the same is true for your fitness/body/wellness goals.


When walking, walk. When eating, eat

Zen Proverb


The ability to focus (i.e. to concentrate fully on a given task without being distracted) has a direct impact on your success as it profoundly affects the time it takes to master new skills, be it doing your taxes with no mistakes, learning a new CRM system at work, improving your golf swing, defending a punch when sparring… or getting the most out of the Bootcamp workouts.

Assuming you’re up to date, last night I introduced a few new martial arts moves. To learn and ultimately master these skills takes patience, but it also takes real focus.

When you pay attention to exactly how I stand, how I move, the tempo, the intention behind the strike… then you’ll pick it up quickly, but if you just roughly follow what I’m doing.. you’ll never fully get it.. and you’ll miss out. Details mater. I’m a good coach because I pay attention to the details. You are good at your job too.. why?.. because you pay attention to things that others would miss. Am I right?

We need to double down on this focus when it comes to training this week. If you find it hard to stay in the zone when doing a workout with more, then worry ye not… as focus is easy to develop. Focus is like a muscle – when you try to work it, no matter how neglected it feels! it adapts…, it gets stronger.

Right now there are millions of things happening, both inside your body and in your external environment. Imagine if we were fully aware of all these things – from your heart beating to hearing every conversation going on around you. My god, it would be a total nightmare! It would be too much to cope with. We need things to be blurred; then WE choose what to focus on. The vast majority of ‘decisions’ we think we make are actually just habitual subconscious actions, BUT when we focus, our conscious brain gets involved. To actively focus means to fully be conscious, present and aware of the thing at hand.

I used to teach tennis back in the early 90s and found that saying “Look at the ball!” was the most common teaching comment I made. Looking at the ball is not enough though. After reading Tim Gallwey’s masterful “The Inner Game of Tennis,” I began teaching my clients to look at the seams of the ball! It revolutionized the number of unforced errors being made by my clients. This leads me to the first secret of how to focus: dig down and concentrate on the DETAILS.


The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.
Bruce Lee

Challenge One – Awareness

Sit up straight and be still for ten minutes. From your toes to the head scan through every part and think about how it feels, how relaxed or tense it is, how hot or cold it feels. Slowly run through your entire body. Now think about your heart rate, is it fast or is it slow, how slow? Now think about your breath, how much breathing is done through your nose or mouth. Is it deep or shallow? Now face straight ahead past your screen. What can you see? What is in focus? Where is the exact edge of your peripheral vision? Now focus on what you can smell and finally what you can hear. And finally, focus on your thoughts, what is happening in there?

This exercise is an eye-opening experience. It’s very much a form of meditation and a reminder that we can always choose what we focus on – and self-awareness and focus go hand in hand.


Challenge Two – Make it easy

The second ‘secret’ is to make it easy for yourself! Yes, it is easy to meditate when sitting on a mountain full of monks, it is easy to shop less if you live by yourself on a deserted island, it’s easy to chill and watch people in a café when your iPhone battery dies.

When you have discipline, and something is significant to you, then you don’t get distracted, but when things are new, and you are developing new habits, you need to make it easier for yourself logistically. 

We live in distracted, sensory overloaded, and somewhat overwhelming times. Right now there are millions of things you can be reading instead of this. We can try and avoid distractions, but as we don’t live on top of mountains, I think it’s far more useful to develop the skill of NOT being affected by them. This is where traditional meditation can help. Meditation is a tool to help achieve non-attachment to cleanse the ego and to feel more centred and mind-body connected.


There are many ways of meditating and it’s good to try different methods until one resonates. Below is the way I first learned to meditate. (Which many of you know i learned while living & working with Buddhist monks in a Monastery – but that’s another story for another time! ) Please do two sets of 10 minutes of this final challenge.

    1. Sit still in a quiet room and close your eyes.
    2. Think of your breath going in and out like a balloon.
    3. Allow your thoughts to come in and out but don’t dwell on any. Let them flow.
    4. Whenever you find yourself actively thinking, go back to thinking about your breath.
    5. You want to allow, and let yourself be rather than do.

Challenge Thee – Routine

My third tip is to focus on a healthy routine. Having trained many people living with ADHD and on the autism spectrum, I have seen firsthand how a regular, engaging and fun movement practice, a healthy nutrient-dense and maintainable diet and a strict bedtime routine all work together to calm the brain. The thing is though, a routine massively helps us ‘neurotypical’ types too.

Now… If you’re like me and naturally a bit chaotic and undisciplined, then force yourself to go to bed. wake up and eat meals at the same time can be life-changing in terms of improved productivity and freedom from stress. On that note, please watch this TED talk and answer the questions below AFTER training tonight