The Rules of Order
Apply these rules to your own life and share them with clients—they are most likely dealing with similar issues.
Rule 1: Tame Your Frenzy
Before you can focus your attention, you must take charge of your negative emotional frenzy, which comes in various forms, including worry, anxiety, anger, sadness and irritation. Frenzy impairs and overwhelms your prefrontal cortex (behind the forehead), the brain’s “CEO.” Too much negative stress doesn’t just harm your health; it also damages your ability to focus. You can’t “think straight.”
The great news is that the same things that improve your health also enhance your mind’s ability to manage negative frenzy. Sleep well, exercise, do a mindfulness practice, take a few long out-breaths, or choose the slow lane from time to time, even for a few minutes.
Experiment with a variety of approaches until you settle on a few things that together make up your unique formula for taming frenzy. This formula will allow you to hone your attention skills and to draw on all of your brain’s resources when connecting with clients.
Rule 2: Sustain Your Focus
Now that your mind is calm and energetic, it is time to identify one task and one task only to focus on. Focus sessions, in which you apply all your brain’s attentional resources to a chosen activity, are deeply enriching and productive times in your day. Sometimes described as flow, full focus is among the top contributors to psychological well-being (Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Moore 2008).
Tell your brain what the intention or goal is for your focus session; for example, leading a personal training session, designing a new program or a meeting with a colleague. As a personal trainer or group exercise leader, you have focus sessions—your classes or client appointments—already built into your schedule. If you have a desk job, schedule several focus sessions per day, using your frenzy-taming tools to bring a calm, positive, energetic and creative mindset to the task at hand. In the evening, when connecting with family and friends, beam your undivided attention on conversations and watch them light up in the warmth of your intent focus.
Rule 3: Apply the Brakes
Just as a car requires a good pair of brakes to halt at a red light, your focused brain needs to be able to stop in response to certain signals. Distractions are inevitable for human beings. If you are to maintain your concentration in the midst of an important task, knowing how and when to apply the brakes is crucial.