The Connection of Attention, Focus and Intent
Many of the actions we carry out on a daily basis are the result of habit. For example, we wake up, eat breakfast (or don’t) and run out the door for work. When we come home for the night, we might have a certain routine like reading the newspaper, eating dinner and maybe watching tv before bed. These actions don’t require much thought or mental effort. They are merely habitual.
In the ring, however, each action must be carried out with the utmost thought. Boxing is strategic; nothing is random. You move based on your opponent, based on your body in space and based on your best opportunity to get in a hit or to avoid one. Behind every action, there should be three main factors at play: attention, focus, and intent.
Let’s learn more about attention, focus and intent so we can start living less out of habit and more out of purpose.
Attention is the act of applying the mind to a specific thought or action, while ignoring other random or distracting thoughts. Consciousness is the essence of attention, as you need to be aware of your thoughts, behaviors and surroundings.
Attention plays a key role in the ring. With so much going on in our busy lives, it’s easy to let distracting thoughts take over. You may be up against an opponent, but instead of focusing on your next move, you’re thinking about the upcoming deadline for your work assignment. With so many thoughts running through your never-resting brain, it’s easy to let your opponent get the one-up on you.
You need to tap into your mind and put your attention on the task at hand. It’s about being present, aware and conscious of what you are doing while pushing aside any distractions. When you are giving your full attention to a fight, you’re less likely to make mistakes or miss an opportunity. Instead, your awareness is heightened and you are able to put your best foot forward.
Focus and attention may seem like one in the same, but they are in fact different. Focus is an elevated version of attention. It’s not just fixing your mind on a specific task but it’s using concentration to further zone in on that specific thought or action.
For example, you can be paying attention to a lecture by sitting in front, looking at the speaker, and listening to what they are saying. If you are focused, you will take notes, ask questions and consider how to practically apply what you’re learning to your life. Or, you might pay attention to the overall topic, but focus on one particular point the lecturer is making that relates to you. In a nutshell, attention is a bit broader while focus is laser sharp.
So, how can you focus, rather than merely be attentive in the ring? Don’t just pay attention to the overall fight but really zoom in on your opponent. Get to know their patterns or their “fighting personality,” so to speak. See if you can get to know them so well that you can guess their next move, yet keep all options open and be ready for anything.
Intent is fundamental to both attention and focus. Before you can give anything your focus or attention, you need to actually commit to it. Otherwise, you are doing whatever it is that you are doing out of habit. When something is done habitually, it usually lacks attention and focus.
Intent is unique in the sense that it typically occurs before the event takes place. It involves prior mental activities such as planning and preparing. When you have the intent to do something, it means you are prepared ahead of time to give it your all.
Boxing with intent means boxing with a goal, or goals, in mind. You may be boxing to win, to get stronger, to let out stress, to have some you time, etc. Whatever your reasonings are, when you make the intention beforehand, you are much more likely to put in the attention and focus you need to become unstoppable.
Applying All Three In and Out of the Ring
We’ve already talked about how these three mentalities can greatly benefit you in the ring. Attention, focus, and intent all allow you to fight with awareness, both of yourself, your opponent and of those around you. Attention helps you to focus on what your doing, focus gets you to zone in on your opponent and learn who they are in the ring and intent warrants you to act with consciousness.
These three characteristics should not only be applied to boxing. When practiced regularly, they can have a great impact on your daily life. In a society that focuses so heavily on the “daily grind” we more often than not go through life with little attention, focus or intent. Rather, we rush through each task, eager to get to the next so we can scratch it off our checklist, and begin all over again tomorrow.
We need to be living with more awareness, which is the essence of all three of these mentalities. When we are present and aware, we are able to slow down, remember why we are doing what we are doing and find joy in that.
Three Practices to Build Attention, Focus, and Intent
Meditation is a great way to improve your attention, focus, and intent. After all, it’s entire purpose is the mental training of attention. During meditation, you are actually training your brain to focus, while simultaneously pushing out distracting thoughts that don’t serve a purpose at that given moment. Meditation is so effective that just a couple of weeks can greatly improve your attention and memory.
Set aside a few minutes a day to relax and meditate. You can either meditate on your own or use guided meditation to help you navigate through the practice.
Scratch the usual morning routine of rushing around and instead try carving out a few minutes for reflection. Reflecting upon the day ahead will help you to set the right intentions and will allow you to become more present and aware before you walk out the door. Just close your eyes, imagine how your day will play out and mentally plan your upcoming tasks.
Exercise is great for many things, including your mental and cognitive growth. Physical activity boosts certain chemicals in the brain which directly relate to focus and attention. Boxing is especially beneficial because it exercises so much of your mind. It’s not just about moving your body, but it’s also about thinking through every move, and paying attention to yourself and your opponent. Otherwise, you risk falling, getting hit or missing a punch.
Gloveworx can help you take your fitness to a whole new level and strengthen your mind by helping you practice attention, focus, and intent with boxing.