Vision and Attention, Part 2: Applying the Practice to Athletic Goals

by | Jun 9, 2021 | Mindset

Peter talked about vision and attention in a post last week about improving your mountain biking or road riding, and it got me thinking… could vision and attention also be applied to how we look at our goals, athletic or otherwise? The vision/attention concept is pretty simple: You need to be focused on where you are right this second and what’s directly in front of you, but you also need to be looking up ahead on the road or trail to see what’s coming, and to look where you want to go.

Naturally, I couldn’t just leave vision and attention as literal advice.

There’s the often-cited mountain biker advice of looking where you want to go, or looking around the corner before you’re in it, rather than looking straight ahead and only making the head turn when you’re already in the apex of the corner. Isn’t the same thing true with our goals and where we want to go in life?

Most of us are pretty guilty of getting into the apex of the turn and not having a clue what our next move is, because we’ve been so focused on what was directly in front of us, and we missed the importance of looking a little further up the trail to see where we actually wanted to go. This is how we end up stalled out in a corner, or off the trail entirely.

But the opposite is true as well. If all you ever do is look way up the road or the trail, you miss the small steps that need to be taken right in front of you. To get dramatic about it for a second, this is how we hit the pothole or smash into the rock on the trail.

Which type of person are you? Are you the one who’s always looking so far ahead that you miss the ‘next best action’ steps? Or are you the one so focused on the next small steps that you miss the big picture? (I’ll argue that for different parts of our lives, we might be one or the other, but most of us likely have one that we tend towards.)

RELATED: Goal Setting and the Fun Middle

Missing the long view?

If you’re the type who’s focused on the small stuff and misses the big picture, you may want to carve out some time to make a “road map” of where you want to be in five or ten years (or five to ten months, whatever makes sense to you right now) and backtrack to figure out what the smaller steps to get you there will be. Then, you can focus on those small steps, but refer back to that big picture regularly. Set a weekly or at least monthly check in with yourself to come back to the roadmap and see where you’re at: You tend to get so wrapped up in the small stuff that it’s easy to derail.

Example: You run every day for 45 minutes because it’s on your to-do list, but while you know you should have some kind of training schedule or plan in place to improve as a runner, since you don’t have a specific goal in mind, you don’t have any anchor to starting to improve.

Missing the close up?

If you’re the kind of person who has list after list of five year and ten year plans that never come to fruition, you need to pull those out and start breaking them down into smaller steps. This sounds like you’re already well on your way to getting there, but it’s likely you’re big on procrastination and follow-through if this tends to be your personality type. Unlike the person above who’s great at the tiny steps but misses the big picture (and thus ends up stepping in the wrong direction), you need to make sure that those small steps are actually happening. That means putting them into your to-do list, calendar or planner, finding an accountability person, whatever it takes to make those small steps start to happen.

Example: You want to race Ironman Wisconsin in 2024, but you’ve never taken a swimming lesson, haven’t decided which race to do, haven’t started to do longer bikes or runs, etc.

These examples are obviously sport related, since that’s what we do here, but the same applies to work or home projects! (For the person who loves the small steps, you might be great at doing tiny projects like organizing your bookshelf, but the bathroom needs to be renovated. For the person who loves the big picture, you may know that in five years, you want to become marketing manager at your place of work, but other than reading books about marketing, you haven’t made any steps in that direction.)

While we can’t give you much advice on home renos or work promotions, we can give you advice on how to take a long and short view of your training. If you’re feeling a little lost, book a phone consult to talk things through! (You don’t need to be coached by us to just chat about your current plan and your goals.) We also talk a ton about goal setting—and getting there—in our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, and you can grab a copy right here:


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