Eyes on the Prize
Chuang Tzu (300 BC)
When an archer is shooting for nothing he has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle he is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
he goes blind
or sees two targets
- he is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed. But the prize
divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning than of shooting
and the need to win
drains him of power.
Scientists say the human brain can devote its “full attention” to only one thing at a time. Therefore when the brain is fully devoted to one thing, it becomes almost blind to everything else, a phenomenon called inattentional blindness. In the poem, the archer must choose where he will fix his attention. The more he fixes is eyes on the target, the more “blind” he will become to all the distractions. He relaxes and allows his body to perform the way he trained it.
If he shifts his attention to the results of his performance (win, praise, accolades…), his mind begins to calculate the outcome. He begins to predict how his performance will match up with the other competitors. If the competition is good, he may start to get nervous and doubt. How good do I need to be? Do I have enough? What will happen if I lose? What will people say about me? At this point he has become blind to the target. He has lost his focus, strength and power.
The best performances are given by those who fix their eyes solely on their target and become blind to all the outcomes and distractions. Where will you choose to fix your attention?