The Trigger To Focus
Find your trigger word, phrase, song, or ritual to get you “in the zone”.
We all have triggers.
Triggers are things that inspire us immediately into a feeling or action.
Triggers “push our buttons” and encourage us to respond.
- When the phone rings with a 1-800 telemarketer’s number, you might instantly feel annoyed.
- When you see a cute baby animal, you might instantly feel mushy.
- When you walk out from a gloomy room into warm sunshine, you might instantly feel cheerier.
Brains like triggers. Constantly calculating all the possible options and outcomes for every decision is a lot of work. Triggers give brains shortcuts to action.
You can use triggers to your advantage.
For example, athletes use triggers to help themselves prepare for competition, stay focused, and re-focus if they get distracted. They develop a personal “trigger toolbox” of words, phrases, images, songs, and other things that can instantly help them get “into the zone” or feel a certain way.
One powerful way to intentionally plant triggers into your day is with rituals.
A ritual is a set of actions repeated frequently, like every day or every week. When those particular acitons are sequenced together in a particular way, going through the motions shifts your focus and attitude in a particular way.
Rituals are comforting. There’s a sense of automaticity.
Because rituals are repetitive, you can do less concentrated thinking about what exactly you’re doing. Instead, you can move freely. You can free that brain space to relax distractions, focus on the present moment, or focus on intentional goals.
Many athletes have pre-competition rituals, such as wearing a particular piece of clothing or doing things in a certain order.
Some athletes use “letting go” rituals to remind themselves to “park” other daily-life concerns and come back to them later. A baseball pitcher might brush the dirt off her hands, and imagine brushing away the previous throw’s mistakes.
Other athletes pick up an object, imagine their mistakes and concerns flowing into that object, then set the object aside for later, or throw it away.
Think of the rituals that work for you.
Images are powerful. We think in images.
Images are powerful. Brains think in images.
You can use meaningful images to inspire you or to create a certain emotional state—whether that’s revving yourself up, or calming yourself down.
- Think of a time when you kicked serious ass.
- Think of a concept or idea, such as a powerful car engine or racehorse when you’re running.
- Think of a situation or a person that inspires you to be your best self.
- Tack up a photo that inspires you, or create a collection of them
Whenever you need to change your mental or emotional state, call up one of your trigger images and immerse yourself in it for a few seconds.
Do you have a “power song”? It’s the one you belt out in your car as you whiz down the highway.
Music can be a great trigger—it can instantly change our thoughts and feelings.
Develop a roster of favorite songs that get you ready to rock.
When it comes to motivation, think Rocky training montage.
Of course, there are lots of other motivational videos out there too. Here are a few top picks:
- Your Very Best
- Remember the Titans
- No Excuses (watch this one to the end!)
- Other Nike ads such as Michael Jordan’s “Failure” or “Make Yourself”
- My 120-pound journey
- Under Armor: Protect This House
- 95-year old woman sets sprinting record
Using your triggers
Your triggers are unique to you. They might seem silly, trivial, or weird.
You can use triggers to change your thoughts and feelings—whether that’s getting fired up, focused, or calmed down. When you need to switch gears or stay on track, use words/phrases, images, music, and video that works for you.
Today, start working on your “trigger toolbox”.