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Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On

There is a great, very poignant Jimmy Buffet song entitled, Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On. Jimmy wrote it after the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Katrina. When you get a chance, give it a listen.

The first part of the song sets the tone:

I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man

Floating down the canal

It doesn't use numbers or moving hands

It always just says now

Now you may be thinking that I was had

But this watch is never wrong

And if I have trouble, the warranty said

Breathe in, breathe out, move on

Take in the lyrics as it points to present moment in a big way. "

It always just says Now."

Pretty powerful, if you stop and think about it.

Now. This minute. This situation. Present moment.

At one time or another, we have been enraptured by time travel. Whether we fell in love reading H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, laughed and had fun watching the old Back to the Future flicks, or simply enjoyed a few minutes during the days of Saturday morning cartoons (I’m dating myself) watching Peabody and Sherman hop into their “Way Back” machine, we have been fascinated by time travel.

Unfortunately, we still have not been able to crack the time travel code. We are simply stuck in the present. “Stuck” seems to be the highlighted sentiment many times, too, doesn’t it? Why is there such a fascination with time travel and why do many of us feel “stuck” in the present?

Number one, usually, is to fix a wrong. When we sit around and play the “what you rather do, go back in time or go into the future” game, many like the rear-view mirror approach. That usually stems from “righting” something that was wrong, a mistake, a miscue.

Some of us opt for the future, but it usually revolves around what? It usually revolves around somehow trying to shape the future.

The common theme among both is to try and “control” time. I fixed that past screw-up. I shaped what the future holds. Boom! All good. Now I do not feel “stuck” anymore.

For all of us, including athletes, we do not like to be where we are. Unfortunately, the only time that we have full control over is…drum roll please…the PRESENT.

In mental performance coaching we consistently talk to athletes about being in the present, because we have not solved the time travel puzzle and that is the only time we can control. We cannot fix our error that we made last inning, or the free throw we missed last quarter, or the missed pass to an open teammate. We cannot be thinking ahead to the next period, quarter, or half, when we still have more than much of the game to go.

We focus on controlling what we can control. Towards the top of that list is time. We can only control what is going on right now.

We cannot do anything about a past performance. It is gone, over, complete. We cannot ruminate over the possibility of something bad happening in the future. It has not happened yet.

We need to stay present focused.

How can we do this?

Number one is we can zero in on our physical cues. What do have to do right now? If I play left wing on my hockey team, what are my physical cues that I must be aware of right now? Where should I be in the offensive zone without the puck? If the opposing team takes control of the puck, what is my vision, who am I covering, what part of the ice do take over?

Each sport has a series of physical cues to focus on to best execute the play.

If we focus on physical cues, we need to know our role in that moment. If you are part of a team, your role in that dynamic will shape the focus cues that help you stay in the moment.

Staying in the moment, focusing in on cues, helps you in the biggest way possible, and that is attending to the process rather than be shaped by an outcome. Being results oriented puts in a future based thinking mode, not the present.

Staying in the present, working the process cues, helps you put away the past, as well. Getting too emotional over a past mistake and having that miscue take over your thinking will hinder your present moment focus. Find a way to recognize when that happens, have a regrouping routine to put that error to sleep, and refocus on the present moment.

So, enjoy those time travel novels, the movies or “would you rather” games, but in real life, let’s really savor and stay in the present. It really is the best time of all.

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