Many years ago, when I was studying for my Psychology degree, I came across a fascinating technique for helping to focus thoughts and the mind. It was called the Black Box technique, created by John Syer and Christopher Connolly in their book Sporting Body, Sporting Mind.

Much water has flowed under the bridge of sport psychology since those early pioneering days, but many of the innovative concepts created by the great minds of the time, still resonate with more contemporary thinking.

The idea behind the Black Box was that our thoughts can cloud our focus. We all know it. In life at times when we need to maintain attention, focus and pinpoint clarity, our minds drift, wander and distract us. The result can be lower than anticipated performance, less pertinent thinking and often frustration with the outcome of our activities.

So a Black Box provides a potential solution. It’s not a real black box, it’s one you imagine sitting in the corner of your room, at the back of the tennis court or on the back seat of your car. Somewhere close to hand, but just outside of your peripheral view.

Your Black Box is open, allowing you to put into it your distracting thoughts, ideas and gremlins. As soon as you place a thought into it you imagine closing the lid. This is a temporary closure allowing you to focus on the matter or task at hand. It’s vital that as you close the lid you remember this is just temporary and that you will come back to the thought later. It’s not a ‘no’ it’s simply a ‘not now’, because right now, you have other things you need to prioritise and focus on.

This temporary closure is essential to ensure the Black Box will work. You are in actual fact talking to your subconscious, which as we know, is essentially in charge even though we’d like to think otherwise. If we try to fool our subconscious then it’ll always win out, by popping open the box and out comes the thought again, straight back into our head, defying our attempts to ignore it. So by clearly stating Not No, Just Not Now, we acknowledge that the thought is important, and that we respect it needs a focus of our time, just not right now.

Try Black Box and the concept of active prioritising of thoughts and let me know how it goes. You won’t, as I have found over the decades, remember to do this every time, but when you do, your Black Box is a welcomed friend whenever you really do need to maintain focus and concentration.


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