Continuing the theme of goal setting, tonight I want to talk about obsession vs. focus. Just to recap, first you want to set a goal (that’s objective and time-constrained). Next you want to have a plan to get there. For both of the first two steps, you need to be accountable to someone, whether it be a coach, training partners, co-workers, your social media circle, etc. After that, you need to focus on executing the plan to attain the goal. Focus is a funny thing. It’s less of a single state of mind, and more of a continuum. We all know people who aren’t focused enough (missing workouts with no good excuse, eating 37 cookies any time they’re around them when they’re supposed to be dieting, etc.). However, if we think hard enough, we also know people who are too focused. People who are obsessed. Since you’re taking the time to read this post, I’m going to assume you aren’t in the first category (not a safe assumption, I realize, but I excoriate lazy people pretty regularly, so they can slide this time). Obsession is basically focus gone bad. It’s focus taken to an extreme. It’s focus with tangible negative consequences. When you’re focused, you don’t skip training sessions without a good excuse. When you’re obsessed, you don’t skip training session in spite of conflicting events you SHOULD skip training sessions for (i.e. your parent’s funeral, the birth of your child, your own wedding, etc.). When you’re focused, you stick to your diet at least 90% of the time. When you’re obsessed, you worry about every little calorie you put in your body to the point that you become a social pariah (and a basket case who pumps out so much cortisol, the diet you’re on is totally irrelevant). When you’re focused, you keep your goal in mind so you can move toward it. When you’re obsessed, you don’t let anything EXCEPT your goal into your mind, causing relationships and other obligations to suffer. I write this as someone who gets obsessed from time to time. When I don’t keep myself occupied with other things that matter to me, I can obsess about lifting. I can tell you, it’s just as counter-productive as lack of focus. Obsessed people are the ones who injure themselves because they’ve told themselves they’re going to PR today at all cost. Obsessed people are the ones who MISS PRs because they’ve been psyching themselves up (or, in all reality, psyching themselves out) for the past 8 hours. Focus is necessary, but it’s not a case of some-is-good-so-more-is-better. Balance beats obsession in the long run, and often in the short run as well.
About Greg Nuckols
Greg Nuckols has over a decade of experience under the bar, a BS in Exercise and Sports Science, and a Master's in Exercise Physiology. He’s held 3 all-time world records in powerlifting in the 220 and 242 classes.
He’s trained hundreds of athletes and regular folks, both online and in-person. He’s written for many of the major magazines and websites in the fitness industry, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Bodybuilding.com, T-Nation, and Schwarzenegger.com. Furthermore, he’s had the opportunity to work with and learn from numerous record holders, champion athletes, and collegiate and professional strength and conditioning coaches through his previous job as Chief Content Director for Juggernaut Training Systems and current full-time work here on Stronger By Science.
His passions are making complex information easily understandable for athletes, coaches, and fitness enthusiasts, helping people reach their strength and fitness goals, and drinking great beer.
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