Last week, American Olympian Clare Egan competed in the biathlon in Pyeongchang. Involving both cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, the sport is physically intense. But according to Egan, the physical component isn't the hardest part. For her, It's the mental component that is most challenging. The way she copes with this stress is not only effective for athletes, but also for entrepreneurs.
Through her training, Egan has honed several methods to manage the emotional stress. One way, for example, is to ski the actual course of a race in the days leading up to the actual event. This allows her to internalize every curve and obstacle, so as to be prepared when she's actually competing. Others methods include practicing mindfulness and controlled breathing exercises that are scientifically proven to reduce stress and increase mental awareness, both in sports and otherwise.
But there's one specific method in Egan's routine that is highly applicable to entrepreneurs. Egan has learned to focus on the specific task at hand (completing an event), rather than a desired outcome (winning gold).
"[The] desire to win is not only not helpful, it's counterproductive. You have to eliminate that from your mind and focus on the task," she said in an interview with The New York Times.
Though we might expect Olympic athletes to be focused on winning medals, Egan's advice is that when we focus on the goal rather than the process of getting there, we are less likely to hit our goals. Her recommended strategy is to replace goal-oriented thinking with process-oriented thinking. When competing, she reminds herself of the skills like good form and follow-through that are necessary for her to effectively complete the event.
Whether you are an individual contributor or lead teams and organizations, you like have key performance indicators that you are working toward, like revenue goals, customer acquisition targets, or product experience metrics. Rather than tracking how close you are to achieving these goals, focus instead on the key tasks you need to accomplish in order to get there. Ask yourself, "What tasks are necessary for me to complete in order to meet my goals? What skills do I need to hone and practice in order to carry out these tasks?" Focus on these every day.
No matter if you're completing a ski course or a work plan, by focusing on process rather than outcome, you will eliminate distractions and allow yourself to perform at your highest level, while still delivering on your overall strategy.