Understanding The Importance Of Focus

Basic perceptual psychology can teach us a lot about our focus, especially about how we can change and shift our focus in any given moment. Why is this important?

For pool players, successful shots and table runs require 100% fo- cus on the task at-hand, and when we allow our focus to wander and daydream about irrelevant cues (i.e. how the game is going the next table over) our minds wander and our behaviors (successfully following through on a shot) become compro- mised and not our best effort. The result? Missed shots and lost runs because of a drift in attention at the table.

Human perception is built on two in- ter-related concepts: the figure (what we focus on), and the ground (also known as the background). An easy example of this is right now – if you are reading this column the column is the figure (what you should be focusing on), and the tv in the background is the ground (something not important in this very moment if the goal is to improve your pool game). Sounds easy, right? Well here’s where things get tricky — at any given moment our figure/ground perception experi- ence changes and shifts, sometimes dramatically. For example, lets say a breaking story or funny commercial comes on tv right now and your mind wanders to look at the tv (now the figure), and begin to skim this article (now the ground). Now, instead of fully comprehending figure/ground relationships on human perception, you are watching tv and simply scanning over these words (opposed to truly learning this theory and how it can help your pool game).

Applying this to pool
When playing pool the “figure” should always be the next shot(s) and lay of the table, and the “ground” should be everything else. The “everything else” includes all your sensory experiences, including players on the next table over, the sound of a big break by another player in the pool room, and the smell of the guy next to you smoking a cigarette. As you can see, all of these things are irrelevant background distractions, and in order to truly take your game from good-to-great you must learn ways to “lock in” and build a wall around your mind so that other sights, sounds, and smells don’t take you away from your game. Is this easy to do? Not necessarily, but it is important to do and a task well worth your time trying to master if you are truly serious about being a top notch player!