Q: “I’m not a racer, just a guy who tries once a month from May through September to do open tracks days. This past summer, I’d go into a track session planning on working on a particular thing, but a few laps into the session I’d get lost in the moment and stop working on what I wanted to improve. Any suggestions on how to stop this?”
A: That’s an interesting question because getting lost in the moment and not over-thinking things can be a good thing. Yes, it’s difficult to focus specifically on what you want to improve if that’s the case, but it’s not an entirely bad thing because many drivers over-think – and that can be a bad thing, too.
But to focus on what you want to work on… I’d suggest taking time before you go on track and get super-clear on what it is you want to work on. For example, if you want to brake later for Turn 1… take time to really define what that means, and what it looks like. Just saying, “I’m going to work on braking later for Turn 1” is not enough. It’s too easy to lose focus (as you know). Identify and be clear in your mind where you’re braking now, and how much later you want to begin braking. Get clear in your mind that you’re going to apply the brakes 3 car lengths later, 50 feet later, at the 3 marker, or whatever. The key is getting super-clear on that. The better you define what you want to do, the easier it will be to focus on it when on track; if it’s a vague “I’m going to brake later for Turn 1” it’s too easy to lose focus.
I’d strongly encourage you to write down what it is that you want to work on, too. As Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence says, “People live up to what they write down.” It’s easier to stay focused on something you write down, and you’re less likely to forget it.
Then, take at least 10 minutes (20 is better) to relax, close your eyes, and imagine just doing that one thing over and over again. What you’re doing is pre-programming yourself to do what you want. And don’t just visualize it – actualize it, by imagining how it will feel (actually move your feet and hands to mimic what you want to do – you’re building muscle memory), and what it will sound like, in addition to what it will look like. Practice it in your mind as many times as you can before you go on track.
The best drivers in the world lose focus, just like you’re doing. The difference is they regain it quickly, and a lot of the reason for that is because they prepare really well before going on track. Clearly define what it is you want to do, write it down, and mentally program it before you go on track.
Oh, and keep in mind that if you’re only driving half a dozen or so times a year, it’s tough to master it. So don’t beat yourself up! Think about this: How many things do you get better at if you only do them 6 times a year? Would your golf game improve if you only played 6 times a year; would you improve your playing of the piano if you only played 6 times a year? Just keep things in perspective. It is possible to improve doing what you’re doing, but you have to be very deliberate about how you approach it – and preparing before you go on track is critical to this.