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Using Your Vision to Your Advantage!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #194 – Listen or watch HERE.


“What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” Robin Sharma

Focus.  It is one of the most talked about topics in mental and physical performance.  As Kris Lewandoski, my favorite strength coach says, “The #1 rule of peak performance is being available.”  He means you must be healthy.  I take it one step further and say being healthy is vital (of course) but being mentally present and available is a must if we are going to perform at our peak.

When we think about focus, we are usually talking about where we direct our attention as Sharma says in our opening quote.  What we focus on becomes where we go, what we do and how we do it.  We are always focused on something.  Unfortunately, that something isn’t always the thing that helps us be our best.

But our performance focus isn’t just about our attention, it is about our VISION as well.  In Tip #58 I introduced a study by Emily Balcetis, associate professor of psychology at NYU.  Dr. Balcetis found that what we see - with our eyes - affects our performance. 

Her study found that walkers who focused solely on the finish line perceived it as 28% closer, got there 23% faster and reported that the experience was 17% less physically demanding than those who focused on other things like the competition, internal debates or distractions or other environmental variables.

How can what we look at increase our speed and how we feel?

It’s not about the finish line.  It’s about how our vision changes the way our body functions.

How we focus our eyes is closely linked to our stress levels.  Our focus is also tied to our blood pressure and our breathing rate.

When we see something exciting or stressful – think mistake elsewhere on the field, someone showing up to watch us play or things in our lives off the field like an email from an unhappy customer – our body functions change.  Our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes erratic. 

This is why what we SEE matters to our performance.

When we get locked in cognitively or physically, our systolic blood pressure rises.  This is our bodies’ way of getting us ready to work.  We want this to happen.  It’s like the feeling we get in the pit of our stomach when we are about to perform.  We often see it as debilitating, but our body is helping us by moving the blood from our abdomen to our big muscles so we can GO!  (A simple shift in how this feeling registers can change our performance alone!).

Our focal vision (which is what we are looking at as opposed to peripheral vision) activates our fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system.  According to author Jessica Wapner, when the sympathetic nervous system engages, “all the neurons from your neck to the top of your pelvis get activated at once and deploy a bunch of transmitters and chemicals that make you feel agitated and want to move.”

The change in these bodily functions helps us move faster and feel more motivated as found in Dr. Balcetis's study.

This is a good thing…unless we get stuck there.

Learning to use it to our advantage is the key along with learning an antidote for when we get stuck in a narrow vision rut.

Like our breathing, we can control our vision.  This gives us another tool to manage our performance.

So what do we look at and how do we use this to our advantage?

To get locked in, a simple target vision drill can be very helpful.  Staring at a target (from about the same distance as you would be doing the work) for 30 – 90 seconds increases mental focus on subsequent tasks.  The direct focus on ONE THING causes the release of neurochemicals that increase arousal, and systolic blood pressure AND they activate dopamine and other molecules that increase motivation.

Back to the distance part.  According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, whatever you are doing, whether it is working on a paper or getting ready to go to the plate, the distance of your gaze should be close to the distance of the object you want to focus on as you move forward in your work. 

This simple act of dialing in your focal vision activates your focus and gets your brain and body primed to do the job, whatever your next job is. Click HERE for a target you can use.

When we dial this up, it gives us a competitive advantage.

When we get into this state because we are feeling pressure, it may not be as helpful.  When we get stressed, our visual field shrinks.  We see one thing and everything else around us becomes blurry and out of our field of vision…and focus.  Our eyes rotate toward our nose, and we can’t see past it, as they say.

When this is a debilitating state, we need a tool to get back into the world around us.  Our vision can help us here, too.

When we need to chill, expanding our visual field can make a big difference.  Going into panoramic mode allows our eyes to relax along with all the systems that were sent into GO MODE as we dialed in our focus.  Shifting our focus to include all that is around us activates our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as rest and digest. 

Keeping our eyes forward and allowing ourselves to see with our entire visual field helps us feel calm and more flexible.  This panoramic mode also allows us to take in information in our environment more quickly. 

Try it now.  Simply look forward to a point in front of you.  Extend your arms out to your sides and wiggle your fingers.  Can you see them?  It is not necessary to put your arms out to widen your visual field, but this gives us an idea of just how wide our visual field can be!  When we need to shift to a more relaxed state to take in information to help us perform and slow things down, allowing ourselves to see as much of our visual environment as possible is key.

Musicians use this technique often.  Once they have learned their part, it is no longer vital to focus as intently on the notes on the page.  They can keep their eyes on the music in front of them and expand their vision to take in what is going on around them.  This may be the conductor to keep them on the beat or the movements and energy of those sitting around them…even audience members. This enables them to play with more flexibility and awareness and it gives more life and feeling to the music and makes it more desirable for the musician and audience.

How can this translate to the pitch, court, field or even the office?  We see what we need to see and take in the information around us to help us make decisions even more efficiently because we are calm and flexible.

Different situations call for different focus.  Understanding how our vision affects our autonomic nervous system can be a game changer for our performance. 

Practicing our focus, whether it be on a target for 30 – 90 seconds or going into a panoramic view to relax can help us understand how we can manage our cognitive and philological reactions to stress and performance!

Learning to manage our vision can change our game!  What do you need to see to be your best?


Manage your vision.  Manage your performance.  Manage the moments!


P.S. Do you want your team to perform better?  Reach out and get them the tools they need to be their best! Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at and get scheduled today!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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