Tony Robbins tells this story of him taking a racing lesson on a NASCAR track years ago.
His seasoned instructor sits in the passenger seat and has his own steering wheel he can override the driver’s with if the car starts to get out of control.
As they get going and Tony starts to get comfortable with driving this machine, the instructor introduces the concept of “spin,” and the importance of effectively coming out of it unscathed.
Spin is when cars on the track start to lose control and careen into other cars, pulling in more racers off the track, causing cyclones of destruction.
It may not have been your fault, but a racer ahead of you on the track starts to spin and now you have to deal with it.
The natural reflex when you skid is to look right at the very thing you fear (and could kill you). Stare too long, and you will steer right into it. For racers, the natural reflex is to look at the wall in attempt to avoid it.
But you keep focusing on what you fear, that’s exactly where you’ll end up. Where your focus goes is where you go.
The instructor presses a button that activates one of the rear tires to slightly lift to make the car skid and spin. Tony’s job is to regain control of the car and steer away from the wall.
Now at this point, Tony’s been taught that his natural reflex will be to initially look at the wall, and what he’ll need to do is turn his head to face the open track. If his head turns in one direction, physiologically his hands on the wheel will follow.
Three times in a row, the instructor has to physically turn Tony’s head with his hands and override his steering to evade hitting the wall.
Its not that Tony doesn’t get it – we are just hardwired to stare down what we fear when the stakes are high. Only with practice can we start to override our own fear reflex-response and focus on where we want to go as opposed to where we don’t.
After a few more runs at it, Tony gets it – snapping free from the skid, driving away from the wall and back to the open track.
Racers know they will unconsciously steer right at what they are focusing on. Its crucial to initially glance at the wall (what we fear) to measure distance and influence our steering, but resist the urge to glaze over. Turn your head to where you want to go.
Where your focus goes, you go.