A key element of thinking right is to be in the right place at the right time, mentally. In sports and during competitions, it is important to be completely in the present and focused on the activity of that given moment. Any thought outside of that realm isn’t a right thought at that time.

Yet, things happen in sports. Good things happen and bad things happen. Any of these things can take your focus off where you need to be, which is the right here and right now. However, a trick that can be learned is something called "parking it."

You see, I have recycling and dry cleaning that I need to take care of as an errand for my wife. Yet, while I’m writing this article, I don’t need to have the dry cleaning and recycling in my lap. Even though I need to do them, at the current moment they would just be in my way. That's why, right now, they are outside in my car—parked in place, for when I am ready to deal with them. The same thing goes with athletics—things that happen in sports need to be parked until you can deal with them.

For instance, how many times did something go slightly wrong on your way up to the platform? There was no block of chalk yet, only powder. Someone was in your way. You had issues with your belt. Your handler wasn’t exactly where you needed him to be, or the thumb loop on your wrap broke. All of these things need to be addressed, but not while you’re lifting. You park them and leave them to the side. They’ll be there later when you can deal with them because they’re certainly not needed now—they would only slow you down and keep you from hitting optimal performance. Why? Well, if you’re concerned about what just happened with your wrist wrap while you’re setting up for the lift, then you’re not focused on the lift. You can deal with any of those issues after the lift or after the meet. What really matters now? Getting you where you need to be to get this lift.

Now, there is a time and a place for everything. There is a time to think of the past, like when you are evaluating what went right and what went wrong. But this is after the meet when you’re breaking down your technique on film. Being in the past at a meet, on the other hand, is something you want to avoid. It can lead to depression, guilt, doubt, etc.—emotions that are linked to thinking wrong. The last thought you want going through your head as you approach the platform for your final attempt is, “If I’d have slowed down and wrapped just a bit better, I’d have gotten my second attempt and been able to jump to my third.”

There is also a time to think about future meets, training weaknesses, and attempts, but that's certainly not during your current meet. On your opener, you should concern yourself with your opener, not your third attempt that you’ve pre-selected. If you’re concerned about getting the third, then you’ll not be completely focused for your opener. Thus, you may end up with shaky form and possibly even miss what is normally an easy lift. And you shouldn’t be focused on how you need to do more triceps work to improve your lockout on this next cycle, either. Because that doesn’t matter right now. Thinking about the future instead of being in the present leads to anxiety, that "what if" syndrome. Whatever the thought happens to be is irrelevant. It is taking your focus away from the task at hand, which is getting your lift.

Personally, "parking it" greatly changed my lifting. I was the world's worst about losing it if something went wrong. If something went wrong on my squats, it would affect my bench and deadlift. If I had a bad time of it anywhere, it just cascaded on through, ruining my day. However, once I learned the skill of "parking it," each lift was just that: its own lift. I only needed to be right then and right there to hit it. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t wrapped properly (slightly too tight or too loose), or the chalk wasn’t right. I didn’t care. I wasn’t focused on that. I was focused on one thing and one thing only at that moment: my one-on-one battle with the bar. My focus was only on dominating my opponent, the barbell, and what I needed to do to succeed. Because everything else was parked.

Optimal performance happens in the present. When you have something that you need to work on, but it isn’t appropriate to do at the present time, park it and refocus on the task at hand. The greatest accomplishments come from a singularly focused mind and extreme determination.

Work on the skill of "parking it" to develop a Strong(er) mind and a Strong(er) body.