March 8, 2019

Where are you looking?

A video from a motorsports story from a few years ago popped up again recently on an Instagram account I follow.  The premise was something like this:

"Curious about how highly skilled professional drivers deal with fast-changing track conditions, Sky Sports (UK) recently teamed up with Formula 1 driver Nico Hulkenberg and his Force India racing team for a little experiment.  Using eye-tracking technology from Tobii, Sky fitted Nico with a pair of smart goggles featuring five tiny infra-red cameras capable of detecting and showing eye movement. Besides offering an accurate view of precisely where the F1 driver looked as he motored around a racing circuit, the collected data also showed Nico’s reaction times to events on the track."

One of the biggest surprises for the investigators was just how fast and how "busy" the driver's eyes were while working at high speed.  The article continues:

"F1 drivers have trained their brain to speed up eye movements between focal points and understand new information more quickly, enabling them to take in and process more information than non-pro drivers... When you consider all of this, it’s understandable why the likes of Nico Hulkenberg seem relaxed and calm out of the car. While they might seem like chilled-out sportsmen, what they’re really doing is saving mental energy for what really matters when the visor comes down on a Sunday afternoon.”

The video is fascinating, if for no other reason than to compare the eye movement of a "normal" person (non-professional) driving a simulator, as this online poster did.  What's obvious is that the professional driver seemed to spend more time looking far into the distance, looking beyond the upcoming curves and even plotting a path along the next best racing line beyond that.  Enduring the jostle of the bumpy corners and "kerbs" is but the uncomfortable price to be paid for getting where you need to go and doing so quickly--and competitively.

As I watched it, I had another thought about how we approach life in general.  It comes down the proverbial "forest vs. trees" mentality.  For instance, when our days get busy and we begin to focus too heavily on the struggles of the moment, the difficulties we face, and the immediate problems or obstacles that seem to be in the way, perhaps we should take a lesson from those "chilled-out" Formula 1 drivers and spend more time focusing on the long-term goals.

Of course we can take a few quick minutes to check conditions around us, and like the drivers, we can learn to do so quickly and efficiently.  But setting our gaze far beyond today or even tomorrow, can help keep the mundane and the immediately uncomfortable in perspective.  A great article in Inc. Magazine asks, "How can you not lose sight of your long-term goals when everything is blowing up around you?"  The response includes:

  • Let some things go
  • Know your boundaries
  • Work more when you can, take more family time when you can
  • Notice the negative self-talk, and just stop it
  • Feel no guilt when taking care of yourself

The article concludes:

"You absolutely can stay on track with your long-term goals while getting the day-to-day work done by changing your mindset. You can have it all, but not all at once. Adopting this view may require backing off some of your most closely held beliefs. However, the embedded wisdom will support your efforts to find that feeling of control in your daily life that you're craving. Managing today while taking the longer-term view helps keep your work-life goals in perspective."

Photo source link here.

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