Focus, Efficiency and Burpees

I had a revelation the other day to do with how my mind affects my motivation, for better and/or for worse. I figured that the mindset that I realised could be helpful in many different areas, including how I approach my work.

Warning: this post contains talk of exercise.

The evil (exercise) regime

5 sets of 20 burpees.

Set 1

Rep 1, 19 reps left
Rep 2, 18 reps left
Rep 3, 17 reps left
Rep 4, 16 reps left
Rep 5, 15 reps left
Rep 6, 14 reps left
Rep 7, 13 reps left
Rep 8, 12 reps left
Rep 9, 11 reps left
Rep 10, 10 reps left
Rep 11, 9 reps left
Rep 12, 8 reps left
Rep 13, 7 reps left
Rep 14, 6 reps left
Rep 15, 5 reps left
Rep 16, 4 reps left
Rep 17, 3 reps left
Rep 18, 2 reps left
Rep 19, 1 reps left
Rep 20

That was my inner monologue whilst I was completely this evil exercise regime (I hate burpees).

With this inner monologue running through my head, I found that I was beginning to fail around the 10th rep so that the last 10 were pure hell.

Stay present

I figured further into the sets that my thoughts were a contributing factor to my failure — more specifically, how I was concentrating on how many reps I had left to do.

See the Pen I Hate Burpees by Howard Dyer (@howarddyer) on CodePen.

I started concentrating intensely and solely on the number of the rep I had just completed (without any other context). Quite literally, I was picturing just the number 3 in my head, just the number 4 in my head, just the number 5 in my head…. I found I got to 20 with (seemingly) a lot less effort. In fact the 5th set I completed better than the 1st or 2nd.

It seems that the extra (unneeded) information of knowing how many reps I had left distracted me and made the potential of completing those reps much more difficult.


Forcefully limiting your focus solely to things that are relevant will stop you fascinating and being affected negatively by things that are not.

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