F is for focus
"Focus on what you have instead of what you don't have
Focus on what's right with your world instead of what's wrong
Focus on where you are and where you are going instead of what you have been through" Billy Cox
What does it mean to have focus?
“Focusing is the great secret of power. If you want to use your full amount of focus, you must close down all other thought and direct your power of generating mental steam toward one outcome.” Stephen Richards
When a person is focused on something, they're paying attention to to what they are doing and are not distracted. This can sometimes produce a sense of natural single-mindedness called flow state. Being focused is not always easy however; sometimes we are surrounded by distractions whether it is the noises around us or other thoughts and demands on our time. It is easy to become distracted and at other times we can be focused for short periods of time on a specific task in hand but then fall apart or be completely distracted and unable to organise ourselves on other less important tasks afterwards.
“However, if I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It's so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really live.” Henri J M Nouwen
Why is focus important?
If you lack focus in your life and don’t prioritise what is essential it is difficult to achieve success. Your focus will determine your level of achievements in life. Unless you bring your focus when looking to achieve anything in life, you will end up wasting your time and energy on unimportant things and not achieving your goal.
Focus helps us change a scenario or change our lives, but the way we do so reflects our measure of success
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but building the new”. Socrates
Focus allows us to see opportunities and possibilities in life
"No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are,
raise your sights and see possibilities -
always see them, for they are always there"
Norman Vincent Peale
We all face problems that are opportunities for us to learn and to grow but often we fail to recognise them as such because our attention is too focused on the problem itself. We stress and worry about the potential consequences of a problem (although they may never materialise ) or the inevitable end result of a situation and fail to recognise that the opportunity we are being presented with offers us unique challenges and opportunities for growth or patience, acceptance and re-framing.
Focus is important because it helps you learn and to expand your knowledge and life in general. Focus is the key to all thinking: perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Without good focus, all aspects of your ability to think will suffer and it is harder to be rational and make appropriate decisions; if you can't focus effectively, you can't think effectively.
“In the rush of life, it is quite easy to forget what’s important. As cliché as this is, it’s easy to take life for granted when you don’t have time to focus properly. It is only when life diverts from the ‘plan’ that we suddenly take time to see what is really important.” Leigh Hershkovich
Focus can help with productivity. When you can focus and bring your attention towards a particular task everything else is secondary. There is a difference between productivity and busyness however. Being busy can often mean filling our time running around and feeling over-stretched yet achieving little despite our best intentions . Being productive is more concerned with kairos; how we use time and having something to show for our efforts. I’m sure that many of us have found ourselves looking back over our day feeling exhausted but having the impression that although we have been extremely busy and have tried to accomplish a lot, we are still not feeling particularly productive and have little to show for our efforts.
How do we focus our attention?
“Expect change. Analyse the landscape. Take the opportunities. Stop being the chess piece; become the player. It’s your move.” Tony Robbins
The focused person learns how to prioritise. Sometimes they clear off the easy tasks first, at other times they invest their effort and energy into the most difficult task first, knowing this is when they are freshest and are likely to be able to concentrate. It is about using Kairos which is concerned with the notion of seizing the appropriate time to do something.
“You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires.”
Focus requires planning and preparation
“Each day, wake up with a plan. Don’t just approach your days in an unfocused void. That state of mind leaves too much room for discontent, opposition, unhappiness and hopelessness.” Carlos Wallace
The direction of our focus is key
“When you focus on problems, you get more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you have more opportunities.” Zig Ziglar
“Focus on your goals, not your fear.” Roy Bennett
When we focus it is important to focus on ourselves and the task in hand and not compare ourselves or our reactions with others.
“Focus on your work. Do what you're great at. Don't compare yourself to others and or waste time criticizing the lives and work of others. Do what matters most to you and make a difference doing that.” Germany Kent
Mindfulness is a useful tool when wishing to focus.
“Mindfulness helps us to focus on one goal at a time. It helps us to be more relaxed, patience and compassionate towards the goal.” Amit Ray
Zanshin is being constantly aware of your body, mind, and surroundings in an effortless vigilance.
Part of the definition of zanshin is about remained fully focused until you have achieved your goal and not losing concentration at the last crucial moment. Just like in Aesop’s Fables with the race between the tortoise and the hare, our brain can trick us into thinking that the danger is over and we can guarantee succeeding, it is then that we get complacent and find ourselves in a completely different scenario at the last moment.
The latest research is clear: the state of our attention determines the state of our lives.
Chris Bailey, author of the recent book 'Hyperfocus', talks about how our ability to focus is the key to productivity, creativity, and living a meaningful life. He talks about two fundamental shifts in thinking we need to make and sets a 2 week challenge to make your mind less stimulated
It is important to harness our attention to focus deeper, get distracted less, and even become more creative. By focusing on one task at a time, we become less stressed and it also helps our brains. It is important to have the right type of busyness in order to maintain a healthy brain and help protect our brain from future deterioration, but balance is key and rather than seek to find new ways to become more efficient and do more, we need to conscientiously programme in moments of down-time e.g. in nature to allow us the balance to just be.