Have You Mastered Focus?
So, what is actually Focus? I’m sure everyone has experienced the state of “flow”. It’s a state of absolute focus in which our mind is only aimed at the task at hand. We’re able to use our brain’s capacity to carry out that specific task at hand: Reading, writing, analyzing, performing a physical activity etc. Our mind is a powerful tool; if we choose to focus on something negative it’ll find all the negative things in our life and even change the positive things into negative. For some reason it is much easier for our minds to stay in a state of negative focus than to turn our mind into finding positivity.
I believe this is due to the fact that we’ve evolved from beings who only needed to know how to survive and stay alive. Our mind is naturally, through evolution, geared towards finding what is wrong in our environment. This “negative focus” is something that is keeping us alive. But is this basic instinct really helping us?
One of my dearest friends is a woman in her mid twenties whom I’ve known for all her life – Let’s call her Dana. In her, I can clearly see the destructive sides of focus that is geared towards finding all the wrong things. Whenever in a relationship, she’ll naturally start noticing all the things that can go wrong. She’ll even notice small things like the position of her date’s hands and how that certain position might be an indication that he would later be unfaithful… As the relationship progresses Dana’s focus switches from the guy to herself. “What am I doing wrong? What if I say things like XYZ and he replies with XZY? Can I really be happy since my last relationships have gone so horribly wrong? He told me that he liked me, but didn’t use the word love!”. It is this exact type of focus that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. She fails to notice anything going well and only focuses on her fears and things that might end the relationship. Is it any wonder, that none of her relationship seem to last longer than six months?
The reason for me using my dear friend as an example was not to badmouth her. It is to showcase the three types of focus that guide our life:
- Focus in control
- Focus in the past, present and future
- Focus in the meaning
What I mean by “Control” is do we focus on things we can actually control? In the case Dana, she’d only focus on things outside of her control. She has no power over how the man positions his hands, how he responds to her words or how he translated Dana’s words in his own head. She has no control over whether the guy will be unfaithful or not. By choosing to focus on things she cannot control, it inevitably forces her into a position where she is only reacting to the relationship, not creating a healthy one. Our goal is always to create and be proactive! If we have to only react, life becomes a survival battle, much like how it was for our ancestors.
Past, Present and Future
You might have noticed how some people are naturally intrigued about the future. Some say to always enjoy the present and some always seem to bring up the past. So, which of these three timesframes are good and which are bad?
A person who focuses in the past will always be a victim. She is always the victim of life happening to her. By choosing to focus in the past, it makes it that much easier to forget about the present and not be fearfull of the future. The bad thing is, the past will always repeat itself if the main focus is in the past.
Some people tend to focus in the present. Generally these people live in the moment and seem happy, at least on the outside. Not thinking of the past allows for us to learn from it and not let our past control us. But if the focus in the present doesn’t allow for planning of the future, the problem arises. Living in the moment might have some negative consequences in a relationship and in a person’s bank account. By not planning for the future, how are we able to set clear goals for our relationship, for our life, for our kids or for our financial path? Of course, our goal can always be to just focus in the present, but that usually doesn’t yield the best results.
The last group of people focus in the future. This is a special trait especially apparent in entrepreneurs and visionary types of people. Living for the future allows for them to forget about the mistakes and learn from them. It allows for the people to dream big and go after those dreams no matter how impossible they appear to be. In a relationship they usually have goals and their financials are in check. The trick then becomes, how can they enjoy life right now if they only live for the future? The answer: it cannot be done.
The ultimate combination
What can be done if not a single one of the timeframes actually helps us in being happy? It’s actually simple. We have to focus both in the present and future. Now, saying that is easy, but doing it is hard. For a person to enjoy the present and plan for the future it requires a tremendous effort and focus. We have to focus in the future while remembering that the present will pave way for our future. We have to let go of all focus in the past. Our past mistakes, past relationships and past events have no inclination on how our life will be in the future.
We have to train our minds into focusing on the positive and only realizing the timeframes that are advantageous to us. Never should we let our minds take us back in the past (unless the memory is positive). By taking control of our focus and gearing it in the present and future, we seize true control and a possibility of achieving a happy life!
Meaning of words
The last part of focus is the meaning. If we go back to the example of Dana, we can start to understand how everything that has happened, could be interpreted in a way that would empower her. Remember how she would give a bad meaning to the word “like”? See, in her head liking is not as strong as love. These two simple words have become a measure of her self worth. If the man uses the word like, she’ll immediately focus in the meaning of the word in her own way: Like is bad. To most of us, liking someone is a strong indicator that things are going well. But in Dana’s case this meaning of the word like combined with her focus in the past and in the things she cannot control would go on to destroy the relationship she so badly wanted, because being liked in the past has never worked for her.
There’s a way to change the meaning we give to things that happen to us. Imagine if Dana was to give a new meaning to her past. Instead of the past being bad, it would become the greatest thing that ever happened to her. A guy dumped her – “Amazing, this was meant to happen so I can learn more about myself”. A guy was unfaithful – “That hurt, but now I learned how to identify bad habits early in the relationship”. A guy said he liked her – “Wow, I must be amazing for him to say that this early and without me even having to ask him!”. Our mind has the power to change any meaning and focus only on the positive, if we so choose.
How I learned to focus the proper way
I have had some pretty amazing and interesting experiences – positive and negative. In the past I’d play the part of a victim and always give a meaning to what had happened and it was destroying my future. Gradually I learned – through self-education and mental mastery – to switch this destructive focus pattern into one where I had the power. Instead of me quitting basketball and being a failure, I – instead in my mind – had quit basketball and learned so much from the experience that I knew it was supposed to be this way in my life. I had made a choice that made my life better. If I hadn’t stopped playing basketball, how could I be right here right now writing this post and understanding the true depths of focus? I learned how to give an empowering meaning to everything that had happened. I also learned how to give a empowering meaning to things happening now. I have to admit, it feels pretty amazing to have the power of well aimed focus!
It takes a long time to master, but once mastered, I promise it will be the most transforming thing in your life!
With love and laser focus,