Maintaining Your Focus

Maintaining Your Focus

Is the ability to focus becoming a lost art?  Can we concentrate on just one thing at a time with laser intensity, full concentration, and attention? What do we achieve when we attempt to do that?

For years and to the point of becoming a trite assertion, many have boasted how they multitask successfully.  Yes, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can listen to a book while running or read a magazine while standing in line or twitter while watching television. In those cases, these tasks do not require our complete and sole attention, nor do we demand it from ourselves.

However, there are many instances where we are lead to believe that we can multitask where it is not possible to do so. For example, we cannot drive safely and text at the same time. In five seconds or less we can travel the length of a football field with little or any attention to oncoming traffic, passing vehicles, or the disabled vehicle whose driver just opened the car door to get out and check for a flat tire.  Both driving and texting require complete attention, if only briefly.

If you want to check on your ability to focus, try meditation.  Just for a short self-test, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and think about one thing and one thing only – perhaps a loved one or an object which is meaningful to you.  Do not move any part of your body. Time yourself either with a timer or just open your eyes when you are finished and evaluate how much time you spent.  Notice whether you were tempted to move your arms or legs. Did your eyes twitch or water? Did you get hot or cold, itchy? Did your mind wander?  How long did you meditate before you opened your eyes?

We all think that focusing is easy, that we do it all the time, but the fact is that most of us do not. When we try to still the mind, we are bombarded with other input from the senses. It is the same when we work, study, or attempt to concentrate on a task at hand. If you permit interruptions, your mind shifts from the task at hand to the interruption, and the interruption assumes primary importance.

Athletes succeed in part because they focus—they concentrate on what they need to achieve, e.g., the next turn in the pool, the point where the football needs to go, the next hurdle, the passing of a baton, the basket where the free throw has to land, the bulls-eye in the target, the cadence of pedaling, etc.

If you want to be successful, however you may define it, one thing in your toolkit should be the ability to focus—to set a goal and remain steadfast in moving toward it, allowing lesser distractions to fall by the wayside.  Practice your ability to focus and be clear about what is important to you to accomplish, and you will find that you will achieve more in less time.

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