Where am I putting my attention?
If your life is anything like mine, you may have grown up hearing “just focus”. What does that mean???? Um, my parents (and teachers) forgot to teach me that lesson. Life didn’t forget.
Focus is a discipline that will support the quality of your results. It’s something that your driving teacher may have said: you go in the direction of where you are looking (focused).
To develop the discipline of focus, you will want to practice paying attention to what is right in front of you. When you start hearing that voice inside your head talking to you, remember to bring your focus back to the moment. You want to find something to look at that is right in front of you: the eyes of the person you are talking to or maybe your hand right in front of you. Some people bring their focus back by paying attention to simply breathing in and breathing out.
Focus is about redirecting, actively finding ways to put aside the thoughts that are distracting you. I’d like to share other tactics that I have found to help me keep my focus.
When I get anxious, my focus is on the future or what is going to happen. I take the time to write down the different things that I am worried about. Doing so lets me see where I can either do something or not. If I see there is something I can do, I figure out what and how.
One example from my life comes from when I travel with my family. On the day we travel, I can get anxious that something is going to get overlooked or we will be late or who knows what else. At those moments, I sit down, make a list of what has to happen and when: in other words I capture what I feel must happen. Then I ask everyone to take a moment, and I share my anxiety with them.
As a group, we talk briefly about my concerns, I listen to theirs, and we work out how to make everything happen as smoothly as possible. That is when the anxiety goes away. I have done what I can to manage my focus and am clear about the focus of everyone around me.
When I find myself getting angry, my focus is on the past. Something that happened before is going to happen again. I don’t like it, and I can’t do anything about it.
Anger is trickier for me than anxiety. With anger, I have to actively put my anger aside. Anger clouds my focus, and I lose sight of what is really important.
Another challenge of anger for me is that I must continually let go of my belief that I know how it is supposed to be and that I know better than anyone else.
A simple example is when I can’t find things. I know that my husband is “always moving my stuff” without telling me. What I didn’t realize is that he gets unfocused when there is too much clutter.
Now I don’t think of my stuff as clutter. But because I love my husband and I want to stay married, I take the time to put my anger aside and look at it from his perspective.
It has taken some time, but by talking it through and letting go of who is right and who is wrong, we’ve found ways to make sure both of our needs are being met. We manage our space so that it is not cluttered for my husband and it is easy for me to find things.
For me, learning how to focus is really about using discipline to set aside your emotions and assumptions in order to find out what is really happening at any given moment. Focus is like any other discipline; it takes time to learn. The rewards of building this discipline will be worth it and include stronger relationships, better results, and less time muddling through to get to the best solution.