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FOCUS | Mindset Mondays


Clyde Beatty was a big game hunter who became one of the most famous lion and tiger trainers in the world. Beatty believed that when he used a chair when taming big cats, the chair’s four legs paralyzed the animals, causing them to have trouble trying to figure out which leg, or person, to focus on.


Do you struggle with staying focused? How much more productive would you be and how much better would your life be if you were able to focus better and you didn’t get distracted as easily?


Your ability to do your work well depends on how well you are able to focus, but we live in a world full of distractions that attack our focus and attention.


When he was starting the process of writing his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, author Daniel Goleman said when he approached potential publishers about his idea of writing a book on focus, they told him, “Great! Just keep it short.” 


The irony of this is his publishers knew that a research-based book on focus and attention was valuable and important, but they didn’t think it could be too long or its readers would lose focus.


Our attention is constantly being attacked. We have more information now than ever, and as Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon says, “Information consumes its recipient. A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”


When we get hit with too much information or stimulation, it bleeds our attention and ability to focus dry.


THE 2 TYPES OF ATTENTION


Goleman has identified two types of attention:


1 - The Attention We Want

2 - The Attention That Seduces Us


Choosing to focus on a task or work that we want to do or have to get done is the type of attention we want. Emails, text messages, and notifications are examples of the endless seductions that are constantly pulling us away from our sustained focus on the things we know we have to do.


If we want to get better at what we do, we have to get better at paying attention to what we focus on and what steals our attention.


When you feel like your focus and attention are being attacked, stop and ask yourself, “Does this align with my purpose, my goals, and who I want to be?”


Taking the time to pause, catch your thoughts and actions, and reflect can help you reset and refocus.


Your mind is a muscle that can be strengthened, and your ability to focus is a skill that you can improve. Mindfulness activities like monitoring your focus and meditation can strengthen your ability to focus and refocus.


THE 2 TYPES OF DISTRACTIONS


Distractions are the things that interrupt our focus, and Goleman has identified two types of distractions:


1 - SENSORY DISTRACTIONS - External factors that stimulate our brains, such as noises, new colors, tastes, smells, and sensations.


2 - EMOTIONAL DISTRACTIONS - Examples include when we hear our name, have a problem in our lives, or end a relationship.


Sensory distractions are the things that we see, hear, feel, smell, and touch. Emotional distractions are the feelings and emotions we feel. Sensory distractions are much more common and happen more often, and emotional distractions are less common but usually affect us deeper and longer.


Increasing our self-awareness by identifying what distracts us, when, and how can help us set up appropriate boundaries and help us recover and refocus as quickly as possible.


Ask yourself:


1 - What are some examples of sensory and emotional distractions that steal your focus? 

2 - Which type of distractions do you get hit with more often?

3 - Which distractions are easier to overcome? Which ones are harder for you to overcome?

4 - Which distractions keep you distracted longer? 

5 - When you get distracted, what helps you regain your focus?


GETTING FOCUSED | Excellence, Engagement, and Ethics


Daniel Goleman says Good Work is a concept that helps you prevent distractions and place boundaries around your focus. Good Work combines our best skills - what we are excellent at, with what we love doing - what engages us, and what we believe in - our sense of ethics, values, purpose, and meaning. 


Goleman says when you align Excellence, Engagement, and Ethics, you have something that you love doing, good at, and helps you get in a FLOW state of focus where you are able to do your best work.


Ask yourself:


1 - What do I do best?

2 - What do I love most about what I do best?

3 - What values are most important to me, and how do what I do best and what I love align with my values?

4  - How can I do what I do best, what I love, and what aligns with my values more?

5 - What boundaries can I set to help me stay in the FLOW state?


REFOCUSING


Neuropsychologist Kim Willment says we can train our brains to monitor if and when our minds are wandering. She suggests committing to a task like reading or writing for 30 minutes and setting a timer to go off every five minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself if your mind has wandered. The timer can be a distraction, but Kim says you are training your brain to monitor if and when your mind is wandering, and you are strengthening both the monitoring process and your ability to maintain focus on a task.


You can’t stop distractions from attacking you, but you can set up boundaries to protect your focus, and you can create plans that will refocus when needed.


Ask yourself:


1 - When do you do your best work?

2 - When are you the most easily distracted?

3 - What helps you refocus when you are distracted?


WRITE IT DOWN


One of my mentors started every day at his desk with a pen and a sticky note. Every morning, he would write down the 3-5 big rocks that he needed to move to feel good at the end of the day. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”


My mentor would say we have millions of things that come across our plate every day, but only 3 to 5 of them are the big rocks that lead to the type of success and peace Coach Wooden mentions in his quote.


Try starting each day by writing down what your 3-5 Big Rocks are for the day, and then work to cross them out. When you feel like you need to refocus, either check your list or make a new one. This can help you identify, focus, and refocus on the things that matter most.


OTHER REFOCUSING TIPS


1 - Exercise - A 20-minute workout might be all you need.

2 - Diet - Avoid junk food and eat a healthy diet of meat, nuts, fruits, and vegetables instead.

3 - Breathing Excerices - Focused breathing, like breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and then holding again for 4 seconds before repeating 4 times can help you get back on track.

4 - Meditate - Try unplugging and mediating for 1-5 minutes.


SOMETHING(s) TO THINK ABOUT


1 - What are 1-3 goals that you have right now?

2 - What are 1-3 things that you need to do to achieve those goals?3 - What are 1-3 barriers that might get in the way of you achieving those goals?

4 - What can you do to stay focused and overcome those barriers?


Additional Resources



For a printable PDF version of this post, click here: Focus


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