“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” ~ Anthony Robbins on how to focus our resources
I can remember when I was about the age of 14 out of frustration I wrote on a piece of paper: “Concentrate on the essentials!” (in german: “Konzentriere dich auf das Wesentliche!”) It was about some trouble with friends in school. This sentence somehow gave me direction to know what is important and worthy to think about and what is not.
To use the mind fully is an essential in personal development. If we improve our skill to focus on anything we want to accomplish we can dramatically improve our productivity and the results.
To actively direct our mental focus on only one thing at a time means to not focus it on all the other distractions that are constantly around us. It means to have the ability and also the discipline to say yes only to the most important thing at this moment and to say no to all the rest.
Now, how can we develop a clear and powerful mental focus?
First: How to Focus on the Right Thing
One of the key aspects of using the mind efficiently is knowing what we want and then concentrating our full attention on it. By learning how to focus your mind on one single task, it is amazing how effective you can be.
In business there are the principles of leadership and management working together. In my experience I see leadership answering the question “What do we do (and why)?” and management answering “How do we do it (most effectively)?” Or as Stephen Covey calls it : 1. Begin with the end in mind and 2. First things first.
I mean you can develop the skill of focus to a great depth, but if you are focusing on wrong things you will do wrong things very good – but nothing more. For instance you can play a computer game to a ridiculous high level of skill or get obsessed with a certain person or other fan-based material. But you may achieve absolutely nothing regarding your overall life-goals by doing that. On the contrary: you most certainly move your mental focus away from what is really important to you. I call this skill the ability of self-leadership, the ability to decide the right things to focus an. It can be done very well by developing a personal vision and creating personal goals from there. This is a key if you want to be successful.
In the spiritual terminology Deepak Chopra said it nicely in Creating affluence : Intention (goals) transforms while attention (focus) creates.
Of course the skill of mental focus is applied also in everyday life and enhances our abilities to deal with the world, so it is beneficial whether we want to use it to create what we desire or just to be effective in what we do.
Alright, being clear about what it is we need or want to focus on, how can we do it at the best level?
The Importance to Direct Our Mental Focus
If we fail to direct our mental focus from the inside, our focus will get caught by the outside. Then we will not act but we will really react to the demands of the outside world. Of course this is necessary and the outside world is a kind of a feedback system, but if it gets out of balance and we are reacting more to the outside then from the inside continuously, stress is the sure thing that will follow. If we master our mental focus we become able to act into the world and by that tend to create the environment we want around us. If we fail to do this, the influence of the environment (including other people) will get bigger on us, which means: we are not in control of our life.
By taking control over our mental focus we also become able to focus on the good side of life and not so much on the bad sides of life. You may say this is deluding yourself or it is not being objectively, and to a certain degree that is true: it should not end in ignorance. But is watching the murders and catastrophes in the news an objective use of your mental focus? Or is it also possible to put our focus on something that is more empowering and where we actually can do something about?
So it is very important to actively direct our mental focus and develop this skill to a high degree. It is in direct relationship to our level of success and also joy and fulfillment.
The Process: How To Focus
If we apply our attention on something or a task we concentrate all of our mental power on this task and therefore are able to be most effective. It is the process of creation, of conscious creation. If I take my task or goal at hand and direct my focus and actions on this single task, I focus with intensity on getting it done, getting my desired outcome. So the key here is to simplify to that degree that we can focus single-mindedly on that one task. If we do so, all of our power will be used.
The Easy Guide to Stay Focused looks like this:
1. Select your one task
2. Put all your attention to that one task
3. Stay with this task if possible uninterrupted, until it is finished (!)
Flow: Being in the Zone
If we do this with great intensity and for a certain period of time we come into a state of flow. In sports many call it The Zone, when you are so focused that you become one with what you do in the moment. Time vanishes. It is like we totally forget anything around us. In that state we are most effective and that surprisingly without too much effort. For me it is without doubt the greatest and final kind of mental focus we can achieve.
How can we come into the flow?
1. Focus with intensity on your task, dive totally into it and become one with it
2. Do it for a reasonable period of time, at least 1 hour, better more
3. Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment
For me this often means in the evening or weekends when I have time to be totally alone with myself. It is a great source of very deep creativity – it is almost like creating natural perfection – you can’t do wrong – it flows. :)
Btw. there is a nice book about the state of flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ” if you are interested in it.
What is Blocking our Mental Focus?
1. No motivation or fuzzy motivation
This goes back to the introduction of this article since a lack of motivation to use your mental focus is nothing else as a lack of clear goals. If it is fuzzy what you want to create your focus is also scattered.
2. Too much distraction from the environment
Phone calls, colleagues or other people with demands, unfriendly environments, those things can make it pretty hard to focus on what we want to do. So try to set up the right environment by: disabling phone-calls or instant massages, keep other persons for interrupting you, stop interrupting you yourself :)
3. Mental blocks
If we are unsatisfied with what we do in any way, maybe because someone else said we should do it or maybe it is just not the right thing we are working on, we are really resisting it and this keeps us from being effective. It is important to commit to what we do fully in order to get a good result.
Focus on a Larger Scale
Until now we talked about mental focus on a level of daily routine. Focus can and has also be applied on a larger scale if we talk about our personal resources or even resources in groups:
Steve Jobs from Apple on how to focus your energy:
“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
That means if you have so much opportunities in life and so many things that demand our attention, the one skill to select what we focus on and what not is critical. It also comes full circle to the first intro of the post.
Pitfalls with Mental Focus
When we learn how to focus our mind and use it effectively in everyday life it is important to also keep a broader perspective. This can be achieved by weekly or monthly reviews of what we do and where we are going. Sometimes it is necessary to redirect and be flexible by adjusting. It is called keeping balance .