Our minds play tricks on us. Our mind tells us that we should be moving fster, achieving more, getting skinnier, juggling more and essentially changing the world singlehandedly because after all Oprah, Lady Gaga and Dr. Oz are doing it.
Looking at other people’s lives gets us discombobulated very easily. One bad phone conversation sends us into a tailspin. A negative look turns us from sunny to blue. The driver in front of us going too slowly is frustrating. We’re about to blow.
We lose focus. We get distracted. We move from one shiny object to the next. Technology calls to us. A beep here, a tweet there. Our emotions take over and before you know it, a focused moment, or hour or day is no more.
The power of focus is one of the most important mind lessons you can ever learn. I’m not a meditator or a yoga person, but the mind is the most powerful muscle the body has. It conducts the symphony. Yet it is a fickle friend, always choosing to go elsewhere even after you’ve decided where it should be.
Focus is a lovely quality. It requires presence and motivation. It requires elimination and single-mindedness, something we’ve been told is not a good quality. Focus can be your best friend because doing one thing is really all our mind can process at a time. Multi-tasking isn’t possible and it’s why we feel so brittle, so stretched, so frazzled so often.
I was having pizza with my daughter Candice over lunch yesterday and I noticed I wasn’t paying any attention at all. Oh, I was responding to her questions but I was also glancing at the TV screen above showing ESPN (which I don’t like at all), sipping on my soda, mulling over the worry in my own mind about my upcoming work activities and thinking about the trailer of stuff that I still need to get unloaded. I was with Candice but I wasn’t WITH Candice. I was barely there.
At the moment I realized it, I snapped myself back with the words “Be Present.” I put down my pizza and looked her in the eyes. I started listening to the words she was saying. I straightened up my posture. It took focus. I had to eliminate all the other distractions and become an active part of the conversation.
Just like honing any other muscle of your body, focus of your brain takes practice. There will always be millions of things competing for your attention. Just make sure the things competing are even worthy of your attention.