The Power of Focus
Randy Taylor is an inspiration in the world of personal growth and leadership. Having escaped poverty, his parents’ alcoholism, and life on the streets, he was able to reach the very top in Canadian broadcasting in both radio and television. Basing his presentations on his personal experience of overcoming challenges, Randy motivates audiences to push past self-limiting behaviour to discover limitless personal and professional success. Below, Randy writes about the importance of focus in achieving your dreams:
Improving our ability to focus and learning to live in the moment is perhaps the most important and most often overlooked element of personal and professional development. Improving our ability to focus will have a dramatic impact on long term results, not only relating to productivity but also to quality of life. The truth is that you can’t be “there” and he “here” at the same time. “There” being lost in thought thinking about the client or the weather or the economy or any other number of things we can have no impact on in the moment. Science shows that the average adult is “here” focused on this moment in time between 10-15% of the day. While the brain is incredibly complex, it is not capable of processing dual thoughts. The result then of distracted thought is the loss of unproductive, unfocused time that we will never get back. Increasing our ability to focus will provide so many answers and make possible great change.
The most often stated intention for developing focus is to improve productivity. There is no question that it will and it does. When looking to improve focus what we are looking to do is to replace the distractive voice in our mind with productive, task-oriented thought. This is truly one of the most powerful skills anyone can learn. The true definition of developing the skill to focus goes far beyond the ability to increase productivity.
The truth is that both the past and future are illusions. Not being able to control distracted thought is a terrible affliction. We don’t realize this because virtually everyone is affected by it. One of the major reasons why the voice in our head is so powerful is because it is ego driven. To our ego, only the past and future are considered important. The voice keeps the past alive for our identity and it projects our thoughts constantly into the future to ensure its survival and to seek fulfillment. We have brief moments of current focus directed by our ego when we are receiving an immediate reward through such actions as winning an award, closing a sale or picking up a new car.
Otherwise our ego leads us to believe that “Everything will be great when I have this or achieve that or become something that I am not now”. We are constantly faked into accepting that “I’ll be happy when”. We are misled into believing the answer always lies in the potential of tomorrow. Here is the definitive question. “Was today not one of those tomorrows we held out so much hope for?”
There are two very clear symptoms of not living in the moment. They are stress and fear. Let’s deal with stress first. Here is what causes stress. “The fact that you are here and you want to be there.” Your mind convinces you that you want to be there so you can know if what you imagined will come to fruition or if a problem you perceived was avoided. While stress most often comes from the unknown future, it can also come from thinking of the past. We focus on the problems we encountered or the belief that it was so much better then. We romantically recall the past and wonder why it is not as good as it was then or relate our current goals to struggles of the past.
The other insidious symptom of not living in the moment is Fear. The reason fear is the great occupier of the mind is because we feel there is no control over it. It’s not real, it’s imagined. The one thing that is real is the emotion. There is no question when we internalize a fear the emotion will be experienced even on a physical level. Fear makes our perceived problems seem bigger than life. Fear comes to us in the form of unease, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread and phobias. Coming to terms with fear lies in the definition. Fear: “A negative emotion related to something that might happen, not something that is happening.” By making the commitment to stay in the moment fear will have no place to live and flourish.
What happens when we focus on stress or fear? We now know that giving attention to that thing that we are stressed about and fear the most is what we will manifest in our lives. It’s the law of attraction. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that you really really want or it’s something that you really really don’t want. If it is the thing that you focus on the most, which is what you will attract and what will manifest in your life.
In the late 1800’s a medical student was attending Montreal General Hospital. He was worried about everything; his failing grades, how to start a practice, meet a woman, earn a living, everything. Then while reading a book in the school library he read 21 words that changed his life. The passage read: “It is not our goal to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what clearly lies at hand.”
The words were written by the book’s author, Thomas Carlisle. That passage provided the key to his worries and inability to function. From that day on he began focusing on the moment. He referred to the practice as living in Daytight compartments. He called the past the dead yesterdays and the future the unborn tomorrows. He said that the only time to produce anything was in the moment.
As a result of his change in philosophy and improving his ability to focus and live in the moment he became one of the most prominent medical minds of his time. He went on to become one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Regis Professor at Oxford University and was knighted by the King of England. When he died it took two volumes and 1481 pages to tell his life story. His name was Sir William Osler.
In an interview late in life, he said if you asked his friends or family they would tell you that he was of the most ordinary mind. He credited all of his success to learning to improve his ability to focus. That is what allowed him to create such an incredible body of work. The lesson from his life is that it’s as achievable for anyone as it was to him.
Being aware of our lack of focus is the first step towards an improved quality of life and a great reduction in stress. For each of us to begin the process I believe it is important to answer these two questions personally.
Question: “Is there a problem in this exact moment?”
Generally, our problems are linked only to our perceptions of what may happen. Whenever you feel stressed and are focused on a thought that can have no impact on the issue, simply ask this question to which the answer will invariably be no. “Is there a problem in this exact moment?” The answer 99.9% of the time is no. This begins to retrain the sub-conscious mind to know the truth which is you don’t have problems but perceive you have problems. The next question is, “Do you carry inside the burden of 100 things that need to be done?”
Almost everyone does. The key is to immediately take action and put it somewhere. The mental burden of juggling a constant list of things that need to be done will rob your mind of precious productive time in the moment. When the thought arises that requires action stop and write it down or record it. Then at the end of the day review your notes or recordings and input the intended action into your calendar.
These two simple exercises will provide for a great clearing of the mind. Like all skills however we must do it again, over and over to create the change necessary and to live the life we are deserving of. Know this final point to be true. Live today, because there will never be another today.