Posts Tagged 'concentration'

Fragile Focus

Courtesy of INeedToStopSoon.com

“You’re going to screw up and make a mess.”

She was right.

I did.

My sister-in-law got in my head.

I had been alone for several days while she and my brother attended a funeral in our hometown, cooking and cleaning and caring for the the dogs without anyone to talk to.

Though I enjoy solitude, extended periods to myself invariably lead my mind to find entertainment in practicing random skills. This time, I settled on the chef’s trick of flipping eggs in the pan.

I’ve watched a lot of Food Network. How hard could it be?

I gave it a shot and got close.

I kept at it. By the sixth or seventh attempt, I could execute the basics with consistency. After that, it would be more remarkable if I failed than if I succeeded. Having added this little party favor to my cooking arsenal, I set about to show it off.

I called for attention.

I set up.

I heard those eight words.

I got nervous.

I flubbed the flip.

The meal ended up as delicious as it would have been, if a little less aesthetically pleasing.

I could only think of how easily I became rattled.

Why does new-found confidence disappear so suddenly?

How many of these little battles do we lose each day?

Our brains light up with a fresh idea and energy surges through us.

Enthusiasm bursts to the surface and we get excited to share our good news.

We tell someone and the reaction deflates us.

We hunch our shoulders in defeat and return where we came from.

We lose focus.

Here’s what happened in the kitchen: I heard her voice just as I readied my wrist for the flip and my concentration vanished. I became aware of the consistency of the egg. I noticed my grip on the pan seemed off.

Was the heat high enough?

Was it too early?

Was the right amount of oil in the pan?

I was thinking about everything but snapping my hand through the motion I knew worked and had performed several times without a hitch.

When adopting a new habit or changing a belief, the margin for error is slim.

Just as with long division and the crossover dribble, development is a conscious process at the start. Every step is measured and done and remeasured and redone until it becomes aut-o-mat-ic.

Such diligence is the difference between “good” and “great” and “exceptional” and “excellent.”

It’s time-consuming and rigorous, for sure, but worth the effort.

In the meantime, we must hold on for dear life to our fragile focus.

Comparison Dropper

Courtesy HowStuffWorks.com

How do you stack up?

Life today seems to become a constant stream of opportunities to drag your self-image up alongside someone else. It’s challenging enough to stand amongst other people and hold on to your value, then the internet, TV and movies heap more junk into the river of your consciousness and your fragile psyche struggles to keep from being swept away.

Your eyes, filled with pictures of questionable quality, trick your brain into pushing to exceed someone else’s “lofty standard.”

To compete is, without fail, to lose focus on yourself.

When you make another individual your measuring stick, you shift your concentration from your own talents and abilities to those of another. It is, in effect, to let go of yourself for the sake of somebody else — or your idea of them.

What someone else has becomes more important than what you have.

What another does is better than what you can do.

And, regardless of how you balance the equation, you’re always left wanting.

You end up worshipping at the altar of “If I could only be…” and your soul withers.

Forgetting everyone possesses certain gifts, you eliminate who you are by striving to be something you’re not — or can’t be.

You lose track of your own worth.

You deny your purpose.

You give up the richness of fulfilling it.

“I can never be like…” is the truth.

Stop trying.

Be you.

Express that.

Drop the comparison.

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Intention to Detail

I appreciate detail.

The human capacity to reveal and understand the minutiae of the small parts in this “big everything” stirs wonder in my brain and joy in my heart. My voracious appetite for knowledge treats a bookstore like a buffet, piling more on the plate than I can possibly ingest — and growing my library all the time.

My fascination includes the ultra simple and super complex.

I get lost in the intricacy of all sorts of unrelated topics: word choice, theoretical physics, blades of grass. To study the design of a sentence or universe or yard is to peer into another mind, to see for a moment what moves that soul.

There is purity in deep attention.

Intense focus — the kind we engage in when concentrating on the problems we yearn to solve — sifts through the unimportant and uninteresting. The outcome takes center stage, like when a tailor cuts a suit or seamstress sews a dress. Results are conceived of as a reflection of the individual. And, as such, the creation is magnificent — regardless of what anyone else says.

We often forget to account for ourselves in this way.

What matters gets lost in the shuffle of paying the mortgage or making sure we coordinate the calendar. We buzz around attempting to accomplish all we can and are unwilling or unable to infuse life with the richness everyone hopes for with “quiet desperation.”

Thus, we spend years begging to experience what we know is available.

If we’re lucky, we decide to pursue it.

We train our eyes on sharing love and expressing passion, then set about to do it every hour of every day.

For, as the craftsman knows, in works great and small:

Without intention, there is no beauty.

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What You Hear When You Can’t See

Our brains are wired for sight.

Something on the order of three-quarters of the connections between neurons are built around processing imagery, whether getting it back to the occipital lobe or merging the separate angles and colors into an accurate picture. Even with such dedication, mistakes are made when miscalculations result in poor guesses. We call this an optical illusion.

What happens when we can’t see?

Other senses are heightened to superhuman levels, right?

Wrong.

Blindness allows other inputs unintended attention.

Current thinking holds the elimination of our primary sensation–vision–gives other stimuli free reign in the mind’s playground. Imagine for a moment your workload is suddenly cut back to 25%. Think you could encounter a lot you might have otherwise missed?

This is why every sound seems amplified when you’re walking in the dark.

It’s the same with us when our eyes are closed to purpose.

We are unsighted by either conscious choice or unconscious ignorance. We identify what is proper and avoid it or are flat-out unaware there is anything else. Lacking a central point to navigate by, we are lost and rudderless.

Then, the winds of doubt and fear blow us far off course.

“Do you really think you’re good enough to pull that off?”

“That looks too hard.”

“Maybe you should try something else instead.”

Clouded by the judgment of others and devoid of confidence, we are susceptible to anything that would push us in any direction. We drift from one whim to the next unguided and uninspired, forever tormented by a treasure we know exists and are unable to find. (I have sailed in this manner for longer than I care to admit.)

How can we get back on track?

Some are lucky and stumble upon the reason for our lives.

Most have to work for it.

Intent focus helps us quiet the noise and find a path wherever we are to go.

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The Focus Soliloquy

Focus is an elusive creature.

Always “late for a very important date”, the white rabbit of attention scampers about lacking rhyme or reason. Encountering an ever-increasing bombardment of information, the mind is susceptible to wandering from stimulus to stimulus and losing its way.

I’ve had this problem in choosing my own path.

Just when it seemed I’d settled on one option, my brain has leaped to another with little warning.

I spoke with an entrepreneur well on his way to becoming a billionaire several months ago. Unemployed and uncertain, I had managed to use what I call “polite persistence” to secure an interview for a job. I’d been impressed by a speech he gave at an event I attended in October, his calm personality oozing through every word–the same easiness with which he approached our half-hour phone conversation.

At some point in the 30 minutes, when my nerves had settled enough, I innately realized I had been granted a unique opportunity to pick the brain of someone I admire. The tenor of our exchange shifted from that of “prospective employer to jobseeker” to something more akin to “wise friend to confused buddy”.

In desperate hours, it is easy to lose track of what you’re hearing.

My stress-induced haze prevented me from committing much of what was said to memory. Of the few snippets I do recall, I became transfixed on his description of a period in his life “15 years ago” he believed was similar to my situation. Having struggled for a while and bounced across the country, he made a decision and “leaned into it”.

I am still learning what it means to have that level of concentration.

He’d given me a window into his mind and, over the last four months, I’ve looked through it again and again and again. Every time, I’ve been left with a singular question:

“What stirs me so much I must pursue it to my very end?”

I’ve been blessed with the intellect and talent to really do anything I choose. After months self-analysis, I have accepted this as fact and, in the future, I’ll help you understand why I was afraid to admit that (to myself or anyone else) for a very long time.

I’ve shed my bashfulness because I’m grateful to have the option, and–arrogant as it may sound–in much of my life I’ve struggled because I didn’t know where to take it.

It’s humbling and confusing.

The resulting misguided chase led me to where I am today.

Without a sense of purpose–a destination–we end up going nowhere.

Clarity, the gold sifted from the muddy waters of a lost mind, can strike in a flash or grow deliberately like a tree. For me, it has been more the latter than the former. Over weeks, in a painstaking search through all of my life, I have discovered my true love.

Like any relationship, time must be set aside for nurturing and growth. Producing a beautiful garden requires constant pruning and planting, weeding and watering. Quality is a direct reflection of the inspired energy poured into the endeavor with tireless consistency.

When this focus is absent, the flower withers.

By pinpointing my direction, I am certain to blossom.

ALSO IN THIS SERIES

The Fatigue Soliloquy

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The Failure Soliloquy

The Faith Soliloquy

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What Are You Hunting?

Are you after something?

What motivates you every day?

Have you set your eyes on a prize or slipped into routine monotony?

Tracking something activates a primal feeling, a deep urge awakened to analyze the details of a situation and exploit the advantages with split-second precision.

One scientist believes the first humans to settle may have doomed us all. Forming agricultural collectives and sharing homegrown food dulled our instincts for seizing opportunities–or making one when necessary.

Such intuitive characteristics are part of what brought humans to the top of the food chain.

The fact is, hunting is in your DNA.

Your brain is wired to pursue targets, to anticipate the best course moment-to-moment in highly-fluid situations. The thrill of the chase gives you the mental fire to create new possibilities and branch out into different areas.

Going after an objective is high joy between your ears, an expression of basic need. Ignoring this begs the fog of inactivity to set in.

Is your life an accurate reflection of that tendency?

The most successful people have written goals, oft-quoted researchers say.

Perhaps it encourages you to concentrate on where you’re going instead of where you’ve been. Maybe such steady focus invites fresh thinking or fosters problem-solving skills.

You must be on the trail of something.

You are at your best that way.

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The Tao of John Wooden

I have a deep admiration for John Wooden.

The legendary UCLA basketball coach, “The Wizard of Westwood,” passed away Friday at the age of 99.

Having retired from the game 35 years ago, he moved on to share his philosophy on leadership and trademark “Pyramid of Success” with others through books and speaking engagements.

Wooden built a legacy of winning matched by very few in all of sport on a reputation for tremendous character and hard-nosed attention to detail. Having a mild obsession with organization myself, I write out my nightly lesson plans on 3×5 index cards with specific intervals for each subject as an homage to his down-to-the-minute practice regiments.

His expectations centered on peak performance. Results were secondary.

Drilling his players to fulfill talent instead of counting victories and defeatsĀ  led to ten national championships and a host of “Wooden-isms” which can be applied in all arenas.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

Proper attitude is central to achievement. On the long road from “concept” to “success,” you encounter many opportunities to become discouraged and give up.

Be resilient in the face of disappointment. It will get you far.

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

Everyone knows a person that repeats the same mistake over and over. Part of maturity is realizing what keeps us from becoming better and deciding to go in a different direction to avoid the same results.

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

When you’re making a drastic change or tackling a major challenge, it is easy to notice what’s beyond your reach. Suddenly, you’ve fallen into a hole believing your powers are unequal to the task.

Focus instead on what you are able influence.

The rest will come.

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

A classic line, it pairs well with another: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

Haste leads to errant thinking and decreased quality. Be patient. Emphasize precision first, then concern yourself with speed.

There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.

A peculiar concentration is necessary to reach the summit of your personal mountain. The climb is littered with distractions and chances to settle. Without single-minded determination to see the journey through, you will fall short.

It’s clear how Wooden’s simple, uncompromising system produced high-caliber execution.

The fundamental ideals he espoused created an environment and culture in which individuals could thrive in pursuit of team objectives.

Glory naturally followed.

Most important of all, however, is the guiding principle of his extraordinary life:

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.

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