Which objective should I focus on today? Which of my goals demands the greater part of my attention this morning? The truth of the matter is that all that you can focus on is what is before you, in the here and now. Focus is about paying attentiont to now. Now is where you life is lived... something I might come back to in a couple of weeks!
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Let's practice our focus skills today. Take a short break at some point today and select an upcoming task or encounter. Earmark your selection as today's exercise in complete focus - whilst you're doing this task or involved in this encounter, you are going to deliberately pay an uncommon amount of attention to what you are doing and to with whom you are doing it.
Often, in my work team workshhops, I ask participants to get into groups and list things that, for example, they could do to become more focused or lead or motivate their own teams better. Invariably, I see phrases on flipcharts like: "We will become more engaged" or "We will focus more"... neither of which is an answer to the question "What could you DO?" In "little school" we were taught about action words, verbs if you will... there often isn't a proper action word in sight!
And that's the problem with the word focus: "I focus on my key tasks" doesn't mean anything, it doesn't indicate action. "I am focusing" is not the same as "I am eating" - where there is clear "doing". The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb focus as "to pay particular attention to" something. And, whilst this is proximate to the psychological definition of mindfulness, it is still open to widespread misinterpretation. The University of Massachusetts defines mindfulness as deliberately paying an uncommon amount of attention to the present moment non-judgementally. This is what it means to focus. But where's the "doing" in that definition? What does it mean in practice?
To focus is to fully do what you are doing now - that's why meditative practice includes exercises with weird names like "Going for a walk to go for a walk" or "Drinking a cup of tea to drink a cup of tea"! Being focused means I am fully immersed in what I am doing and what is happening now. So, today, you cannot "focus" on your goals - they are future things. Today, you can only focus on what you must do today to move you in the direction that you want your life to go. Focus is throwing yourself fully into the task in hand.
I mentioned last week that it's easy to spot a holidaying business executive in a supermarket - a real fish out of water!
I am reminded of someone for whom I worked many years ago who, in the run-up to Christmas, decided he would "relieve the little woman" (his words) and do the supermarket run. Having filled his trolly to the brim, to his horror, he realized that you've got to actually queue up at a checkout (of all things) to pay for the stuff. Typical of the man, he simply dumped the trolly and walked out in a huff!
As I've said to you on many occasions, if you want to understand the importance of developing your own mindfulness, just get out and about - the supermarket, the carpark, the airport, the train - and you'll realize just how many mindless people there are around you.