FOCUS: Cultivate mental and physical concentration to accomplish any chosen task or goal. (Foundation Framework 3 of 4.)
Focus is what allows you to concentrate all of your energy and all of your effort into the task at hand. Focus allows you to tune out distractions and get into that timeless zone where creativity flows and work seems effortless. It allows you to concentrate all of your power and effort into what’s most important, and therefore create real results.
There are three key facets of Focus:
You have the potential for greatness. This capacity can be commanded immediately when you focus all of your energy into mastering a single area of life. Whatever that one thing is, you have to give it one hundred percent commitment. Until you complete that task, reach that goal or master that skill, it is the most important thing that you’re doing.
When you prioritize and focus consistently on improvement in a single area, your brain responds by developing unique ideas on how to make that area better. You create thought patterns you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Attaching your effort and energy to something important is the key. The importance you place on it is what creates the passion, ignites the fire and unleashes your creativity.
Everyone has a dizzying array of things trying to hook their attention. For at least a brief period each day, you must be able to tune out all of that background noise. This is the primary lesson taught by meditation — learning how to detach your mind from the constant interruptions in our chattering brains — but sitting in zazen is not the only path.
Yoga includes the discipline of Dharana, or concentration. In Japanese, the term Zanshin (remaining mind) is used in arts as diverse as Aikido and Tea Ceremony. Athletes refer to it as the “Zone.” It is that state when the mind is clear, completely absorbed in the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else. Even the awareness of time can vanish.
Part of eliminating distractions is to literally get rid of them: complete that nagging task, check it off your list, close that open loop. Delegate the task to someone else, or put a reminder in a system you trust so that you’re brain is not constantly trying to keep you aware of it. The other part is to simply let go. Often the intensity with which something is trying to catch your attention is not proportional to its real importance. If it is not important right now, let go of it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Refuse to Quit
My Aikido sensei once said, “A black belt is just a white belt than never quit.” Mastery comes from perseverance. This ability to resist quitting — what we call toughness — is a key element of focus. Your focus becomes like a laser beam that can cut through anything that seems to be stopping you. Best of all, this ability is trainable.
Every time you push yourself when you really want to quit, you’re training your focus. Holding that yoga posture for one more breath, running that one more block, sparring just one more round, gritting your teeth through one more rep — this is where you’re building “toughness muscles.”
The beauty of cultivating these three skills — prioritization, concentration and toughness — is that when you master focus in one area, you have developed something that can be applied to any part of your life. The experience of success allows you to create more success.
"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular. In fact, I believe most people fail in life simply because they major in minor things."
— Anthony Robbins