If you have been through the Mindful Wisdom program, you recall that Week 7 was about how to manage our focus. We imagined our focus to be like a stage and learned that the stage is very small. If our thoughts are the actors, our focus stage can only hold two to three at a time. Any new thoughts will bump an existing thought off the stage. We also learned that it takes a lot of energy to keep unwanted 'actors' from jumping onto the stage. So a key to maintaining great focus is to periodically recharge that part of your brain that keeps unwanted thoughts and distractions off the stage. If you want to read more about how to foster great focus, check out this previous post on 5 Tips to Mindfully Improve Your Focus (but only if that is where you want to shift your focus! :))
For today's post, let's look at the great instruments available to help you assess how your brain is doing and the quality of your focus:
1. Your Emotions - are you in the C-State (calm, curious, concentrated) or the F-State (frenzied, frantic, frustrated)? Your ability to focus is always better from the C-State.
2. Your Motivation - are you currently seeking and fulfilling pleasure (the easy task, with little meaning - tasty but ultimately a fleeting satisfaction) or are you seeking joy (the important but often more difficult task, with richer meaning and generally yielding a longer-lasting, more valued and fulfilling outcomes or relationships)? This is a quick check on 'what?' you are focused on. Remember that 'pleasure' isn't a bad thing, provided it does not interfere with our ability to focus on joy-seeking activities.
3. Creating or Consuming? Working with a client recently, he added that the distinction of Creating vs. Consuming fits this well too. I really like this insight. Joy often looks like Creating. Pleasure often looks like Consuming. Our goal is to keep them in the right balance.
Your emotions and your motivations are your dashboard - instant feedback on where your mind is at right now. C-State or F-State? Joy or Pleasure? Even Creating or Consuming? And when you become aware that you aren't where you want to be, you can engage a quick breath practice or coming-into-the-moment practice to reset your brain and your focus. Often 3-5 minutes is all it takes to significantly shift our brain.
Never forget our brains were designed to notice shiny things. Also, remember that constant thinking by our pre-frontal cortex tires it out and we will naturally drift to a distracted or reactive mode. So we start by mindfully noticing and accepting this. Then we use the skills we have to move our focus back to where we intended it. It is all about having fun with this and practicing it over and over (and over!). Not getting down on ourselves or giving up when we 'fail' again. So have fun noticing and practicing - and know that every time you do - you strengthen that pathway a little and get a little bit stronger.