Succinctly speaking, attention implies noticing something and focus refers to the concentration on anything for a sustained period of time.
Let me talk in the very outset today that I am writing this piece with an objective of helping you out with your day to day chores for more productivity and happiness.
How many of you have noticed these happenings?
You entered the kitchen to open your fridge to get some food but you immediately got blank as soon as you went in the kitchen and kept on thinking why you are there in the first place.
You unlocked and opened your phone to check your emails but you saw Facebook notifications popped up and unconsciously you got carried away to see them and got lost in Facebook for about an hour or so and put your phone down without even checking your emails!
You are eating your dinner and you are devouring the whole thing without paying the attention to it. You’re rather thinking about your job, about your worry, about your planning etc. And, you finished your dinner even without ever noticing the real taste of it!
You are in an important meeting and you really cannot sit there for a while without looking into phone time to time or without thinking or imagining things in your head.
You are carrying a pen in your hand and looking for the very pen hither and thither pretty restlessly.
You just closed the door of the bathroom and you thought after a minute about it and you don’t quite recall if you have really closed the door. You then went to further verify it.
All things I mentioned above resonate with all of us, don’t they?
All of us must have gone through a famous statement of teachers in your classrooms in your school days– “Your body is here but your mind is not here, huh!”
Cool, let’s now dissect their causes and possible remedies.
Let me bring two aspects of the issues that you guys are facing:
The question now therefore is: where are these things coming from and how can we be better in these areas?
The sad and bitter reality is that we all are plagued by a disease called “distractions” in the age of internet like never before where we are constantly browsing whatever we like without giving a damn about our situations. We take out phones if we are bored, idle, waiting for someone, talking to someone, in bathroom, before we go to bed, immediately after we wake up! We are seldom mindful of ourselves and our surroundings. Don’t you reckon it is a bit too much?
You shall assimilate with what I am saying here- For instance, you watch varieties of videos in an app called “YouTube”, don’t you? Now, just think of it- how many of you can remember how many different types of videos did you just watch? And, how many of you remember or even utilize the lessons learnt watching those videos? The answer is almost none. The madness of dribbling down off the rail just goes only for your gratification.
The basic point which I am trying to raise here is we are consuming (listening, watching, eating etc.) and doing anything and everything in an unconscious manner. We have become like a machine where we are accustomed to doing certain things in a certain way. We are wandering and wandering with no specific direction. Such an unconscious action makes our mind very weak, dull and fragile that could even result in mental illness.
There is a lesson in Zen which they call “practicing mindfulness”. Practicing mindfulness is about doing or NOT doing anything or everything with an absolute involvement CONSCIOUSLY- meaning, being aware of what we are doing at the moment. Many people misunderstand it as going against multitasking which is not quite true. We can do many things at a time even more effectively if we are mindful of what we are doing which just needs more practice and focus. However, the sad fact is our mind is such a cheeky monkey that it either reminisces in the memory of the past or embarks in the journey of imagination of the future. Monkey mind is always and always busy thinking, analyzing, judging, worrying, procrastinating…
The mantra to be a master of monkey mind is we must ask ourselves to be absolutely involved with an awareness of what we do. For instance: if we are brushing our teeth, let’s be involved into it fully.. completely.. see how your hands are moving, see how your brush is going up and down or side by side, see how the foam is coming out of the mouth etc. Do get your focus back to the very action as and when your mind goes astray. Do it again and again and again. Apply the same thing at whatever you do in life. If you do these stuffs, you would become more and more aware of things that you do or that might happen around you. And, the benefits? Well, you will have a mind that works as your servant, not as your grumpy Boss who does whatever the heck it wants to do. Is it about controlling the mind? NO. It is rather about making perfect use of the most sophisticated and fantastic tool we have which is called “MIND”.
The absolute involvement for a sustained period of time would fructify the great result in whatever areas you want to excel. However, the fact is that one cannot be absolutely focused on it with everything one has. Let’s see some great result of focus, JK Rowling wrote her books while she was alone and was focused, Steve Jobs created Apple because of his unwavering focus. Now, try this- ask your mind to focus on something for 2 minutes without an interruptions and distraction and see what happens! I guarantee your mind would not listen to you and would not obey you.
Author Cal Newport has written a book called “Deep work” in such a time where all of us are literally wasting our time spending our valuable time endlessly getting distracted. Cal advocates about working on a single stuff for a long time with full concentration for more productivity. Our ancestors always used to do the deep work. Please understand, focus is not something that you approach mentally and intellectually ..like one day you wake up and say to yourself that I be focused on this and that and start from there.. such things would never happen. What you can rather do it is pick up what you are inclined to, ask yourself for a specific time of unwavering focus and then plunge into it no matter what! You might get bored or whatever but giving up is not an option or quitting what you are doing should never be an option.
Focus also demands for the alignment of physical, mental and emotional energy. So, it is also about what kind of foods you eat, your sleeping habits, your life style, your daily consumption of information or infotainment in the form of anything, your emotional wellbeing etc.
The most important single factor for success and happiness that every successful and happy people do have is presence of mind which is mindfulness and the art of being absolutely engrossed and involved at whatever we do. A mind which is firm, focused and stable is a strong mind and a mind which is constantly wandering; restlessly and spiraling uncontrollably is a weak mind.
And, the good news is we can be a master of our mind.