Focus

Everyone please be Quiet

“Weakness can sabotage a life or career while strengths increase fulfillment and success”.

Daniel Goleman

 

On the radio one night as I drove back home from a Church meeting, I stumbled over a discussion already taking place. I usually am not a fan of the radio but because I was alone and needed some background noise I turned on the radio. A man who had been born blind was sharing with listeners on how to be successful in life and something he said caught my attention especially as it was something I had been meditating on for over two years now. He shared an experience of going to the market with his wife who is sighted and how that because he couldn’t see, he always felt let’s get what we need and leave but since his wife was sighted, she would get distracted from what she set out to purchase and turn her focus on other things which was why his wife usually spent a hours in the market, sometimes returning with stuff she didn’t set out to buy in the beginning. Why was this? The problem was constant distraction as a result of being sighted.

This is usually how life is, we get easily distracted from our goals without even realizing it based on stimuli form our senses which enter into our mind and affect our decisions. Life has various aspects that require our focused attention if we want to live a fulfilled life. Here’s the challenge, everyone wants a fulfilled life, everyone has struggled to live a fulfilled life, we spend, time and resources geared towards obtaining information that should empower us in living a fulfilled life oh and I almost forgot the majority of our prayer too is channeled towards living a fulfilled life, even our acts of service/giving our daily labor is channeled towards a fulfilled life.  This is all wonderful but?

There is a popular scriptural verse in the bible Proverbs 4:20-22 (MSG) “dear friend listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover those words live, really live; body and soul, they are bursting with health” this right here is the key to fulfilment. There are however distractions to living a fulfilled life. In my practice as a Clinical Psychologist, I usually ask people this question, “if death came now and said its time to go and you looked back, would you be happy that you have done what you set out to do? See that I didn’t ask “all” but “what” you set out to do? Most people can’t answer in the affirmative. Why? They have been, are being and will continue to be distracted.

What are some of the things that distract us? And this is not an exhaustive list.

For children in the present day, it’s growing up in a new reality attuned more to machines and less to people. The attending result is that the social and emotional wiring of the child’s brain which naturally learns from contact and conversation with everyone it encounters over the course of the day becomes deficient. This means social skills are less developed because of the fewer the hours spent with people while spending more with machines implying that the deficits in social skill will show both now and later on in life. Right now there is a lot of challenge with communication, interaction, misunderstanding and the list goes on with present day adults who didn’t as children live with machines. The result of this is a lot of social media self-acclaimed consultants/counselors with little or no training, not credentialed among the real professionals who have been trained and credentialed mouthing of solutions based on one book they have read. Think of what the future adult life will look live for the present day children who only live and interact with machines.

For adults now, the impact of technology is primarily the loss of sustained concentration in anything serious. While working we are compulsively constantly checking messages, emails, Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc. what this means is that we resort inadvertently to skimming and not reflecting on what messages really mean and what detail the task at hand requires. This is the effect of technology on the attention of the adult. However there is another equally impactful effect on life’s attention. I call this voices in the head. This is not a hallucinatory experience as some would think it too quickly mean, remember Proverbs 4:20 “dear friends listen well to my words” there are words we listen to that play back in our heads especially when we are engaged in a critical but not fun task. What are those voices? Who owns those voices? They are the voices of your inner child, your parents, your spouse, mentors (spiritual/otherwise). Many times these voices are a re-play of good and not so good aspects of our interactions with these people. The power in these voices is that they are able to steer out mind/thoughts in a different direction from where we originally meant to go as they don’t just end as thoughts, they then stir up emotions. These emotions which come from the Latin root word to move then steer us in the direction of our thoughts and away from the important task at hand. In the long run we find ourselves arriving at a place we didn’t set out to go to. The greatest tragedy is to set out for Zaria in Kaduna state and end up elsewhere even if it is London UK. Someone reading this might say oh that’s a good place “London” to end up, that means you didn’t really have a destination in mind when you began and this message here is for YOU. The purpose of setting out to Zaria may not be fulfilled in London.

We are told in Proverbs 4 to “tune your ears to My Voice” in other words tune the other voices out and only allow the voice of God alone. In the Bible we see the example of Paul the apostle Galatians 1:16 – 18 immediately he was called of God decided not to go to Jerusalem until after three years when he went to see Peter and stayed only for 15 days.

One of the key areas that determines our life fulfillments is how we arrive at our choices and this is based many times on the voices we pay attention to, focus on. Such voices can either lead us on to our goals or lead us away from them. In a chosen career for example an individual may have carefully thought through, prayed through and with this situation, I am an example as in my final (graduating) year the voice of someone I respect a lot said to me “you know Psychology is not a course and you have not gone to school yet, so you will go back to school after graduating…..” I however choose to focus carefully to His words as He had spoken before I went to the university “I know the thoughts I have towards you saith the Lord thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you to an expected end”. While In the university a fellow student constantly said to me “you are studying an unproductive course” if he came into the room and saw me studying for an exam his words again were “un-productive course” I chose to focus on His voice instead.

In the words of Albert Simon “what information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. Information is good as it helps us make decisions, but sometimes our inaction can also be due to a wealth of information.

Why is it good for us to focus or pay attention? Focusing on information allows us to build or create memories. The Psalmist says to “forget not all His benefits”, our sub-conscious kicks in when we are at a cross road to remind, to steer us back like the song writer says “take me back to where I first believed”. Focus allows you to avoid distractions enabling you to complete your task.

How do you improve your focus: one way is through mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment non-judgmentally, including thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. This helps improve our wellbeing as we are better able to savor the pleasure of life as opposed to rushing through life. It helps increase our ability to regulate our emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. When we are able to pay attention and are aware of different aspects of our life and our relationship with others, it will help us make better decisions. Mindfulness helps us grow new neural networks in our brain, thereby re-wiring the brain this helps to change the way we react to things. Mindfulness has been linked to improved life satisfaction and increased psychological health. It also boosts working memory, less emotional reactivity, relationship satisfaction, (responding well to relationship stress and the skill in communicating ones emotions to a partner), enhance self-insight, morality, intuition, and fear modulation.

Tune out, tone down turn off “other” voices.

I leave you with the words of Zig Ziglar

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants”

 

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