Something I learned early as a martial artist was that, when sparring with an opponent, you have to focus on what matters. What matters while you’re sparring is paying attention to what you opponent is trying to do. If you don’t, you can easily get punched or kicked in the head, which isn’t the outcome anyone desires in a sparring match 🙂
When you learn to live in the moment, to focus on what matters, you have a much better chance at succeeding in everything you do. The problem is in this information age, it’s so easy to get distracted by cat videos on YouTube or your Facebook feed.
Why staying focused So hard
Staying focused is tough because our bodies are first and foremost designed to keep us alive. Left unchecked, your reptilian brain will focus on what it perceives as immediate threats, like your office mate bringing you work at the end of the day, or potential rewards such as food, sweets and those cute cat videos. Your primitive brain is much more interested in keeping you alive than helping you author a book or start a business.
How do you take back control?
The first thing you need to do is bring yourself back into the moment. An easy way to do this is to take a few moments to breathe deeply, which is something I teach to all my clients and students. What you’re doing is reminding your body to focus on what matters, which can help you find the emotional drive to complete the tasks that will bring you toward your goals.
There are times when the work that needs to be done is tedious and boring and it can be hard for the brain to care about. But what is not boring are the things you want to achieve from your work, like having a beautiful house to live in and all the food you could possibly want or the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get when you’re done.
What need to happen is connecting the work to the house and accomplishment.
One of the best ways to do this is with visualization.
Using visualization to focus on what matters
Your brain is a simulation machine. How you understand the world is based on your experiences and your physical sensations. This understanding will move you towards things that make you feel good and away from things that make you feel bad.
This is why it can be hard to focus on what matters. Because sometimes the things that we want, like the house and feelings of accomplishment, are on the other side of something that makes you feel bad, like that report you have to finish before you leave work.
This is where you can use visualization to help you stay focused and motivated. To accomplish this, the brain creates a representation of that reality and simulates the future in order to help you work toward that distant goal.
By visualizing that future and simulating what you expect to happen, you are using areas in your brain the same way as if you were really experiencing that event. Here’s an example. Right now, think about a lemon. Picture yourself as you take a bite. I can almost guarantee you will almost taste the lemon as the relevant areas in your brain light up. In fact, your lips might be puckering as you imagine this.
That imagined lemon is just as motivating as a real one.
The problem with staying motivated while doing a task is, that when you are writing or entering data, the divide between the action you are taking and the goal you want to achieve seems vast. This makes it difficult to connect the two.
Start focusing on what matters today!
The takeaway here is to create a picture in your mind of why you are doing this task. See the house or feel the feelings of accomplishment you’ll get when you’re done. Let your mind connect the dots and focus on the outcome. This process will create an emotional hook and it will ensure that your mind and body are unified in their objectives as you focus on what matters.
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