We all know focus is important. It’s one of the lessons we learn early on. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize’; ‘Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it’, ‘If you don’t know to which port you’re sailing, no wind is favorable.’
Since these notions are conveyed to us so vigorously, it’s baffling that not that many people live by this simple rule.
It is one of those rules we all know but only few of us follow.
Watching children’s behavior is really eye-opening. Children are almost always focused on what they want. Whether it’s a toy or a candy, to stay up late, or to go to space, they want it now and regardless of the consequences. They don’t question it, they don’t look for obstacles, they don’t ask if it’s good for them — they just want it, and that’s it.
They also have no problem with voicing their wishes. They are pretty adamant about their wants and needs, and they could care less about being rational about them.
Sure, we learn a few things along the way. ‘Wishes don’t always come true,’ ‘You can’t always get what you want,’ (at least according to Mick Jagger).
We also learn that some of our wishes are impossible, stupid, life-threatening, useless, unhealthy, too simple, too elaborate and so on.
Somewhere along the way, we stop perceiving life as a world of opportunities, and start seeing it as limiting and restrictive. It is then that we start focusing on what we don’t want. After a while, we become so efficient at it that we completely forget about what we do want; it becomes irrelevant and redundant.
So, as an adult, you know you don’t want the job or position you’re currently holding, you don’t want your partner to be the way he/she is, you don’t want your children to be as misbehaved as they are. You despise your house, you hate your car… and you can’t see past all the things you don’t want. You complain about them to whoever wants to listen.
Or, you might want that house, but not the mortgage that goes along with it, that job, except for the working hours, that partner without half of his/her flawed character. This is just another way of saying what you don’t want.
So you know what you don’t want. But can you actually define what it is that you do want?
We all think we do. But I can’t even begin to say how difficult it was to define my wishes once I really tried.
Can you really imagine your dream job, for instance? Let’s say you might like the idea of being a doctor. I bet it would take you less than half a minute to find all the downsides of being a doctor (long and difficult education, graveyard shifts, being responsible for people’s lives, inability to stand the sight of blood… etc).
Why focus on what you want?
In quantum physics, the ‘double slit’ experiment has proven that light and matter demonstrate both characteristics of a particle and a wave at the same time. The ‘which way’ experiment has shown that light and matter behave simultaneously as a wave and a particle until they are perceived by an observer. If there is an observer, the matter will behave as a particle (focus collapses it’s wave pattern). Other quantum physics principles state that a single particle can occupy an indefinite number of positions at the same time, but this only occurs before the particle is observed. Once it is focused upon, this possibility becomes actuality. Particle appears where the focus is. This means that it is scientifically proven that matter materializes where we expect it, where we place our focus.
In neuroscience, it is a well-known principle that ‘neurons that fire together — wire together.’ Things you do often, you do better. Thoughts you think often, become automatic. You easily slip into the same routine. Habits. Actions. In terms of focus — do you want these pathways to be positive or negative? Where do you want them to lead?
In epigenetics, it is known that only small part of our genome is expressed. There are many factors that influence which genes would be expressed and which ones would remain inactive. One of those factors is the usage of neural pathways. Therefore, selecting (focusing on) thoughts that are good for you, helps you express the ‘good’ genes (those that benefit you), and deactivate the genes that might be harmful.
(Please take note that these scientific principles are conveyed in a very simplified manner in order to fit the scope of this article; they are all much more complex than stated above).
So, the focus is important, no doubt about it. It is critical for every part of your life. If you take a look at your life, you might find that the things you’ve focused on in your past have portrayed themselves to your now.
In other words, what you are living now is the result of what you’ve focused on in the past. Your future will be the result of the things you focus on today. Was your focus misplaced? Are there many things in your life you don’t like?
How to adjust your focus
How can you switch your focus from what you don’t want to what you do want?
The answer is simple, but hard to apply: start focusing on what you do want.
We are not only well versed in focusing on what we don’t want, we are also addicted to it. We secretly enjoy dwelling on negativity, we enjoy going over the lists of what we don’t have, what we have but don’t want, what we hate and resent about our lives… It is hard to resist the need to continue walking down the same path. But, with a conscious effort, it can be done.
So, focus on the things you want in your life. It will seem difficult at first, but be persistent. Redirect your focus as much as you can, whenever you can (and don’t blame yourself when you don’t succeed).
Here are some simple tricks you can do to redirect your focus:
Let’s say you don’t like your current job. Instead of endlessly complaining about it, start by thinking and imagining what kind of a job it is that you truly want.
You don’t have to be specific about the details. In fact, it would be best if you left the details out entirely, because your rational mind will try to find flaws in your plans, and obstacles on your path. So, instead of focusing on a specific firm, position, or vocation, you might just try to focus on whether you’d like to work with people or not, have flexible or fixed hours, have a job that requires creativity or one that won’t require any intellectual exertion on your part.
Once you have at least a vague idea, or even just a perception of what it would feel like to have that new job, you will be able to detect circumstances that lead you in the right direction.
You will also be able to use this filter to eliminate actions and things that would get you further away from where you want to be.
Write it down. Ideas are always vague and foggy while floating inside your mind. Once you’ve written them down, they are materialized in the real world, and it’s easier to focus on them.
For the same reason as stated above, tell someone — a person of confidence — about your wishes and plans; but only do this if this person is positive, openminded and proactive. If they aren’t, they will disprove you before you get to finish the sentence.
Also, stop participating in conversations that focus on how bad things are (whether it’s the politics, gossiping, constant complaints about your job, spouse, siblings or possessions) because this returns your focus back to where you don’t want it.
It seems like an insignificant change, but when you gain momentum by focusing on things you do want, your life will change in unthinkable ways.
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