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Shining a Light on Focus


Last week’s blog post addressed focus and how most of us have been brainwashed about what it is and how it works. I shared my view that what 90% of the population considers to be focus is actually a huge threat to long-term progress, results, and success. And I suggested the possibility that there’s another – more sustainable and joyful – face of focus.

The Physics of Focus

You may remember from high school science that ‘focus’ is where rays of light converge. Yet, too many of us internalized it as something hard, oppressive, and unyielding. In my life, focus has always felt firm and solid, a force responsible for powering things forward… sometimes at all costs.

  • Nearly 40% of US workers suffer from fatigue.
  • Burn-out is at an all-time high.
  • Motivation and engagement in many organizations lag far behind acceptable levels.

Could this be in part due to the way we tend to force focus?

If we can re-frame focus in terms of its physics definition – as rays of light converging – then it becomes energy. It dances and gently fills space without exertion or coercion. Light creates an effortless bath around all things in its path. This is an alternate view of a softer, more fluid and free face of focus.

Go Toward the Light

Could something as simple as re-framing focus provide a more sustainable way to approach our personal and professional goals and purpose? Consider these approaches to focus that really are light!

Let curiosity lead the way. The firm, committed sense of ‘knowing’ that provides a crystal-clear focus on one thing naturally forces what’s surrounds it to become blurry and out of focus. Curiosity cultivates a ‘peripheral vision’ of sorts, allowing new perspectives, ideas and energy to seep in and bringing fresh life to whatever you are trying to achieve.

Invest in your health. What your mom told you about eating right, exercise, and enough rest turns out to be right. In their book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz establish that ‘energy – not time – is our most precious resource.’ And that energy requires that we fuel and care for the physical body. Yet, how frequently do you skip a meal or workout – or delay something as fundamental as getting a drink of water or a trip to the restroom – because you’ve got to focus?

Grow, develop, and learn. Attend classes. Read books. The additional knowledge and skills will help you be more effective at the tasks before you. But more importantly, the act of learning supports brain plasticity. You’ll form new neural connections that will support all aspects of your life and keep the brain growing and morphing into old age.

Hone mindfulness. Cultivating a quiet sense of being vs. the frenetic sense of doing nourishes the soul, rejuvenates the spirit, and has been scientifically proven to have a profound positive effect on physical health.

Take a break. Even machines are allowed to go off-line routinely. We need to step away. Take up a hobby. Have some fun. Anyone who’s ever made themselves sit down and focus on a task or a problem only to find themselves daydreaming, staring blanking into space, or (perhaps worse) becoming frustrated and anxious because the solution wouldn’t appear knows that sometimes you just can’t force it. But step away, soften the focus, think about something else and ‘eureka!’ there it is.

So, when it comes to focus, maybe the solution is to lighten up. Work softer – not harder. Easing into focus is the key to sustaining your energy and effort over a lifetime.  What do you think?


1 Comment

  1. Light displaces darkness.If we consider focus as light then we would consider the subject as darkness that needs our light to progress. Light does not displace other light but illuminates brighter and with this thought I would consider that as a leader I would share my focus with the focus of my employees to make our task, career and organization brighter. Any person within the organization that begins losing individual focus dims the light.


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