How you focus matters

Where does your attention go? Have you ever noticed that when you start off on the wrong foot things just seem to keep going that way?

Why is that? The answer lies in part in HOW you focus and what you give your attention to. It even determines whether you are a “glass half full” or a “glass have empty” kind of person.


So HOW do you focus?

If you give it no thought and do not approach life deliberately you will literally get what you get.

Sometimes that will work for you and other times it will not.

Human babies are born helpless and our brains continue to develop until we are 25 which means we continue to be malleable. It is no doubt one of the reasons we dominate the planet: We are adaptable. The downside of that adaptability is our brains have been wired-up on the fly. This means depending on the environment and what we are exposed to, especially in the early years, it will have a significant impact on how we focus and what we give our attention to. There is so much that goes on around us that our brains filter out most of it so that we can function efficiently.


RAS at work

Part of what facilitates this efficiency is the Reticular Activating System, RAS for short. Your RAS is always operating and one of it’s jobs is to protect you. Think of it like a bouncer at a night club looking for unsavory characters to keep out. The bouncer isn’t the most friendly of characters and he does a very good job of standing guard. Moreover, your brain is not really seeing what is out there. Most of the information is deleted and for the rest it’s a generalization based on what you expect to see. It is also why certain details are “lost” to an untrained eye when something is new or unfamiliar. You have no map or framework for it.


Filling in the gaps

Your brain is like your software with your life experience writing the code and your hardware is your body. We tend to think that our mind is recording everything in much the same way that a camera does. That simply isn’t true. There are gaps and you fill in these gaps with expectations based on the past.  Your software is a little haphazard and very much low resolution. If you don’t believe me read the following sentence form Sporacle.

Spot the werds that are incorectly speled in sentence.

I bet you understand what is written as your brain has just corrected it. We are always filling in the gaps and sometimes we don’t even notice. This is the delete and generalize function of our brain which is pretty cool. It also works against you.


How your brain works against you if you let it

Whether or not you experience an upward or downward spiral depends on how and what you focus on. It sounds simple enough, even self-evident and logical.

What is also true is an upward or downward spiral doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s a self-perpetuating feedback loop. A downward spiral often happens by default whereas a perpetuating upward spiral can only happen through conscious and deliberate attention. Yes, that means it takes work. Wherever you allow your attention to go it will reward you with more of whatever has your attention, good or bad.

Perception is a discipline.

If you have control of your attention and utilize your ability to discriminate then YOU get to say where your attention and focus goes regardless of what is going on around you.

That is the discipline part.

What if you were to focus on one good thing and see where it leads you?


You are looking for evidence

Whether you realize it or not you are always gathering evidence.

It is evidence that supports your point of view. If things aren’t going so well start to pay attention to what you are paying attention to, what you say to yourself and what you verbalize out loud. Phrases like “I knew that would happen” or, “Figures” or a personal (un)favourite but well used one of my own is “I just can’t win!” Which you, guessed it, creates more of the same and renders my wins invisible to me…

Why? Because my focus is on my NOT winning.

To stay focused on the positive, connect to your intent.

You, like me, are a meaning making machine. If we have control of our attention and utilize our ability to discriminate then WE get to say where our attention and focus goes regardless of what is going on around us.

How much of a difference would that make to how your day goes?