Focus- keep fighting- be fearless
In my last post I introduced a new notion, the 3F formula and left you hanging a bit. Let’s dive in a bit deeper now and see what it’s all about.
The first F word we’re going to talk about is FOCUS!
Now if you are the slightest bit like me, you’ve heard the instruction, the command, the order to focus a million times and though – “well that’s easy for you to say, how exactly am I supposed to do that?”
I think focus is a bit like air, you know it exists, you know you need it, but you definitely can’t see it. It’s intangible and doesn’t come with a user manual.
I’m not going to just sit here and tell you to focus to achieve your goals, I’m going to pull it apart and put it back together, hopefully in a much more user-friendly way! :)
A lot of us seem to lack focus so let’s explore why that may be. I’ve divided it into 3 main categories.
Lack of focus due to HEALTH considerations:
Our health and life choices play such a massive role in our ability to focus, but I’m not sure how many of us even realise that.
1. Getting enough sleep, restful, deep sleep is paramount to our minds ability to focus and concentrate properly. Our mind won’t care how close that deadline is or how angry your boss may be for not completing the tasks, it will slow down, and it will try to get the rest it needs if you haven’t had it the night before.
Let’s face it though, sometimes things happen, we stay out too late, binge watch that show until 3 am or finish baking that cake just after 2 in the morning. Yes that’s a real thing, a reoccurring issue for me in fact :)
Regardless why you stayed up, you will feel the effects the next day.
You may be able to caffeinate, get an extension on your deadline or miraculously get the work done but this should really be an exception and not the norm. When we are sleep deprived, we may experience episodes of microsleep. Essentially this is your mind telling you loud and clear that you need to recharge and a microsleep is like a mini system shutdown that can last around 15-20 seconds. Needless to say, how dangerous this can be behind the wheel of a car and in many other situations, but it just goes to show how essential sleep is, even just to function, never mind to focus properly. So get some sleep!
When I have a really hectic day and I feel like I’m going to drop off at any minute, I will take some time to meditate. We’ve all heard about the wonderful benefits of meditation and even if it might initially seem like a waste of time, just do it. It produces a deep state of relaxation. You will feel refreshed and able to take on the rest of the day! There are different types of meditation but it’s worth mentioning that focused- attention meditation is just like weightlifting for your attention span. It can strengthen and increase the endurance of it. Sometimes even taking just a 20-minute nap will make all the difference and you won’t have to run on empty for the rest of the day.
2. Some say food is food. But is it? Absolutely not! What we put in our bodies can not only change the way we look but how our mind functions as well. The problem is that when we eat a big juicy donut dripping with jam or a quick ready meal, it doesn’t physically hurt. In fact, it causes all kinds of crazy pleasure. What most of us don’t realise however, is that it also causes a lot of damage and issues with concentration. When your body is trying to digest and make some use of all those additives and E’s, concentration drops drastically. There is an absolutely brilliant book that really goes into detail, about the effects of additives and chemicals in food have on us by Max Lugavere. You can either choose the right food to boost brain function or slow yourself down with nasty additives and chemicals.
Pro tip: the food manufacturers care first and foremost about profits and not our health.
We have to take the time to read about and understand nutrition but eating well is absolutely key to concentration and being able to focus.
If you would like to have a more in-depth conversation about how food effects our entire life, feel free to get in touch. I specialize in nutrition and find it fascinating.
3. Speaking of what we put in our bodies, drinking enough water is also crucial to our focus.
Fun fact: even just being 2% dehydrated can cause problems with concentration.
The human brain is composed of roughly 73% water, need I go on? It’s super important to drink plenty of clean, fresh water to perform well throughout the day.
Another fun fact for you :) If you’ve ever experienced that 4 o’clock slump in the afternoon, that can have far more to do with dehydration that tiredness. Dry lips are a very good indicator of dehydration. Help yourself & hydrate!
4. A lack of exercise can also be the culprit for issues with focus. Even if it sounds a bit counter intuitive, especially after I’ve talked about getting enough rest, do not underestimate it.
Exercise works wonders. It promotes brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells. Research from UCLA even demonstrated that exercise increases growth factors in the brain which makes it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
Exercise help to reduce stress and it can even help fight of anxiety and depression.
Give it a go ;)
You can also struggle with a lack of focus due to ADDICTION:
So this is where I throw you a bit of a curve ball. Of course binge drinking or recreational drugs will mess up your concentration but that’s not actually what I am referring to in this instance.
I am talking about the addiction to stimulation and the addiction to stress.
1. So what is this addiction to stimulation? Now as much as being in love can mess with your mind I’m not talking about any kinky business. I am talking about the relationship we have with our phones and other gadgets. Scientists have actually shown that about 70% of the time when we touch / check our phone, it’s not even asking for it. No calls, no messages or no alerts have gone off.
We check our phones so often because in that moment we are feeling uneasy, unsettled, upset about something. We are trying to escape from a bad moment, a bad feeling. We quickly reach for our phone to check the Gram, some cute kittens or what ever floats your boat.
Knowing that is fantastic, however it won’t help to lock your phone away or to punish or restrict yourself. Saying No to yourself will only make the urge stronger.
For me and my fellow humans it’s safe to say that we want what we can’t have.
So what do I do then, you ask?
The solution is actually easier than you might think. The trick is to – delay!
When you get the urge to pick up your phone, just wait. Look at it and say: “soon!”
Give yourself a 10-minute timeframe. Carry on with what you need to be doing and revisit the idea in 10 minutes. Chances are you will have forgotten all about it and you'll be more productive than you could have ever imagined. If not, and you still pick it up, -well done you. It will also feel a bit more like you’ve actually earned that break, that sweet scroll.
As days go by, you can up the time frame to 15, 20 minutes and you will be amazed how productive you become. Understanding why we do it is very important, and I would even suggest that after you’re done with your task, to just really sit down and take a moment to think about what feeling you are trying to get away from, what do you seem to be seeking refuge from.
2. What about addiction to stress?
I was actually really surprised when I found out that our bodies can get addicted to stress.
We all have a certain level of stress in our lives, and it’s a bit unrealistic of me to sit here and say that we need to get rid of it. It’s just not going to happen, but we have to become very aware of it. We also have to be aware of the damage it can do.
About 70% of the day we are living in a state of stress and we are reliving old emotions. What is unique about us humans compared to the rest of the living creatures on this planet, is that we can turn stress on by thought alone. Whereas a zebra for instance will only experience stress when it is being chased/ threatened, we can and usually turn the stress dial up all on our own and we do it often. The problem with this is, that not only does it effect our concentration but our health as well. No organism on this planet can live in emergency mode for extended periods of time and expect to function healthily.
I remember what a jaw dropping moment it was for me when I was reading Dr. Joe Dispeza’s work and finding out just how addictive stress is. The chemicals of stress, dopamine, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and especially cortisol, are in fact highly addictive. Anger, anxiety, insecurity, hostility, fear, guilt, shame, unworthiness and so on, are all created from the hormones of stress. Even though we might know that these are bad states of being, we keep going back to them to reaffirm the addiction to that emotion. We do it so we can get that rush of adrenaline and this is why it is so hard to change. We know it’s bad, yet we still keep on doing it. Trust me, I know. I’m an expert at getting angry in a fast and furious way -ha ha.
Let’s now move onto the third category.
Lack of focus due to a little something I am calling MIND-MESS!
1. Having unresolved issues can cause more problems than you may think. You can picture this as a snowball. The more you keep ignoring a problem the bigger it usually gets. Have you even noticed how, when a problem isn’t dealt with, life usually finds a way to throw it right back at you, even if that’s years later? And when it comes back around, it tends to be bigger and hurts way more. From my experience, and feel free to disagree at this point, ignoring problems will not make them go away. It’s unfortunate but true.
So what can we do? I realise that being proactive and trying to prevent the worst is not always an option but make your life easy and deal with the hard things. Get ahead of your problems as much as you can. It’s just like going to the dentist. Go to those bi-annual check ups and maybe get a nice cleaning, a tiny filling and avoid that nasty root canal treatment. It’s that simple. Set some time apart. Make some plans.
Because if you don’t plan, you plan to fail!
I love that saying so much. Truer words have rarely been said.
2. Another massive enemy of focus is negative self-talk. I mean how would you even get anything done if you are telling yourself how incapable and useless you are? Does that sound like someone you know?
Standing in front of a challenge or task and telling yourself how you will undoubtedly mess it up, is the worst possible thing you can do. But let me ask you this...
How would you react if a friend or family member treated you the same way? You need to work on a project, bake a cake, do that winged eyeliner and your friend is looking over your shoulder and telling you how you are obviously going to mess it up. How would that feel? Chances are you would kick that person out or at least give them the silent treatment for a while, yet we do it to ourselves regularly. It is not ok, and it needs to stop! If you are not going to respect and uplift yourself, how can you expect it from others?
You have to spend the rest of your life with yourself, so why not be kind? Why not encourage yourself?
At this point you may be screaming at your phone or laptop and exclaiming that others have been also putting you down for years, so it’s just learned behaviour. It’s what you’ve always known.
That is also not ok and needs to stop. I realise that this is a complex matter and deserves its own post, or more but for know please understand that, hurt people, hurt people. We are like projectors walking on two legs and when someone makes a nasty comment or remark it says way more about that person than the one the comment is aimed at. You don’t have to agree!
If what everyone thought or said about you was correct, what would you be like? How many personalities and character traits would you need to have to accommodate everyone’s opinion? It just doesn’t work like that, luckily!
If you wish to go into more detail on this subject, go ahead and get in touch! I am very passionate about this subject and can offer a lot of tools & help.
3. The third element of mind-mess and focus disruptor is none other than overwhelm. When we have a lot going on and need to perform well, taking breaks sounds quite counter-intuitive, I’m sure.
Now, I wouldn’t be able to sit here and give advice, if I wouldn’t have experience with this. Being the stubborn goat that I am, it took me ages to accept this principle and to start implementing it. Taking small breaks is actually very useful and necessary to clear your mind. I have sat at this very desk and gone through a problem multiple times and just couldn’t resolve it, only to sit back down hours later or the next day and solve it immediately. In these cases, I’ll often wonder why I was so defeated by said issue in the first place… I was just overwhelmed and needed to take a step back.
Now I’m not suggesting you take hour long breaks but 5 minutes or so doing something different or preferably nothing at all, will work wonders!
Just go ahead and take your blinkers off for a bit. You will see the benefits.
In conclusion, focus is super important for any task and for success and I invite you to really think about the levels of stress in your life, your health choices and what you could do differently. Hopefully you will start implementing some of the suggestions, before we move on to the next big F word – fighting! Next time we will explore in more detail who you have to fight and why to reach your goals!
...because life without goals is like soup without salt!
You can still have it, but it’s just not right! -Eszter Noble