Everything in our world seems to be in constant motion; very little looks to be standing still. We race to get up on time, to get to work; race to complete the tasks of the day, and race home again. Our minds need to focus in order to be able to properly process incoming information, and to handle stress in a positive manner. But with chaos around us - and often, chaos within us - it has become increasingly difficult for us to gain and maintain the level of mental focus needed to achieve our goals.
Here are what I call "The 5 Laws of a Focused Mind". This is the set of mental rules which help keep me in a focused state of mind. Read on and see if they can help you, too.
LAW #1: Tend to Your Environment
The first law of focus is to keep your mind peaceful. There are many factors which go into obtaining a peaceful mind, but there is one key area which cannot be neglected if you are seeking to cultivate peace: your environment.
If your environment is chaotic, your mind will follow suit; it is exceedingly more difficult to focus in surroundings which resemble more of a circus and less of a monastery. Granted, the absolute quiet of the monastic life isn't a possibility for most of us, but then neither is it absolutely necessary. What is necessary is that your environment be free from extreme noise, heavy clutter, and intensely negative emotion. The first two will impact your exterior environment; the latter, your "interior environment"; both will impact your mental capacity to focus.
Try to keep your external environment tidy, give yourself periods of silence instead of constant noise, and release intense negativity from your mind before it has the chance to set up shop.
Say it with me: A Peaceful Mind is a Focused Mind
LAW #2: Give Yourself Some R & R
I know, I know - none of us "have the time" for relaxing these days. I feel you - really, I do. See, the thing is, rest and relaxation are paramount to a focused mind.
If you are over-tired, your mind can't focus on your daily tasks, let alone your long-term goals. If you are stressed to the point of breaking and cannot seem to get anything done, it's likely time for a relaxing massage or a hot bath.
And don't give me this whole "I can't rest because X needs me to do Y and if I don't there will be Z to pay!" I have a HUGE problem putting myself first sometimes [ok, MOST of the time], but I've learned through bitter experience that if I am not at my best, all those "X" who depend on me to do "Y" will suffer far more if I DON'T take the time to take care of myself than they would if I took a little time - even a few days - to make sure my own internal batteries were recharged.
You CAN find the time, and you DO deserve it!
Say it with me: A Rested Mind is a Focused Mind
There are some fantastic ways to keep your brain hopping often enough to stay in mental "shape". You may already do a few of them! Here are some fun ways to get some mental aerobics on:
Say it with me: A Fit Mind is a Focused Mind
LAW #4: Stay in the Present Moment
The temptation to time-travel is almost overwhelming some days. Any random morning, I may find myself overcome with the guilt of a past failure, or with the powerful joy of future possibilities. Focusing on either of these extremes, if I allow myself, will derail my focus for the whole day.
Memories of our past and dreams for the future will always be there in our minds; the trick is knowing what to do with them when they arise in our active thoughts. The best way I know of to eliminate focus on either the past or the future is to focus - purposefully - on the here and now.
Try my technique for present-moment focus:
Stop what you're doing, and close your eyes. Concentrate on your own breath; steady your breathing. Think to yourself of the peace you can feel, in THIS moment. Release the guilt of failure; we've all failed. Release, too, any over-focus on the future; dreams are important, but if you don't live in today, they will never become your reality tomorrow. Think, instead, of three things you are grateful for - RIGHT NOW. Give thanks for them, and then re-orient your mind onto the task at hand with a renewed sense of gratitude and focus.
Say it with me: A Present Mind is a Focused Mind
That old song whose lyrics advise us to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative - and don't mess with Mr. In-between" shows us exactly how to keep a positive outlook. It sounds SO simple, doesn't it? And it is, really - IF you can do ONE thing: be firm with your negativity. Own it, and let it go. You can't toss out only a few negative thoughts and believe this is enough to create a positive mindset. Nope - they've ALL got to go - every last one of them.
Try this out the next time you're overwhelmed with a negative thought that is threatening to derail your focus:
Acknowledge the negative thought - don't immediately push it away. Respond to the negative thought - internally - with a refusal to let it in - something along the lines of "this was in the past; I do not need to think of it any more".
Replace the negative with a positive thought - "I was so hurt back then - BUT I am healed now, and am living a prosperous life in a loving relationship". Focusing on the positive - and eliminating the negative - will help your mind focus on what REALLY matters.
Say it with me: A Positive Mind is a Focused Mind
Listen to George Lucas [and maybe to me, too.]
The man is wise beyond the wisdom of mere mortals. I mean, come on, he INVENTED the Jedi!
But regardless of your love [or lack thereof] for all things Star Wars, I think you'll be able to see the wisdom of his admonition - "Always remember: your focus determines your reality."
How is this so? It's the simple law of cause and effect at work, really.
Cause: negative thoughts about past failed relationships
Effect: not taking the chance on a new, great person because we're afraid "it will end badly like last time".
Cause: negative thoughts about our business capabilities
Effect: not stepping out when offered an opportunity to become a Junior Partner in your firm, because you "don't think you'd be respected since you don't have as much experience as everyone else"
When we focus on the negative, more negative comes our way; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you can focus your mind - and keep it positive - your reality will change in accordance with your focus.
These 5 Laws of a Focused Mind aren't the be-all-and-end-all of mental focus - far from it. They are, however, a great starting place for you as you seek to master a positive, focused mindset. Master these 5 Laws and you'll be well on your way to changing your life for the better. No Jedi powers needed.