One way I like to learn about focus is by watching other people’s stories. There are many videos online about this subject. In fact, there are so many that finding the right ones can be quite hard. I have always liked TED talks. The format of giving people a stage to tell their inspirational stories in less than 20 minutes is brilliant. Below are three of the best TED talks about focus I found on the Internet. They all tell a personal journey of people like you and me that struggled with distraction and somehow succeeded in finding more focus.
The TED talks about focus also taught me a few things. First of all that you can really train your ability to focus. Second that training your focus is essential and is one of the great struggles of our generation. Third that training your focus is all about understanding the inner workings of your mind. And last nut not least that we should teach our kids to focus because they are struggling even harder.
TED talks about focus
The art of focus – a crucial ability | Christina Bengtsson
Christina Bengtsson is a world class athlete, author, lecturer, entrepreneur, and military officer in the Swedish Armed Forces. Her book ”The art of focus – 10,9” gives us tangible advice on how to control our thoughts and stay focused in both our professional and personal life.
She tells a story about how she was inspired by an autumn leaf playing in the wind during a precision shooting contest. Turning her attention to the leaf relieved her of distracting thoughts and made her focused. This knowledge did not only make her a precision shooting world champion at the time, but it also reminded her of the danger of distraction and the sheer power of focus. And the fact that we have a responsibility that this ability is maintained in the future.
She believes that focus is simply about choosing the right thought among thousands of thoughts. So how do we get focused? We need to learn to notice disturbing thoughts and distinguish them from not disturbing thoughts. A not disturbing thought is something completely neutral, like a lamp or a chair. Or an autumn leaf. The brain can only focus on one thought at a time. A not disturbing thought knocks out all the disturbing thoughts.
She also talks about not trying to excel in all areas of life. Focus on one thing and do this really well. The more possibilities there are, the more there is to refrain from.
We live our life with short term focus and we are losing the ability to build our own self esteem without constant feedback from others.
Unwavering Focus | Dandapani
Dandapani is a Hindu priest, speaker on self-development and an entrepreneur.
Dandapani talks about the importance of practicing our ability to focus. In fact, he believes that we are only practicing distraction and that we have become really good at that!
We live in a society that trains us to multi-task and jump from one thing to another in an uncontrolled way. There are so many distractions out there. The key is learning and practicing the art of concentration. Living as a Hindu monk for 10 years Dandapani was trained in understanding the mind. There he learned and practiced the fine art of bringing concentration into everyday life.
Most people can’t concentrate today for two reasons. We are never taught how to concentrate. And we don’t practice concentration.
We need to start with understanding the mind. There is awareness and there is the mind. Your awareness is moving within your mind like a spotlight lighting up the areas that have our attention. The art of concentration is the art of keeping awareness. Do not let other people or other things control it. Concentration is keeping awareness on one thing for an extended period of time.
We allow people and things around us to take our awareness from one area of the mind to the other all day long. We can practice keeping our awareness by doing one thing at a time throughout the day. The best way to develop concentration is to bring the practice into our everyday life. Give people around you your undivided attention.
Life is a manifestation of where your energy is flowing. Do one thing at a time and practice. Keep bringing awareness back. Teach your children and be an example.
My near death experience unveiled the Secret of Daily Focus | Sukhi Wahiwala
Sukhi Wahiwala was a very hardworking and successful entrepreneur. One day he became ill and had a near death experience. He survived and had to recover for a long time. When he started working again he discovered that he had forgotten how to be a successful entrepreneur. His mind was in a constant state of distraction and he was procrastinating and escaping from tasks.
When he was trying to work out how and why he was being distracted he discovered that the average human mind distracts itself every three minutes. And it takes us fifteen minutes to get back into focus. It is a constant loop of time wasting.
He thought that multitasking would be the answer. But he discovered that multitasking reduces your ability to do things in half. And it makes you three times more likely to make a mistake. It even reduces your IQ. The human mind can not truly focus on two conscious tasks at a same time.
Finally he retrained his brain and is now working with a system of seven steps.
Seven steps to finding focus at work:
- Start with a clear question that requires a decision.
- Grab a piece of paper. And write it down. Or draw a mindmap.
- Select the ten important tasks that need to be done today and now. Write them down.
- Reduce the ten tasks to five of the top tasks.
- Reduce it down to three.
- Put them into order. 1, 2 and 3.
- Immediately do it. Just one. Then the second and then the third.
He works in a space where he doesn’t get distracted. He also clears his desk and switches off his phone.
Years later he believes that his illness was actually a precious gift that taught him an important lesson.
He saw that time is a finite resource and that we need to spend it wisely. The illness made him slow down and be present. He makes his time count. For example: when he is with his kids, all his attention is with his kids.
I hope you enjoyed these TED talks about focus. Do you have others to add? Let me know!