We are well aware of our physical needs: food, shelter, water clothing and so on. But another one of the most important needs we also have is to feel loved. Everyone we encounter in life wants in on that same sensation of love — to feel as if they matter.
One way to show others (and ourselves) some kindness is by simply showing that you can — and want to — focus on them. Something as small as saying "Excuse me, I'm so sorry!" when we bump into someone is not only a gesture of politeness, but one that also acknowledges we are present in the moment: this person, at least on some level, matters to us.
When we are consumed with our to do lists, our worries about being late for an appointment, our newest text messages, and whatever else we have on our "plates," we may not even realize we cut someone off on the street, or bumped into someone in our office building.
But just as we can swiftly make thoughtless mistakes like these, we can remedy them with just a bit of focus and show that a basic level of love for others is a priority. When we are present enough to acknowledge our "oops" moments, we can also salute others with a gesture of authentic acknowledgment, of real kindness.
Think of a fond memory you hold dear to your heart. Chances are that your memory registers so deeply to you because it resulted from time spent truly focused and therefore engaged — either with another individual, a group of people, or a meaningful experience.
Focus renews sense of self and our perspective of the world around us. In that moment in time, we were their number one priority. Emails, texts, phone calls and other responsibilities became distant distractions as they locked their attention on you and you connected. Think of how it makes others feel to have our undivided attention. We create fond memories of others and for others with our own gift of focus.
This precious gift of focus is becoming more and more rare and difficult to accomplish, but it's nothing a little self-discipline and awareness can't help kick. The next time our friend approaches us with a desire or need to spill about their day, stop, sit down and acknowledge them.
Digging through the fridge and making a sandwich while your friend or partner or family member is speaking won't do anything but create frustration, disconnection, resentment. But just a little eye contact, listening (not hearing), hearing (not listening) and showing a genuine desire to connect with someone will go a long way. Focus is immediately recognized and valued, and creates a sturdy foundation upon which to build loving relationships.
The present of being present is not only free but one of the best and most appreciated gifts you can give yourself, too — not just others. When we want to show others we appreciate them, our thoughts often drift to things we can buy. It's ironic that paying attention actually doesn't cost a thing. Your focus beams will not only be a gift you can offer others, but a significant benefit and improvement to your own life.
The first step toward this great land of focus is to realize multitasking is not our friend, even though we seem to laud this idea in our fast-paced, plugged-in culture. Multitasking is actually the greatest barrier to our ability to focus, and one of the most overrated skill. When you think about it, who wants someone to do a job for them while they are simultaneously doing four other jobs? Multitasking was invented and exalted by people who didn't want to take the time or write the paychecks for jobs to be done thoroughly.
Studies show that people spend up to 50% of their time not thinking about the task at hand. Adding the fact that the average person gets interrupted every 11 minutes and considering that it takes him/her about 25 minutes to get back to the original task, this demonstrates how important being able to focus is for our productivity. Not focusing literally takes time out of our day.
Take the "multi" out of your task and you will be closer to the meaning of focus. Be true to yourself and your brain cells. You will be more productive, thorough and revel in a sense of achievement like never before. So, goodbye multitasking. We don't need you as a method or a word in general anymore. You've been replaced by focus and balance. We wish you the best in your alternate universe.
Bonus: Test out your focus muscles with these exercises:
- Take a 10-minute walk where you focus on the plant life you pass.
- Ask a partner or family member what their favorite part of their day was with full attention.
- When you wash your hair focus on the action of lathering and massaging and how you are caring for your body.
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