Do you find yourself with a long list of things that you want or need to get done but you can’t seem to focus, so you move from one thing to another, not getting anything done with any sense of ease or satisfaction?
This happens to all of us, whether we run a business, work in a business or are simply trying to live a life that’s full and productive. So what’s going on here? By way of illustration, imagine yourself in the situation described below, tailored to your particular circumstances.
You are trying unsuccessfully to complete one of the projects on your ever-growing list. Despite your commitment to getting it done and your honest efforts to create something of value, you can’t come up with something you’re satisfied with. You get frustrated, impatient and you drop it.
You reach for something else to work on, assuming a different challenge will call forth a different (and more productive) result. Nope. The same thing happens again, accompanied by even more of a sense of pressure. You drop that project and search for anything that will get you out of your slump. But nothing works and you walk away feeling like a failure and blaming yourself.
Your Ability to Focus Is Always Available
At this point most people think there’s something lacking or broken in them which might be fixed by techniques or strategies like stop multi-tasking, start decluttering, listen to relaxing music, practice mindfulness or meditation. The problem with this approach is that it implies there’s something you need to do in order to get things done.
The truth is that our ability to focus is not broken or missing - it’s just misunderstood.
Thinking and Receptivity
Let’s use the analogy of a coin (heads and tails). Heads is our thinking: we’re easily distracted by our habitual reactive thoughts, whether they relate to the task at hand or our expectations and assumptions surrounding that task. The tails side of the coin is receptivity. When we overthink anything, we lose our ability to be receptive to new ideas, and we end up struggling to repeat something good we did in the past but doesn’t fit what we need now.
When our thinking tells us there are obstacles in our path, insecure feelings highjack our ability to focus and be in the creative flow. The thoughts we project can choke off the flow of ideas and the result ends up stiff or stifled.
The creative process - whether it involves writing a report or organizing a conference, making dinner or painting a picture - is not something we can manage or force. Yes, we hold the pen or the spoon or the paintbrush, but we can’t predetermine the process or the results.
But when we let our minds settle (that can happen in an instant) and are willing to receive rather than dictate, we clear the way for new ideas to come through, rather than needing to control or manipulate them. We can even have a sense of wonder and curiosity: “what wants to come through me about this subject?”
Focus is an innate ability in all of us. And that ability is connected to our common sense, which always tells us when our muddled thinking is keeping us from being present to the job at hand. Instead of reaching for a technique or strategy, reach for the understanding that we are hardwired for well being and creativity, which includes an ability to self-correct and allow new thoughts to flow into us.