23 December 2014

Focusing Using The Conscious Mind

Focus Using The Conscious Mind

How to Focus:

What makes the conscious mind different from the subconscious and unconscious mind is your ability to know how to focus it. It’s this unique capability that allows your conscious mind to control the unconscious minds so you can tap into their vast powers. If you know how to train your conscious mind to do this, it can literally change every aspect of your life. First of all, lets take a look at focus in a little more depth.

Are you paying Attention?

The brain is an attention focusing machine. Indeed, throughout your day you are normally paying attention to various things at different levels of attention without even realizing. For instance, scientists have identified a number of different states we go into when paying attention to something. A few of them are:

  1. Selective Attention: where your brain chooses something to look at or listen to amongst all the many other distractions going on.

  2. Shared attention: this allows you to do several tasks at one time like texting, eating, and talking.

  3. Sustained Attention: this allows you to maintain attention for long periods of time, like driving long distances.

For some people, however, their attention span is minimal and distractions come easy. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is an prime example of this.

The question is … how do you take control of all this constant attention demanding activity and direct it to achieve the outcomes in life you want? First of all, you have to know the difference between “attention” and “focus.”

The Difference Between Paying Attention and Knowing How to Focus:

Attention and focus are terms that are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. However, there is definitely a distinction between the two.

The brain uses our senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste) to help it pay ATTENTION. So, attention could mean looking at an object in a landscape while still being aware of the overall beautiful scenery, which involves multiple senses. Or, it could be the smell of fresh baked cookies that takes our thoughts back to childhood, or watching a concert, or the feel of a camp fire on a cold night.

In all these cases your attention is drawn to that moment and your subconscious mind delivers the messages, moods, and feelings associated with that particular activity. But your attention can dash away to other thoughts quite quickly. Attention can be (but not always) easily distracted.

FOCUS, on the other hand, is a much finer degree of attention. It’s where the term ‘focus your attention on this …’ comes from. It’s like a spotlight shining in a darkened room that draws your attention onto a specific point and intently dedicates your senses to it to help you process and understand what’s going on.

It is a very willful act. That is, in the majority of cases you can control what you FOCUS on at any point in time. It involves your mind, visual imagery, mental curiosity, and self-talk dedicated to a specific topic, whether it be studying a textbook, drawing a picture, or thinking of a solution to a problem. Again, your subconscious will come into play to deliver emotional messages about what you are focusing on (which can be either positive or negative depending on your focus). Kind of like shooting at a bulls eye. You have to focus the entire process and not be distracted.

However, these two processes, while very similar, also have somewhat of an inverse relationship. For example, the more you are focused on something, the less aware you are of what is going on around you. Alternatively, the more aware you are of what is going on around you, the more difficult it will be to focus on something in particular. No read this paragraph again … ’cause it’s important to know this information.

Take driving a car as an example. For most people this has become a subconscious task, with your driving skills done mostly unconsciously without you having to focus on them. Moreover, because it is a skill that you have become very good at, you can also hold a conversation with someone else in the car while you drive and not be overly affected by doing the two tasks. Your sub/unconscious mind has already learned this driving thing and it takes over and handles it for you.

However, if, for example, you drove into a bad neighborhood or went into a completely unknown area, more attention resources would be called upon to help you concentrate (focus) on where to go, and as such carrying on a conversation at the same time may become more difficult. You might find yourself saying “don’t talk to me now, I’m trying to focus on the directions.”

So, that’s a brief description of the difference between ATTENTION and FOCUS.

Now, a look at some fascinating research done on the importance of focus, and how by directing it properly can greatly improve your results in life. Some interesting studies over the years have come to find that by creating a simple shift in your conscious focus can greatly influence the outcomes you’ll manifest in form.

One area that a simple change of focus can have an immediate and obvious impact is on sports. One of the leading researchers in this area is Dr Gabriele Wulf, a Professor at the Department of Kinesiology at Nevada University Las Vegas. She found that where you focused your attention, whether it was internally on your body movements or externally on the resulting action, was vitally important to the results you achieved. This simple yet effective distinction led to some amazing results.

Many tests were run, and it was proven that whether you were actually physically participating in a sport … or going through the motions of it all within your mind and not actually doing it … people scored as well, if not better and even improved over the ones who physically did it. These types of results really got psychologists thinking. If people could get improved results simply by shifting focus during sporting activities, then what about other more difficult activities?

So Gabriele Wulf and her team decided to create a study involving people who have Parkinson’s disease. Participants were told to stand on a rubber disc and maintain their balance as best they can (people with Parkinson’s have uncontrollable body movements and thus find this task extremely difficult).

The internal group were told to focus on their feet while the external group told to focus on the rubber disk. The results were the same as other studies. the external group showed remarkably less postural sway compared to both the internal group and a control group, further adding weight to researchers findings on how important directing of focus is, even on medically challenged people.

There are many important lessons we can take from these studies and apply it to our everyday life. While the list is only limited by imagination here are a few to get you started –

In social situations, it has been proven that when shy people focus externally on other people in their interactions, their anxiety reduces. Alternatively, when they start to focus internally to their own mental chatter, like what they are going to say next or how they are performing, they become very self-conscious and highly anxious.

In many therapies, focus plays a big part in helping the client. What a person focuses on greatly affects their moods and behaviors. For example, if you are focused on a big exam coming up and your nerves are shattered, then putting your focus into context of the bigger picture of your life and exploring the alternative scenarios that could happen and what you can do about them if they do, can significantly help to reduce worry. So, instead of magnifying your focus down in on a problem, shift your focus outward (externally) and look at what it means in the big picture.

Even goal setting becomes an issue of focus. What you focus on is what you get. If you focus on what you don’t want, you’ll most likely get more of what you don’t want. But, if you focus on what you do want, then you’ll subconsciously find those opportunities in your world. For example, if you are intently focused on watching your weight, then your emotions, behaviors and moods will be directly linked to whether you gain weight or lose it. But, if you focus on nutrition and healthy eating, then you are focused externally on food and your self-esteem won’t suffer as much.

Focus can also be on a big scale too, and not just zoomed in on a subject. If you are in a certain industry with your work, your subconscious is already tuned in to look for certain clues. It all depends on what your conscious mind spends the most time thinking about. For example, if you are a massage therapist and really enjoy your work, you might walk down the street, see people with poor posture, and know exactly what muscles are affecting them. Other people would not pay any attention to that. Or a story may come on the news about bad backs that will capture your attention while other people would not even hear it. In this way your passion in life becomes an overall global focus, with your conscious mind always thinking about it and your subconscious on the look out to deliver (take note of this point: if you want to become really good at what you do, then that is how you do it).

Focus is essentially like buying a new car. When you first decide what type of car you want and what color, suddenly you begin to see them everywhere. Its as though before they were somehow melted into the backdrop of your daily life, but now that you are focused on them, they seem to jump out.

Basically, it all comes down to how your mind works. Its often quoted that we receive 2 million bits of information each second, but we are really only aware of 7 bits plus or minus 2 bits. This is because your subconscious is very efficient at filtering all that extra information out and only delivering into your conscious attention what you need.

To sum up, here’s what researchers have discovered:

Evidence suggests that an external focus gives much better results than internal (that is not to say that you should never go internal. One of the great skills we have as humans is our introspection and thinking abilities. What it does mean is that while you should think about things and learn the theory of it, when it comes to practice you should let things go external and trust your body or mind to do what you’ve learnt. In other words, go with the flow.)

What you are focusing on at a particular stage in your life will become your reality. Focus on fear and anxiety and that will become your reality. Focus on enjoyment, excitement, and fascination, and that is what you will attract.

What you focus on is what your subconscious will deliver. Kind of like a Genie or Jinn “your wish is my command.” Essentially, it will find evidence to support your conscious thoughts and bring your attention to it. It’ll scan the hard drive in your mind and look through all the files looking for past events and how to apply them to current events. Therefore, you will ‘attract’ that which you focus on. And not only that, but your thoughts, moods, and behaviors will be influenced by your subconscious mind, because it will try to give you what it thinks your conscious mind wants. Remember, your SUB/UNCONSCIOUS mind can ONLY communicate with your CONSCIOUS mind through feelings and emotions. Therefore, if you want to control your emotions better or gain better results, then shift your focus. It will help you to think, feel, and behave in a totally different way.

Just a thought …

~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.