The Power of Focus
The focus of your thoughts determines your effectiveness and your success.
Your state of mind that you are identified with, in fact, is the ‘reality filter’ that determines your perception of your inner and outer world and thus your overall experience. Simply put, what you focus on, you experience.
In other words, what you are aware of becomes your reality.
This is because you create the condition that you experience with your mind, specifically your thoughts, ideas, beliefs, how you speak to yourself, and how you’re feeling.
Like a baby is first conceived, gestated, and then delivered into the world, here’s how you create your world through the process of conception, concept, and condition:
- Your mind (imagination) is the conceiver, that which conceives or impregnates an image or thought or idea in the womb of your mind.
- Your conceived thought is now the imagined concept that germinates or gestates in your mind as ideas, beliefs, attitudes, values, words, and convictions.
- Your imagined concept is then delivered into your world as a manifested condition that you perceive as a ‘real’ experience, such as feelings, emotions, desires, energy levels, actions, and behaviours.
But it all happens inside your mind. That which was first imagined as thought has become ‘real’ (*see The Imagination Cycle).
Here’s an experiment you can perform to prove this to yourself, a kind of ‘glass-half-empty, glass-half-full’ experiment in which I’m going to ask you to focus on a minor, unpleasant experience and then ask you to focus on a more pleasurable experience.
Then we’ll analyse the results.
- First, sit or lie down in a comfortable place where you’re not going to be disturbed for 10 minutes. Ensure you have a pen and notepad nearby to write down your thoughts after completing this and the next part of the experiment.
- Once comfortably seated or lying down, take 3 deep breaths and close your eyes.
- Now focus on a recent event that’s fresh in the memory when you felt displeasure. Not something that is high in emotion, like anger, or grief, or hatred, just something that was more irksome and annoying than highly emotive. For instance, spilling milk on the floor or splashing tea or coffee on your lap.
- Now go over the events that led up to that event. What were you doing at the time? What were you thinking? What were you saying?
- In your mind, now enact the actual event. E.g. spilling the milk, splashing the tea or coffee.
- Now take note of how you are feeling in this moment. Are they positive or negative emotions? How similar are these emotions to when you actually experienced the event in the past?
- Now stop thinking about the event and take several deep breaths. Blow away the images and the feelings that the memory has aroused in your mind with every breath you expire. Take as many breaths as it takes to feel calm and comfortable once again.
- Now open your eyes and end this first part of the experiment.
Before starting the second part of the experiment, in just a few words, with your pen and notepad, jot down the main emotion or feeling that the memory aroused.
Once done, prepare to begin the next part of the experiment.
- As you did before, sit or lie down comfortably, take 3 deep breaths and close your eyes.
- Now focus on a recent event that’s fresh in the memory when you felt pleasure. Not something that is high in emotion, like ecstasy, or euphoria, or elation, just something that was more pleasing and satisfying than highly emotive. For instance, successfully completing a challenging task, or a satisfying ‘Yes!’ moment.
- In your mind, now enact the actual event. E.g. completing the task, the moment of winning a little victory.
- Now open your eyes and end this second part of the experiment.
As before, with your pen and notepad jot down the main emotion or feeling that the memory aroused in just a few words.
Now let’s analyse the two results, the displeasurable emotion aroused by the re-enactment of the irksome event, and the pleasurable emotion aroused by the re-enactment of the pleasing event.
Here are some questions to consider:
- In your mind, are you able to follow the causal link from thinking about each event to the emotion that you felt about it?
- Are you aware of how you—and only you—are the cause of your emotion in each part of the experiment?
- Are you aware of how your energy was affected in each part of the experiment? E.g. did you feel that your energy was being drained or being boosted?
- Are you aware of how your effectiveness is being influenced by your state of emotion in each part of the experiment? E.g. are you more or less effective with unpleasant or pleasant emotions?
- Finally, are you able to see how what you focus on determines your experience?
With Your Thoughts You Create Your World
This thought experiment highlights the power of focus. If you focus on negative events or negativity in general, then negative emotions are aroused and experienced, which in turn diminish your energy levels and decrease your overall effectiveness.
If you focus on positive events or positivity in general, then positive emotions are aroused and experienced, which in turn renew your energy levels and increase your overall effectiveness.
The impact of this is significant: what stands between you and your true potential is how you think!
The bridge that connects where you are now and where you want to be is the focus of your thoughts!
It isn’t circumstances or your environment that determines whether you are effective or ineffective, whether you are successful or not—it’s how you think and what you focus on.
This is because:
Circumstances do not make or break who you are—they reveal who you are.
Circumstances reveal what’s going on inside you.
Circumstances bring to your awareness the things that are often sub-conscious or semi-conscious, like your attitude, your prejudices, your values (or lack thereof). The things you generally don’t think much about or pay scant attention to, but are actually integral to who you are and who you want to become.
It isn’t the outside event or circumstance where the problem lies. All problems are the result of a cause or effect. Therefore, because your thoughts are conceived in your mind—your imagination—your problems are showing you that their cause (and therefore their solution) are to be found in your mind—your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, values, and attitudes.
As Shakespeare wrote,
“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so… nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.)
So it’s vital to take note of how you think and to be aware of your current beliefs, values, and attitudes.
Do you focus on the glass half-full or half-empty?
Do you worry about problems you can’t control or focus on the things you can control?
Do you blame others or events for where you are now, or do you take responsibility for where you are and where you want to be?
Effective people know that their thoughts and attitudes determine their level of effectiveness.
This doesn’t mean that effective people aren’t people without problems. Rather,
Successful people have learned to find solutions to their problems at the level of first cause—their mind.
They have learned to focus on and improve their thoughts, values, attitudes, and beliefs because these are the processes by which they improve their personal and professional effectiveness.
What you choose to focus on will ultimately determine your effectiveness and your experience.
That’s the power of focus.