My Q Health | The Four Basic Moves to Strengthen Focus
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The Four Basic Moves to Strengthen Focus

The Four Basic Moves to Strengthen Focus

The less distracted we are, the more successful we can be at whatever we do.

You’re at your keyboard zeroed in on some compelling task at hand, say, focused on a report you have to finish today, when suddenly there’s a pop-up box or melodious ding! You’ve got a message.

What do you do? Stay with that urgent task? Or check that message?

The answer to that dilemma will be determined by a strip of neurons in your prefrontal cortex, just behind your forehead—your brain’s executive center. One of its jobs is settling such conflicts, and managing your priorities in general.

The ability to stay concentrated on what you’re doing and ignore distractions counts among the most basic skills in anyone’s mental toolbox.

Call it focus.

The more focused we are, the more successful we can be at whatever we do. And, conversely, the more distracted, the less well we do. This applies across the board: sports, school, career.

Focus is the hidden ingredient in excellence (link is external)—“hidden” because we typically don’t notice it. But lacking focus we are more likely to falter at whatever we do. A test of how concentrated college athletes are, for instance, predicts their sports performance the following semester. A wandering mind (link is external), studies show, punches holes in students’ comprehension of what they study. And an executive tells me that whenever he finds his mind has wandered during a meeting, he wonders what opportunities he has just missed.

The ability to focus is like a mental muscle. The more we work it out, the stronger it becomes, much like using a Cybex at the gym for sculpting pecs.

In research at Emory University by Wendy Hasenkamp (link is external) she imaged the brain of volunteers while they paid attention to their breath. They didn’t try to control their breathing in any way, but just concentrated on its natural flow.

She found there are four basic moves in the mind’s workout for focused attention:

To read full article (and discover the four basic moves to focus), visit Psychology Today.



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