Improving Your Mental Focus

Improving your mental focus is a foundational step for all success. Some things in life are major and some things are minor; the ability to focus is major. Especially in this day and time I call the "Era of Distractions." And make no mistake about it, allowing distractions to go unchecked leads to disaster.

Distractions are like gnats. They are everywhere nipping at you. You hardly notice them most of the time, but because of their number, you must take them seriously.

It's been shown that our attention spans are dwindling and that each new generation is finding itself moving deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole leading them to lost opportunities. Distractions are, at best, wasted aimlessness.

Never has there been a time where improving your ability to focus your mind has been so important. There is an old saying that says, "If you don't use it, you lose it." That applies to everything including our ability to focus. And doing so is a choice. We have to decide to focus. And the more we do it, the easier it becomes. If you use your ability to focus more often, it will strengthen.

What The Internet (Especially On The Phone) Has Done To Our Brains

The major culprit of modern times depriving us of our ability to focus is the internet. Especially among young people. Wherever you look, almost everyone's eyes are glued to their phones.

Yes, there are obvious advantages to having the internet so handy. But there is a cost as well. Probably many costs. But a primary cost is our loss of mental focus. It is one of the top perils of the modern era, and it's only being given a cursory acknowledgement.

I can sum up in two words what the internet (especially on our phones) has done to our brains - over stimulated. And our brains have reacted to this over stimulation by craving it even more.

An experiment was done where phones were taken away for one week from teenage girls. They went crazy! The addiction is that powerful. And the consequences of that addition are obvious.

You cannot reach a goal without applying a sharp consistent mental focus. That is a fact. For example, let’s say you want to reach a goal that requires you to learn a new skill. How can you expect that to happen if your mind continually wanders off onto other topics?

This is especially when topics pop up that are far removed from the new skill. Also, most goals require you to perform tasks in a certain order. Here again, if you are constantly distracted, the order will not be followed? Your mind is all over the place.

I heard someone recently describe distractions as the "shiny objects" that beckon us away from whatever task we are working on. Shiny objects that catch our attention. That, my friend, is a step in the wrong direction. A step with failure as its likely destination. You must resist it.

So make no mistake about it, if you want success, you must leave the distractions and the shiny objects to others and instead, work at improving your mental focus.

The Power Of Mental Focus

Have you ever watched an animal in the wild going after its prey? Their eyes are laser focused on the target of their desires. That is crucial for them to stay alive.

Animals are not the only creatures where mental focus is an important trait. We humans, too, have that same power. But there is a difference with humans. We have the power of choice, the power to use our focus or to not focus. To keep our eyes on the road or to crash and burn.

In the past, focusing would come naturally. But in today's society, where distractions proliferate like a wildfire, many people are lost, their skill ignored. They are forming bad habits. And even worse, they are not looking to improve their mental focus.

It is said that our attention span has dwindled to 5 seconds. Some say even 3 seconds. Whatever it is, we are losing a power that use to happen automatically - the power to mentally focus our mind on one item for a sustained period of time. Thus the reason for this article on improving your mental focus. We must reverse the trend.

How can we reclaim the power? Simple. We do it by practicing the skill over and over and over again. It will take time and effort, but here is the good will be worth it. And when it's done, it will seem to others that you have developed some kind of super power.

Consider this: Everyone in the past, working on and inventing cars, airplanes, etc. had to directly focus on what was happening in the moment as they worked. I know that’s obvious, but can you imagine if Thomas Edison had allowed himself to be distracted daily? Many times a day? Checking Facebook, YouTube, emails or texts and responding to them? It would have taken him forever to invent the electric light bulb. But that is where many people stand today.

Don't let that be you. Make improving your mental focus a core value and allow its power to change your life.

Improving Your Mental Focus Is Nothing More Than Making A Decision

Like I said before, controlling your focus is a choice. How do you go about regaining that control?

The first step toward improving your mental focus is to become aware when you are being distracted. You must recognize the fact that you have a problem. That, too, is not always easy

Why? A simple answer: Becoming distracted has become a habit for you. You don’t even notice when it is happening; it's that automatic. Even so, it doesn't mean you can't develop the sense that something is wrong.

Let's say a feeling arises that "I'm not acting on my project right now like I had been just a moment ago." That feeling is so very important. You must learn to be aware of it more and more. And you can get really good at it.

That is the first step, awareness.

Every hour of every day you are bombarded by those shiny objects demanding your attention. Distractions are everywhere. That means you will have plenty of opportunities to get more skillful noticing that you are being pulled away from your project.

As you develop that skill, breath slowly and bring your focus back to what you were working on before the shiny object. The more often you do this, the quicker a new habit will be formed. You are not trying to destroy an old habit. No. You are developing a new habit to replace the old one. A new pathway is laid down in your brain's neurons.

Once you have turned your attention back to your project, imagine yourself looking at it through a magnifying glass. What this does is truly amazing. Have you ever noticed how clear your vision is when something has been magnified? That's what you are doing here. Your whole focus is now on one particular area. You are now single minded. Regarding one item, and only one item at a time. (Yep, you guessed it, no more multitasking).

So, summing up, you first notice you have been distracted, you breath slowly, you bring your focus back to the task at hand, and regard it as if looking at it through a magnifying glass. The more often you practice this process, the better and the faster you will regain mental focus, allowing yourself to increase mental clarity.
Re-capturing your ability to control your mental focus enables you to succeed faster with less effort. Also, know that it is what you focus on that determines what you feel. So if you do not like what you are feeling, simply check what you are focusing on and if it makes sense, change what you're focusing on. And, in that way, changing what you feel.

Improving your mental focus improves your chances to experience a more positive life.

How To Sustain Mental Focus

Sustained focus is your mind's ability to stay engaged and focused for an extended period of time without interruption. In our culture of  “I want it now,” that can be very difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

One simple action you can take is to set your environment up in such a way as to help you stay focused. Place post-it notes in strategic places so you are constantly reminded of your task and why it is important to you. If your task requires certain resources, gather them up and place them out where you are reminded of why they are there. Because they are easy to get to and organized, there is a better chance you will quickly start to use them.

You might practice using a timer. Start with a small time interval, focusing only on your target. The reason for using a small time interval is because you want early successes (The Small Steps Technique). Doing that helps you gain momentum. And over time, you can increase the time intervals as you grow your ability to focus.

You can also use a technique called Don't Break The Chain. This strategy is like having a contract with yourself. It's like a construction tool for forming a new habit.

Sustaining mental focus does not have to be difficult. It just takes time and effort. It's an important part of improving your mental focus.

Oh, one last thing about developing sustained mental focus, If at any time you feel fatigued, don’t be afraid to take a little break from what you are doing. The more fatigued you are, the easier it will be to become distracted. We don’t want that.

Improving your mental focus is a goal worth attaining. It is a part of mental toughness and it will lead to greater success and a sense of self-confidence. Your self-esteem will grow.

You might like these

Go to the top of this page on Improving Your Mental Focus.

Go to the Article Index.