The Art of Focus

For some people, the world is nothing but an endless stream of distractions. Moving objects, the cacophony of notifications, the music playing overhead at Starbucks; these all serve as a derailment to their train of thought. When they do not need to focus, they enjoy revelling in the beauty of all the little things the world has to offer, as their minds are more attuned and receptive to the present state.

But when they need to focus, therein lies the challenge. They need a space with limited visual distraction, limited connection to the outside world, and limited sound. What elements of this they choose to have need to be consistent and strictly controlled. Hence, these people may opt for headphones with white noise,  scheduled and regulated breaks from their work, or desks in corners where the walls obscure the view. For these people, the trick of focus is to push open a space in the physical world in which they can work.

On the other side are the people for whom the world is easy to tune out. For them, the mind is the enemy. Though they try to focus in on one thing, the other thoughts, other projects and tasks keep vying for attention and tugging on the pant legs of the mind.  When they do not need to focus, their mind is awhirl with the beauty of ideas,  the geneses of creative exploits, and the stretching to the furthest capacities of the human mind.

But when they need to focus, therein lies the challenge. They need some way to shut their minds off, to take the focus off of six projects and put it into one.  For them, the struggle is not to push open a space in reality, but to fill up their reality with so many distractions that they have to focus on their work. Hence, these people fill their eyes with motion all around, and fill their ears with music, podcasts, audiobooks, and even the sounds of the world around them, so that the other parts of their mind may have something to feed on while they plunge into their work.

Of course, like all dichotomies, it is not a true division, but rather a spectrum upon which people fall. But there is a constant for everyone on this scale. There is something distracting all of us, be it in the real world or in our minds, and the art of focus is the active fight against the distractions that plague us.