In a previous article I pointed out that 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 power. 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 you 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 –
- Selective Attention: where your brain chooses something to look at or listen to amongst all the many other distractions going on.
- Shared attention: this allows you to do several tasks at one time like texting, eating, and talking (teenagers seem to be great at this!).
- 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 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 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 delivers the messages, moods, and feelings associated with that particular activity. But your attention can dart 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 shone in a darkened room that pulls 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).
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.
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.
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.
So, that’s a brief description of the difference between attention and focus.
On the next page we will look at some fascinating research done on the importance of focus, and how by directing it properly can greatly improve your results in life ….. [Page 2]