This week, I’m focusing on how you can develop your own strengths and skills. Yesterday, we talked about finding the things you’re passionate about – those will be the skills that you want to develop – the skills that will help you take action and be the best YOU that you possibly can.
Today, we’re going to focus on.. well, focus! Being able to truly focus on what you do in the here and now is an important part of being able to develop your strengths. And the best way to learn focus is through meditation.
Used to be, when I heard the word meditation I thought of a tiny Asian dude in a turban sitting on a pillow chanting “Ommmm”. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one!
But meditation is really just a tool – and it can be used by anyone, even you, with or without a pillow. 😉
Meditation can be done anywhere, at any time. Sitting on a soft pillow, in quiet room with the lights dimmed is sort of “meditation for beginners” – it’s the ideal situation, and is pretty easy to do. But once you get the hang of it- you can meditate anywhere – even on the ride home from work on a bus full of stinky, rambunctions strangers.
There are several kinds of meditation, but for our purposes, we’re going to focus on two things – Improving focus, and reducing anxiety.
1. Meditating to Maintain Focus
Have you ever heard of the term “mindfulness”? Basically, it’s the idea of being able to stay focused on the task in front of you. If you’re vacuuming the floor, the only thing in your mind is vacuuming the floor. Or to refer back to yesterday’s post – if you’re practicing tae kwon do, the only thing on your mind is tae kwon do.
➡ Test yourself. Find a quiet spot in your house, without distractions. Sit comfortably and breathe, and as you do, count each breath. See how high you can get before your mind starts to wander. I bet you can’t make it to 10 – most people can’t on their first try.
➡ Being able to focus has a lot of practical benefits. Foremost, it’s hard to be your absolute best at something when other thoughts are intruding – your brain can only think about one thing at a time. It may go back and forth quickly between several things, but it can only be truly focused on one at a time. Without being able to completely focus on a task, you won’t be able to fully develop your strengths.
➡ Being able to focus completely on what you’re doing right now reduces anxiety and stress. Those negative feelings come from worrying about things in the future, or reliving unpleasant things from the past. If you can stay in the moment, you avoid thoughts of the past and future – and stay anxiety free.
➡ Being mindful helps you live your life in the now. When you’re thinking about the past or the future, you aren’t living your life.
➡ You’ll get so much more accomplished! When you fully focus on the task at hand, you become more efficient and get things done faster. Let me give you an example of this. I used to bring my tablet into the kitchen and watch Netflix while I washed the dishes. I liked it because it took my mind off doing the one household chore I really dislike.
But what I found instead is that when I let something take my mind off the job, 1) the dishes weren’t getting as clean and 2) I spent 2-3 times longer getting it done! So I was creating a situation where I actually spent more time doing a job I don’t like because I wasn’t being mindful and focusing on the task.
Now when I’m working, I set a mindfulness bell to go off at random times – if my mind has started wandering, the sound of the bell draws my focus back to where it needs to be and I get things done faster. When I’m not working, the bell reminds me to take a moment and focus on things that are important to me, or just to take a moment to breathe.
2. Reduce Anxiety with Meditation
Anxiety and fear create the resistance that prevents us from achieving our passions. On the other hand, when you have a purpose and remain focused, success is practically guaranteed. It is your doubts and fears that keep you from trying.
➡ When you are in a situation where you know what needs to be done but can’t seem to get yourself in motion – try focusing on the issue. Sit back, close your eyes, and think about it. Staying as neutral as possible, recognize any anxiety, any negative thoughts or feelings that arise. Concentrate on them until you don’t feel them anymore. If you examine a feeling for long enough, it eventually fades away.
➡Now, it’s probably gonna take you more than one time to make it happen. You can’t spend 2 minutes on your problems and think you’ll solve them – so quit trying to take shortcuts!
➡Another form of meditation that has worked for me in these situations is the ho’oponopono. I simply concentrate on the negative situation or feeling that is blocking me and repeat the phrase: “I love you. I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.” By doing this, I’m telling myself that it’s ok to let the feelings go – that I forgive myself for any anger, stress or anxiety that is causing resistance.
Let me tell you – I’m not a big believer in fairy dust and magic unicorns to solve my problems. But this has really worked for me, even when I didn’t understand why it would.
Focus and meditation are incredible tools and perhaps two of the most important skills that a person can learn – and anyone can learn to do them well. The key is to start where you are and keep improving.
Before you know it, you’ll have the focus of a Zen monk and nothing will be able to stop you from taking action!
PS: Don’t forget to check out Part One of this series – Developing Your Strengths and Finding Your Passion