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POWER OF FOCUS

Why can’t you focus?

Credit: Christopher Delorenzo

The average person gets distracted every 40 seconds. Chances are that even as you were scrolling through EBY, you checked your phone to see why it lit up a couple times. You were probably disappointed to see that someone had started an IG live and it wasn’t your friend sharing her drunken night or even the Bumble guy saying something remotely witty. Maybe you wanted to laugh and opened up Twitter, or you got hungry or bored (who even knows the difference anymore), and flitted to the kitchen. Then, in the kitchen, you may have seen a recipe book gathering dust and decided you should test out some hibernating baking skills, and then you realized you didn’t have any of the ingredients so you went back to your laptop and saw that our seamless bralettes are pretty amazing and you definitely deserve them for not binging on an unhealthy, albeit homemade, baked good (the ‘why’ is our little secret). Our mind will wander, especially in an age where it has so much to wander to at the palm of our hands. Our thoughts, then, are scattered, more often than not. An idle mind is the devil’s plaything, they say, but what if the devil is onto something? 

Credit: LunaMiranda

We were told the excruciating road to productivity is to be hyper focused and rid yourself of all distractions. Yet, have you ever tried to think of a solution to a problem, tried endlessly without letting your mind wander, and you just kept hitting a wall? You give up and decide to do absolutely anything else (like take a nap) just to take a break from the frustration. And then, like some act of divine intervention, you have clarity in the midst of some completely unrelated task. This phenomenon isn’t about the devil or the divine, but rather, it is our brain in scatter focus. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? How can something be both scattered and focused at the same time? And if our brain can’t even focus the scatter, what is the point? Turns out, when you allow your mind the freedom to wander and explore thought, you give it the space to be creative. 

The uninhibited power of your subconscious mind can break walls. 

This phenomenon, known as the Zeigarnik effect, helps us accept and understand ourselves as the complex messes we are. When you’re stuck on something, it takes up so much of the temporary storage space in your brain, especially since we are so much more likely to dwell on unfinished tasks than finished ones. Connecting every new experience to this unsolved problem in some desperate attempt at a solution creates this horrible lack of inspiration. 

A wandering mind connects the problems we’re tackling with what we experience and where our minds wander.

Power Tip 1: Meditating, we’re going to keep telling you to do it

Meditating is one way to unshackle your mind from the day to day frustrations of your life. If you make the time to let your mind freely walk into calm, life-affirming spaces, then it will be easier for you to focus later on because it won’t be yearning for that. Meditating also allows you to observe the ways your mind works and be more conscious of its energy. Meditating is the ultimate test of focus.

Power Tip 2: Create space for boredom

Chris Bailey, in his book Hyperfocus, describes deliberately trying to be bored by doing mindless, habitual tasks so that his mind had no option but to wander. Once this went on for a week, he would notice his brain going into overdrive. This overdrive sparked fruitful creativity, ideas and nuanced solutions to complex problems.We are not robots and we need to start looking at productivity as something human so that we can start imbuing it with our natural tendencies. 

Power Tip 3: Accept the journey

Creative problems need more than just logic. Don’t punish yourself when you aren’t going from A to B, but instead, strolling through a maze of other paths. Don’t condemn yourself for not thinking of a solution or coming to an idea right away. If scientists have only mapped 10% of the brain, who are we to give it directions towards creativity. Accept the mysterious ways of your mind and have faith in the proven power of the subconscious. 

“Look back at some of the greatest eureka moments in history. In addition to reaching an impasse with their problems, some famous thinkers arrived at solutions to them after being spurred by an external cue. Archimedes figured out how to calculate the volume of an irregular object when he noticed his bathwater overflowing. Newton came up with his theory of gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree—probably the best-known insight trigger in history.”

Real talk: Looks like you’re in good company if scatter focus is how you stay creative about the problems in your life. Next time you feel stuck and have spent hours, days, mulling over the issue, remember that the greatest inspiration can lie in the most mundane places. Take a nap, go for a walk, reorganize your bookshelf, do your laundry, make the bed, count sheep, count the stars. Find comfort in knowing that the road may be winding but you never know when you will have your eureka moment so embrace the twists and turns.

 

 

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