Do you worry about the future? I know that I spend a lot of my brain power worried about what could happen and all of the different outcomes of any decision. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by my strategic, futuristic thinking that I just give up and don’t accomplish anything!
The truth finally got my attention!
The best investment I can make in the
future is to be fully present NOW!
Those of you that know me well are aware that I have a very active mind, maybe too active! I love to laugh, create humor, and be surrounded by intelligent people that enjoy a good story. When I am at my most creative, it can be very difficult for others to follow the thread that holds a story or idea together.
I have always struggled with focus. During the process of completing two music performance degrees, I experienced difficulty memorizing lengthy solo piano works for public performances. Later in my career, I chose to be a collaborative pianist because I would always have the music in front of me to focus on (even if I got it on short notice) and could use my connectivity and intuition to create great musical experiences with others.
My mother had Alzheimer’s and my father had Parkinson’s, both diseases affecting the function of the brain. I decided to continue to pursue professions that would use the maximum capacity of my mind. Music training has been the most valuable mind exercise imaginable. Musicians engage every aspect their bodies to create physical accuracy and performance excellence with intricate teamwork. Did you ever notice that sometimes the conductor does not even use a score! The high points of my life have been “in the zone” of music practice and performance. Now I am bringing that level focus to my work in coaching and training!
“Wendy Hasenkamp and Laurence Barsalou at Emory University used brain imaging while people meditated and found four basic moves: you focus on one thing (say, your breath), your mind wanders off, you notice it wandered, and you shift attention back to that one thing again. And you do this over and over again.
Turns out that this simple movement of mind strengthens connections among the brain’s circuits for concentrating. The more you practice, the stronger the connections.
“Mindfulness” refers to that move where you notice your mind wandered. With mindfulness, you monitor whatever goes on within the mind. “Meditation” means the whole class of ways to train attention, mindfulness among them.
The key is PRACTICE! Focus is not just going to happen. It is a skill of the mind. Here are some simple ways to start.
- Connect with the arts and nature to refocus and train your mind to attend to detail. When you return to your work space, you will be able to use those skills to create clarity of vision and direction in your planning and goal setting.
- Find a clock with a second hand and sit and watch it for one minute. Slowly increase the time until you can follow the minute hand for five minutes. I tried this with my young piano students and it was very effective!
- According to Jennifer Cohen’s article “6 Essential foods for boosting your work focus,” the winning foods are dark chocolate, avocados, green tea, steel cut oatmeal, blueberries and wild salmon!
- Light a candle and watch the flame for a period of time without moving. Continually bring your mind back to noticing every detail of the flame.
Handling the present moment with all your attention, all your intelligence, is already building a future.
Thich Nhat Hanh