I’ve heard the phrase, “Keep your head in the game”, for a long time now. It means to “pay attention to what is going on or to focus on a task or goal without being distracted (https://englishlogica.com/spoken-vocab/get-your-head-in-the_game-idiom-meaning-examples-k3r8mxdz3nt ). So how does one keep their focus and attention on the work at hand?
I’ve been thinking about my next project – a workshop on Decision-Making. In my research and reading, I’ve come across Peak Mind, Find Your Focus; Own Your Attention; Invest 12 Minutes a Day, by Amishi P. Jha, Ph. D. Dr. Jha is a professor of psychology and director of contemplative neuroscience at the University of Miami. She has done years of research on the neural bases of attention and the effects of mindfulness-based training programs. My previous workshop, Emotional Intelligence for Leaders, incorporates emotional intelligence with neuroscience and mindfulness, so this certainly captured my attention, especially as it relates to making good decisions. I have so many dog-eared pages that I’m sure I will need to re-read this book several times. Dr. Jha uses so much research as backdrop to her conclusion of 12 minutes of mindful meditation that will ultimately help us with better attention and focus.
Dr Jha uses everyday imagery to help understand how attention works in our brain. She likens our focus to a flashlight that points to a specific idea or object. The flashlight points at the object until we are distracted. The flashlight then points at something else and we lose that focus. No, don’t tell me you’re multi-tasking! All the neuro-research says that that’s not possible. Dr Jha calls it task switching and “it’s terrible for our performance, accuracy and mood.” She goes on, “you only have one flashlight. And your flashlight can only ever be shining at one thing at a time. When you’re trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once that require your focused attention, what you’re actually doing is moving your flashlight from one thing, then to the next, then back to the first…”
As the book title indicates, her research indicates that 12 minutes a day of mindful meditation increases our ability to focus and keep our attention to the task at hand. Meditation experts have been expounding on this along with stress reduction for quite some time. Dr. Jha adds her comprehensive research on the matter. Though the answer seems easy, 12 minutes of meditation per day will still not keep you focused for hours on end. In fact, I was struck by a question she posed to a mindful meditation expert of 30 years. “How long can you keep your focus?” The answer…wait for it…7 seconds! Now, you might be saying that you can keep your attention much longer than that, however research shows that we are constantly bombarded with distracting thoughts. The good news is that we have those thoughts for a good reason. We have to keep aware of our surroundings and the actions that are going on. Think about driving a car and how many things we need to be paying attention to – staying in our lane, driving at the speed limit, the actions of drivers around us, etc. If we focused on only the car in front of us, we might ignore the actions of other cars and drivers around us. The bad news is that is doesn’t serve us well when we are trying to focus on something really important for an extended period of time.
Read this book! By increasing your focus and attention to the project at hand you will have one of the puzzle pieces of making better decisions.
Next up: How to increase trust!