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Learning to Focus in a Distractive World

digital distractionWe have become a distracted society bombarded daily by external stimuli. It starts the moment we wake up and continues throughout our day, and sometimes into the night. Fueled by our everyday life both at work and at home, it’s impacted by the very devices and technologies that are meant to keep us connected. And those devices often serve as a gateway to social media, a distraction that nearly 90 percent of employees say they engage with, almost excessively, while at work.

One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us. —Daniel Goleman, Author

There is always something diverting our attention from what we need to do. And sometimes the chatter and noise is a result of an internal struggle taking place in our mind. Buddhists call this rapid-fire thinking, ‘monkey mind’—an unsettled, restless state of consciousness ruled by indecisive and uncontrollable thoughts. The concept has been around for centuries, although it feels more prevalent than ever before thanks to multitasking and an almost addiction-like dependency to our devices.

The brain is in a constant state of self-improvement, and with the right training, it can learn to silence the monkey, or any other demon, lurking in your psyche. One way to do so involves training ourselves to pay closer attention to what is in our immediate line of sight by enhancing our focus. Once the brain fine-tunes itself to isolate its attention to one activity, it learns to mute out the rest of the world. In the music world, this is similar to eliminating ambient noises from layered tracks, so that one instrument or voice is heard.

We achieve this through exercises that build mental resilience and encourage our mind to wander less and improve brain performance and activity. Some techniques include breathing meditations or developing a mindfulness practice to streamline thoughts that allow us to be present in the moment.

The 24/7, always-on world we live in today isn’t going to change anytime soon, which is why a mindfulness practice is so important to silence the monkey mind and improve one’s focus. The power of mindfulness is not the ability to change your environment to suit your needs, but to change your relationship to the environment that is. It is not to control the world in which you live, but to control yourself in that distractive, uncontrollable world.

Article 1: Nearly 90% of employees use social media, even to ‘digital distraction
Article 2: Pay attention: Practice can make your brain better at focusing


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