The word ‘focus’ is often used in the context of success. We’re told, for example, that highly successful people are better focused than the rest of us. We hear stories about athletes or sports people who are totally focused. Surely, if either you or I could get some of this focus, at the very least, our lives would be the better for it. We might not end up being world-beaters – we may not even want to be world-beaters – but a little focus, a bit more success and a lot of happiness wouldn’t go astray!! So, what is focus? What does being focused mean? How can I focus my mind? And what should I be focused on?

What is focus? The word is often over-used, misused and misunderstood. Focus simply means paying attention. If I am focused on what I am doing, it means that I am giving it more than a normal amount of attention. Now, at this point, you must understand that, normally, we pay little attention to anything. Psychology tells us that the normal mind uses the twin faculties of ‘automaticity’ and ‘habituation’ to do all the things that we routinely do without having to pay them attention. Evolutionary psychologists claim that we developed in this way to enable us preserve our attention or focus for those major life-threatening events that demand all of our focus – like a man-eating tiger jumping out of the bushes to eat us. But, in 2011, there aren’t that many man-eating tigers around!

Obviously, doing routine things automatically is a good thing – otherwise, think of the focus that would be required to simply put one foot in front of another just to walk to the bathroom each morning! But, sooner or later, everything and everyone becomes routine – even the novelty wears off of the man or woman that you first fell head-over-heels in love with. The key point is that, because everything becomes routine, we end up paying attention to nothing. We end up not knowing how to focus.

Now that we know what focus means, we need to explore how we can focus and what we should be focused on. Let’s deal with the second one first! You could be forgiven for thinking that high achievers are focused all the time on their goals. That’s how their success stories are told. That’s the way many goal-setting gurus say you should use your mind. Focus on your goals and you’ll achieve them. But that is not what focus is. Sure, you need to have some idea of what you want out of life but the key thing about life is that it is lived moment to moment in the here and now. Do you think that a hundred metre sprinter is focused on the villa that they’re going to buy when they’ve become world record holder just as they’re putting their feet on the starting blocks for a big race? Or do you think that they’re focused on loosening up their legs, making sure their feet are in the right place, focusing on their breathing?

Focus – just like living – is a now thing. Paying attention to the experience of the present moment is what focus is all about. Which attitude will get whatever you’re doing now done best? Day-dreaming about some future Caribbean paradise or actually listening to and hearing that boring client who, if listened to properly, could give you the kind of break that will enable you end up in that Caribbean paradise? Remember, you think the client is boring because the novelty of the client has worn off. You’ve stopped paying attention, you’ve lost focus and, as a result, you’ll never be much good at what you’re doing. Same if you’re picking the kids up from school. Same if you’re digging a hole in the road. Same if you’re sitting in a board room. Same if you’re manning a supermarket checkout. All these people that you see in all these places are actually not there – their bodies are there but their minds are somewhere else. They lack focus. So do most of us – it’s just the way we are.

So we now know what focus is – paying attention. We now know what we should be paying attention to – what’s going on now. The key question is: if we’re built to be not able to focus, how are we going to learn how to focus? Well, you don’t have to learn – you have to remember. Up to the age of five or six, you were the world’s leading expert on focus. If you have or know young children, you’ll know what I mean. Everything is a new experience for them and every new experience is fully experienced using as many of their five senses as possible. Think of a two-year-old opening a present on Christmas morning. The toy, the wrapping, the ribbon – everything is tasted, licked, felt, visually examined upside down, inside out and backwards. When we were young we used all our senses to pay full attention to the moment. We’ve got to come to our senses again.

You’ve got five senses – you need to remember how to start using them again. Your five senses are the only five tools that you will need to become an expert at focusing – to become so focused that you’ll be the very best at what you’re doing, when you’re doing it. And, when you’re the very best at what you’re doing, you really have no idea how far that can get you in life. You need to re-train your mind to focus on what your senses are actually telling you, right here, right now. You need to actually pay attention to what you see, feel, hear, smell and taste. I would suggest that you set aside five or ten minutes every morning – yes, every single day – and work on one sense at a time each morning. For example, tomorrow morning, you could sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes and simply listen. Listen until you hear. Next morning, you could close your eyes and focus on what it feels like to breathe. And so on.

Psychology tells us that happiness and success are correlated to our ability to pay attention. Little wonder that few are truly successful and even fewer unconditionally happy. Yet you, yourself, hold the keys to your own happiness and success. Your five senses – and paying attention to them – will unlock your innate ability to focus – and to change your life.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton has been enabling his clients live their dream since he launched is now acclaimed two-day Personal Development Seminars all the way back in 1996. His clients include top leaders in major corporations such as Pfizer, Deloitte, Nestle, Merrill Lynch, KPMG, G4S and Allergan together with everyone from the stay-at-home parent to sports-people. An Irish ex-banker and published author he now lives in the French Alps from where he travels the world as a much sought after motivational speaker and mentor. All his work, his weekly Free Personal Development Ezine videos and articles, together with his highly-acclaimed Personal Development Workshops are online at Gurdy.Net