Your brain is always changing.
It’s called neuroplasticity
Whether or not those changes are helpful depends on where (and how) you focus.
The more you give something your attention, the higher priority it becomes to the brain.
If you focus intently on the sensations in your fingertips while performing a manual task, your brain will grow stronger connections that heighten your feeling sensitivity.
The greater the quality and intensity your attention, the faster and more effectively your brain will build these connections.
We can pick things up quickly if we bring a high degree of focused attention to a task.
That means no half-assing or multi-tasking.
If you’re going to use your precious time to do anything, make it count!
Adding a pinch of stress to the recipe appears to activate the imprinting and strengthening of these neural pathways even more.
By stress, I mean the kind of heightened awareness generated when there’s an element of danger or a high degree of necessity.
If you’re starving and need to hunt an animal to survive, you’re attention is going to have a certain sharpness to it.
Learn quickly or die.
For most of us, high quality attention can only be sustained for short periods of time.
One of the strategies I employ to help men achieve high performance is teaching them how to build strategic recovery breaks into their days. These mind-body breaks replenish the quality and quantity of their energy and attention, allowing them to generate a greater sustained output each day.
Similar to working out in the gym, they learn to intersperse intense sessions of focused attention with periods of active rest.
Think of these as attentional sprints.
I’ll have to remember to share with you some time about how I helped a client get more done in 3 days than he was doing in an entire week before we started our journey together.
Beyond this attention and energy managing strategy, there is another important element to the equation.
That is the consistent improvement of the quality, strength, and stamina of one’s attention.
The world we live in is engineered to draw our attention all over the place. This distracting quality of our lifestyles and the environments we spend time in is detrimental to our performance.
We must take countermeasures to reclaim and sure up our attentional abilities.
A very effective way of working out our attention muscle is meditating on the breath.
To do this, sit in a comfortable and upright position. Close your eyes and relax. Focus on the sensation of air coming in and out of your body as you breathe.
I like to focus on the feeling of air flowing past the tip of my nose. You can also focus on the expansion and contraction of your torso.
Keep a steady awareness of this sensation as you breathe in and out.
Begin silently counting each exhalation up to 10, then begin again.
You will find yourself getting distracted frequently by thoughts, sensations, and external activity.
It’s totally normal and part of what makes this training so effective. As soon as you notice your distraction, return your attention to counting breaths.
Start out doing a minute or two a few times a day. Eventually, you will find that you naturally want to increase the time.
Don’t try to increase your time too quickly. Doing a high quality meditation for 3 minutes is better than sitting there daydreaming for 15 minutes.
Over time, your attention muscle will strengthen. You’ll find that you will be able to stay focused on tasks better, and the quality of work will improve.
This is one of many practices I give to my men as they progress through their training. There are other practices that involve movement and play that also work well for this purpose.
But we’ll save that for another time…