Years ago, while studying abroad in Israel, I visited the beaches of the Red Sea and the small town of Eilat. With a warning to keep our distance from the coral, we were given a snorkel, flippers and brief “how to” before being left to explore on our own.
Having never snorkeled or even experienced the painful beauty of coral, I ineptly worked my way into the water. I was not 10 feet away from shore when I witnessed another student exiting the water with blood running down his leg — the result of getting too close to the coral.
With a vivid image in my mind, I focused on floating as close to the surface as possible. I tried to enjoy the beautiful colors of the underworld without becoming overly concerned about my distance from the beach.
Soon a massive coral reef captured my attention. Distracted by the vibrant fish I was unaware of the direction the current was carrying me. Trapped in the shallow water above the reef I suddenly realized how dangerously close I was to the coral. Panic set in with my inability to redirect my course. I HAD to snorkel to move away from the coral without knowing which direction would provide the quickest escape.
My intense need for air is not something I’ll ever forget. Anxiety about running into the coral caused me to take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing led to panic. My panic intensified my anxiety all while I was getting more light headed and dizzy. It was as if someone had put a pillow over my head and I was struggling to get free. Redirecting my focus away from my anxiety and toward just breathing would have calmed me down enough to move safely away from the perceived danger.
Finding Your Focus
Much like my first snorkeling experience, finding our focus as we swim through life is not always easy. There is so much to see and do we often get caught in the busyness before realizing we’re distracted and have drifted off course.
While the processing unit between our ears is a powerful tool, it is limited to being able to focus on only one thought at a time. It cannot simultaneously think about following a recipe while figuring out your son’s algebra homework. For each task, we have to stop refocus and start again.
The eye sees what the mind looks for — Jody Moore
When it comes to our focus, we are in the driver’s seat. It is so empowering! We are in control when it comes to our thoughts, our desires, and our focus. By definition, “focus” is a central point of attraction, attention, or activity. When we notice or pay attention to something, we invite the thought or idea to our brain. We get more of what we focus on because of the wiring of our mind. Our focus can either motivate or distract us from moving forward.
Is Your Focus a Distraction
Too often, we wear “busy” like a badge of honor? It’s almost like the busier we are, the more purpose we feel in our life. The biggest problem with just being busy is it quickly can become a distraction.
The conveniences of modern technology should make us more efficient. Sometimes efficiency gives us more choices making it increasingly difficult to decipher what is important and what is just a distraction.
We compare our lives on social media, over schedule our kids in every possible activity, criticize our bodies, and spend hours consumed in work. Our time is filled doing good things, with good people, for good causes. But are we choosing the best way to focus our attention?
The constant motion and interruptions keep us from dwelling on any intense emotion, deep thought or challenging experience. Keeping busy distracts us from feeling with our whole heart and having meaningful interactions. I wonder if, in our search for meaning, distraction prevents us from realizing true happiness.
Is Your Focus Motivating
If something motivates me, I feel enabled or empowered. Our focus should give meaning, power and improve our abilities in becoming a better person. For me, my faith is a motivating focus because of the peace, direction, and joy it brings to my life.
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” Russell M. Nelson
The pattern for prayer, or meditation for those who are not religious, is a foundation in creating a motivational focus. If you think about the technical steps of prayer, there is not a part where we talk about all that is wrong. Prayer focuses on gratitude, giving thanks, and asking. These steps are a means of recognizing and focusing on what I want more of in life.
Where your mind goes the energy flows — Janeen Alley
After my snorkeling experience in Israel, I wrote an essay comparing my need for air to my desire to know my Savior and His infinite love for me. Acquiring that knowledge has required diligent and focused effort. I have to reach with the same intensity I felt when I was struggling for air. This focus has brought power and purpose in my life.
Redirecting our Focus
Redirecting our focus is all about what we feed our brain. If all we are thinking about is the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves, it can be overwhelming. If my first thoughts in the morning are about how much I have to do it is easy to see how those feelings will overpower my brain. When I redirect my thoughts to the positives in life, my outlook is different.
What do you do to find your focus?
Resources: Nelson, Russell M. “Joy and Spiritual Survival.” Retrieved from lds.org (2017).
I’m a wife, mother, friend, and storyteller. I have a love for learning, giggling with my grandson and tandem biking with my husband. I believe wisdom goes beyond being smart or having basic knowledge. It is the culmination of experiences that help us become. While each of our challenges may be unique, we have the opportunity to choose how we will react, learn and grow. My journey has taught me that I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a voice to share what I’ve learned. Life can either teach us or defeat us — the choice is ours.
This article was initially published on Evolve! Live.Grow.Give