Posts Tagged "mindfulness"

Foundations of Focus

Posted on Feb 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Foundations of Focus

The ability to focus is absolutely crucial to being able to live Slow. For the last month, myself and a small group lightly held the intent to inquire into the nature and mechanisms of focus. Here is what I discovered to be foundational to my ability to focus: 1. Health Crystal clear thinking benefits greatly from the energy flowing through a healthy body, along with escaping the distractions of physical complaints. As we know, physical and mental health go hand in hand and it works both ways. I chose this month as a focus month because of the many challenges life is passing my way at the moment. In the ‘less centred’ moments that come along at such times, my old neck injury flares up, leaving me stiff, in pain and fuzzy-headed. Ah yes, there’s the reminder to dedicate some of your focus to self care and compassion! I did a 1-day juice fast to give me body space to reset and it did wonders. 2. Routine Routines work wonders for focus because you are not wasting any of your attentional effort on the little things. It works for me to consider appropriate rest cycles; work in rounds of 50 minutes on, 10 minutes rest and have one day a week which is more rest than work. It also helps at the end of each day to think about the 3 most important things to do the next day to help set boundaries by eliminating choice. Take a brief moment to plan how to go about your day ahead before launching into the work. BUT be prepared to give all the above up and just do. I noticed myself spending so much attention on wondering if I had my schedule right, caught in expectations I had set for myself, that it was better just to release that expectations and just start. 3. Ritual Begin the day with a small ritual to centre on your intent. Meditation plus visualisation is great, although I found a shortcut of simply verbalising my intent was better than nothing! In the evening reflecting on what you are grateful for is an alchemical powerhouse, helping to melt the internal contractions that would only serve as distractions. A little prayer before bed is a nice implant into the subconscious also. 4. Fun Connect with what excites you about your work. Amazing how distractions disappear when you play! 5. Fear  Reflect on what you are avoiding by choosing not to focus. That fuzzy abyss between where you think you want to be and where you are is probably due to things you are avoiding. 6. Environment Consider how you can set up your surroundings to aid focus. Decluttering, having a dedicated work space (in my case as opposed to the kitchen table next to the refrigerator), visual prompts to remind you of your 3 most important ‘to-do’ tasks and turning off email and social media notifications is a good start. Also consider not checking email except at certain times of the day. My rule was no email or Facebook until after midday, leaving more space for my most important work at the most productive time of day. 7. Training There is simply no avoiding the fact that if you want your mind to focus better, you MUST train it. Modern life is so full of distracting stimuli that clamber against each other for your precious and limited attention. If we allow the mind to switch-task or engage in continual-partial-attention constantly, it wires itself for distraction. Conversely if we train it through meditation, our attention becomes a tool...

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3 phases of Slow habit-hacking

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 | 0 comments

3 phases of Slow habit-hacking

Habits are repeated patterns of behaviour that we have become sufficiently familiar with that we pass the job of initiating that behaviour over to the subconscious. Before a habit is undertaken there is a trigger that tells your subconscious to run the habitual behaviour and the habit in turn has a consequence of providing you with a reward, for example avoidance of boredom or stress. We’ll cover a few topics here: Slow Thinking and Fast Thinking systems (just the basics) & how habits fit Why the Slow Project is interested in habits What Slow would recommend for habit hacking Slow Thinking, Fast Thinking & Habits In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, eminent psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes two systems of thinking: System 1: Fast Thinking – intuitive, subconscious, operates quickly and automatically with little or no effort or sense of voluntary control System 2: Slow Thinking – conscious, rational, requires effort and attention Although Kahneman does not tackle habits directly in this book, the two system framework of understanding our decision making hardware is relevant to habits especially when looking at them through a Slow lens. A few keys points to note are that: We like to think that most of our thinking happens in System 2. This is false. System 1 does the heavy lifting (we are not ‘homo rationalis’). Even when we do use Slow Thinking, the impressions and feelings that are the main sources of explicit beliefs and choices of System 2 originate in System 1. System 2 takes a huge amount of effort to utilise. Think how hard it is to maintain a continuous train of thought. If we can get away with it, we pass on as much work to System 1 as possible. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why so few people engage in it.” Habits are part of our Fast Thinking system. Studies show that self control and deliberate thought draw from the some pool of available effort. Ever noticed that your ability to forego your vices is significantly less after a busy day? “The operations of System 1 are governed by habit so they’re difficult to either modify or control.” You can read a lengthier article by Kahneman on the two systems here. Habits serve an important function because we only have a certain reserve of cognitive energy to use on conscious, deliberate thought. We are wired for habits for the sake of economy of thought, otherwise we would waste time and energy worrying about things that do not matter very much. This makes sense; I’ve got better things to use my limited System 2 thought budget on than re-thinking how and when to brush my teeth. Our brain is interested in paying attention to novelty. Once we have become familiar with something, including our own behaviour, and comforted that it does not pose a risk to us, we relegate it to our Fast Thinking system. Habits can, however, take over areas of our lives that we do not want them to. Why the Slow Project is interested in habits I am passionate about living fully as your authentic self as I discussed here. Habits can prevent us from realising that potential. Instead of experiencing discomfort that comes from change, we follow urges to go with the familiar and a comfort zone is created. However that comfort zone can prevent us from doing our best work and from truly seeing, experiencing and learning (check out this clip on experiencing awe and how comfort zones act a as a barrier). Remember that System 1 is governed by habits...

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