Survival of the Focused

Written by Khurshed Batliwala

May 27, 2020

Our brain starts off with 100 billion neurons. These tiny cells communicate with each other through hair-like structures call dendrites. Each neuron can have 5 to 7 dendrites on an average and all these interact with each other to more or less create intelligence and memory. As you are reading this sentence, electrical signals are exchanged as masses of neurons, slither and slide within your brain to make sense of it.

The permutations and combinations of neurons and dendrites exchanging information in our brain is more than the number of elementary particles in the Universe!

We have a supremely sophisticated piece of advanced organic technology sitting in our skull. Just one adult human brain is capable of holding every single bit of information that is available on the internet today. Yet, we routinely forget where we kept the car keys.

Wonder why?

Unfortunately, that advanced piece of sophisticated technology didn’t come with a user manual.

Most people are simply unaware of how to use the brain effectively and efficiently. In this article, let’s explore the ability to focus.

But I can’t Focus…

Many people complain of their inability to stay focused on what they are doing. They tend to rapidly get distracted and frustrated.

In fact, this is a tendency of the brain that allowed humanity to survive as a species. You see, in the course of our evolution, we traded off brawn for brains. As a species we are fragile and have hardly any defences – Look at the claws of a common house cat and you will see what I mean. While animals put on muscle and sharp teeth, we traded that for a larger brain.

Without the ability to effectively defend or attack, we required that we be hyper-aware of everything going on in our environment. Our brain was wired to be alerted by small movements or sounds in our vicinity, and respond to any threat in split seconds. The strategy succeeded and we managed to make pizza and get to the moon.

In the last 30 years or so, however, this exact same ability of the brain that helped us survive in the wild as a species has become a huge hindrance when it comes to doing work in an office environment. If we become continuously distracted by what’s going on around us, then there is not much real work we can get done. We spend a lot of time in doing mindless “work” – busy as can be from morning to night, and yet, have the feeling that the day just went by without achieving much. What is termed as Action Addiction.

Action Addiction is not helped at all by how most people consume the environment around them. They will scroll through their social media, their attention never on any post for more than a few seconds. They will surf the internet or channel surf when they are watching TV. All that scrolling and surfing done on such a regular basis has “trained” their brain to be distracted.

One of the guiding principles of the brain is You become better and better at what you do more and more – as you keep mindlessly scrolling, you are literally training the brain to maintain attention for just a few seconds. And you are doing this again and again and again – Congratulations! You have become expertly good at being distracted! When the time comes for focus, it becomes almost impossible for you to do that. Obviously, because you have relentlessly trained your brain to be side-tracked and diverted.

For a very long time, evolution favoured the survival of the fittest.

This day and age is all about the Survival of the Focused!

The good news is that our brain is incredibly plastic – it actually changes physically and moulds itself when particular types of activities are done again and again. Research has shown that to bring in a new habit would most times take less than 40 days of regularly imbibing it. The ability to stay focused on the job at hand and not giving in to action addiction is truly worthwhile to develop.

Start to Practice Focus

You want focus, you will need to start practising focus. Do stuff that requires your brain to be engaged for longer periods of time – even when you are chilling and having fun.

Consistently do this for a sustainable period of time, and guess what – Your brain gains the agility required to stay on the task. It will learn to studiously ignore social distraction. Resulting in a far more productive, creative, efficient you.

Practice makes perfect – but wrong practice will make you perfectly wrong.

You become better and better at what you do – Be careful and mindful of what you are doing.

I offer personal guidance through Deep Coaching for people wanting to develop focus and get out of the trap of action addiction. If you find value in this, reach out to me with a DM and we will see how to take things further. Please note that coaching does require a significant monetary investment.

All the Best!



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