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Old 09-21-2009, 10:10 AM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Focus

In Behavioral terms, how would you characterize focus? What are some methods you use to generate focus? Are there different kinds of focus?

Last edited by mathewjgano : 09-21-2009 at 10:13 AM.

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Old 09-21-2009, 10:18 AM   #2
thisisnotreal
 
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Re: Focus

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Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
What are some methods you use to generate focus?
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Old 09-21-2009, 10:29 AM   #3
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Re: Focus

All about endstates. Figuring out what you want to accomplish, defining parameters and measures of effectiveness/assessment, and then doing the stuff that leads to that endstate. The stuff that you do that leads to that endstate is focus.

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Old 09-21-2009, 11:19 AM   #4
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Re: Focus

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Josh Phillipson wrote: View Post
That's a compelling image, but would you be willing to describe your meaning?

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Old 09-21-2009, 11:52 AM   #5
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Focus

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
All about endstates. Figuring out what you want to accomplish, defining parameters and measures of effectiveness/assessment, and then doing the stuff that leads to that endstate. The stuff that you do that leads to that endstate is focus.
Are there any physical practices you do specifically to develop focus or is it more like a "just do it" kind of approach? ...the more you act the more your focus develops automatically?

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Old 09-21-2009, 12:09 PM   #6
thisisnotreal
 
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Re: Focus

Hi Matt,
okay;
These are some of my reactions to the pic:

A man can only do one thing purely at a time. Sometimes less.

All extraneous things get blurred and fall into the background.
Only then does the object or goal you seek come into ..focus.
It becomes vivid.
Becomes a dynamic tug-of-war for the center of the attention.
When seen in this light the object you focus on becomes disproportionately emphasized in a multiplicity of ways.

Focus means choosing.
Focus means staying.
Focus means stabilizing.
Focus does not (always) exist in exclusion to that being focused upon.
Sometimes focus changes you yourself…
Sometimes focus is different. It depends on what you have in mind.

Focus on math? Focus on solo work? Focus on meditation/states/state-of-mind? All different.

Focus I think, can be functionally defined as discipline of the mind and will.

Random thoughts..

Josh

p.s.
Also potentially helpful (was to me) you can make an analogy between Focus and going for a walk.
Walking>>It can be contrived to be seen as a controlled falling down (i.e. loss of center / loss of attention)…each step makes it so you are going to fall down forwards…but the other foot comes and catches in perfect time. In much the same way Focus is an alive process…losing, then catching..losing then catching….core of which is the balance and ability to re-catch your center…and coming ‘back to yourself’. A central skill to practice focus is the recovery of focus itself. Sometimes the focus becomes seemingly self sustaining. This is the flow-state. This is easier to achieve with practice. Also analogous here is; “movement approximating stillness”.

Hard to pin down.

Matt: What was your reaction to the picture?
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:01 PM   #7
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Re: Focus

I probably learned more about focus from pain than from anything else. Surviving prolonged pain is not easy if you can't put your mind in the right place and hold it there.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:01 PM   #8
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
In Behavioral terms, how would you characterize focus? What are some methods you use to generate focus? Are there different kinds of focus?
What I pay attention to.
Look where I am going.
Wide/narrow, external/internal.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:04 PM   #9
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Re: Focus

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I probably learned more about focus from pain than from anything else. Surviving prolonged pain is not easy if you can't put your mind in the right place and hold it there.
Mary - Can you say more about this? I recently had an experience like this...and found out what i was made of. .it was disappointing. It was beyond my limit to endure with any semblance of 'mind' left. it ablated me completely. Can you suggest coping/focus strategies? .. perhaps specific drugs?
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:09 PM   #10
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Re: Focus

Hi Josh,
Good stuff! I enjoyed reading that, thank you.
Quote:
Josh Phillipson wrote: View Post
Matt: What was your reaction to the picture?
One of my initial reactions was to try and read the parts not in focus. I liked the image because it exagerates the idea of focus visually, which I think helps to clarify the basic concept in relation to the unfocused. In a way I think it serves as a good analogy for how attention to one thing usually seems to diminish attention on other things.
I think my sense of focus is that it is tied directly to awareness and purpose; it's harder to focus on several things than on one thing and it's harder to focus for long periods of time compared to shorter periods of time. Because of this I try to focus on being able to broaden my intensity of focus by tracking an increasing number of things, as well as to practice focusing on one thing for a long time. Unfortunately my focus on developing my focus hasn't been very focused.
I suppose now I am working on returning to center, as you described.
Thanks again for the thought provoking post!
Take care,
Matt

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Old 09-21-2009, 01:11 PM   #11
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Re: Focus

The best way to gain more focus is to practice it. I don't know exactly what you are wanting to focus on. Perhaps choose one thing to focus on instead of everything. Goals tend to help someone focus on something as well.

Mary has a point as well and I have experienced this as well. I do not advocate this in class unless you want a broken wrist or something similar. However, I have learned over the years through various experiences that I am able to push away the pain by focusing on something else. Once I turn my pain into a numbing senseation, which actually worked out quite well.

Meditation may be something to look into. I find this to be very hard for me because my mind just keeps wondering to other things. I just can't seem to quiet my mind and when I think I have I notice I am thinking about quieting my mind. The best I can do is focuse on my breathing by counting with each breath or counting how many seconds I inhale and then count the same amount as I exhale. This forces my mind to focus on one thing only.

Sorry I haven't been much help. HAHA.

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Old 09-21-2009, 01:44 PM   #12
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Re: Focus

When I look at the pic posted I immediately look at the word focus and see it clearly. I am aware of the surrounding text and even recognize some of the words in it but do not actually look at them. This is my version of focus in most matters. I never zero in one one thing to the exclusion of all others.

I keep my mind on the matter at hand and getting the most imminent task accomplished but also am aware of what is happening around me and what the next task will be. In my line of work this is a very useful ability.

For me, focus comes coupled with intensity. The more intensity I am working with the more aware I become while the less intense I am the less aware I will generally be.
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Old 09-21-2009, 02:26 PM   #13
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Ashley Carter wrote: View Post

Sorry I haven't been much help. HAHA.
Sure you have! I'm just looking to discuss the general idea and read whatever folks have to offer on it for further consideration. In a sense, it's my own form of meditation because I'm focusing on the messages and applying my mind to them in a purposeful way. I'm not exactly thinking about a specific end-state, but the ultimate goal is simply to consider how I might be able to focus better or in new ways...ok I guess it is somewhat specific.
Quote:
For me, focus comes coupled with intensity. The more intensity I am working with the more aware I become while the less intense I am the less aware I will generally be.
I operate in a similar way. One of my tools for generating focus has been to generate intense feeling...which coincidentally has been one thing I've really enjoyed from my past training at Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja. I got out of it what I put in, but it was a nice way for me to generate that intensity I've looked for.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 09-21-2009 at 02:31 PM.

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Old 09-21-2009, 08:16 PM   #14
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Re: Focus

I would not so much call it as intense feeling as it is intense energy highly focused. At times like that its a lot like having an electric current running through you.

Its a really cool mode to be in when you have a use for all that energy. If there is no outlet though, it can become a real problem.
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Old 09-21-2009, 10:22 PM   #15
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Focus

For me there seem to be two kinds of focus.

One is akin to tunnel vision - being able to keep one's attention and energy on one thing (like writing an article), and shutting out other things. I achieve this kind of focus with coffee and headphones.

The other is a broader, quieter state of being aware of what is going on around you, and being free to respond calmly (like learning in Aikido class). I can best get into this state of mind by sitting quietly and meditating, or even just warming up and stretching. Just stopping whatever my mind is prattling on about, and being open.

As for pain, the day I hurt my shoulder it just happened that we had also done a simple extension exercise in class. Finding a solid base, checking our alignment, and extending our energy in the direction of the alignment. And there was something about breathing in light, and breathing out the cosmos that I read somewhere (I forget...?). By doing that *frequently* (every minute or so at times during the first couple of days) I was able to greatly reduce my perception of pain. It worked best (both for the pain, and for feeling more centered and stable) to extend my attention not to my fingertips, or the nearest wall or tree, but to the other side of the valley, 10 miles away. The county line (50 miles) was as far as I could envision. But it seriously helped.

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Old 09-22-2009, 12:19 AM   #16
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Re: Focus

Focusing is actually something I find immensely difficult haha. I am however, able to focus with music playing. Usually when I attempt to focus I find my mind working simply on focusing and not on the task at hand that I should be focusing on, if you see what I mean.

I prefer to stay rather relaxed, enjoy things, and let concentration come through enjoyment.

When I'm playing soccer I try to just be relaxed, smile while I'm on the pitch and enjoy the fact that I'm doing something beautiful. I'm able to focus through this enjoyment. If I try to really focus on the game I find mistakes getting to me and I just become aggravated and very unfocused.

With regards to aikido, I'm simply trying to enjoy the harmony of what I'm doing, and feel energy flowing through myself and my partner. To do this I need to be relaxed, and when I'm relaxed and enjoying myself I'm able to focus on the technique more and execute it more efficiently.

Wow. That was a rant. I became quite focused on it!
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Old 09-22-2009, 03:59 AM   #17
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Are there any physical practices you do specifically to develop focus or is it more like a "just do it" kind of approach? ...the more you act the more your focus develops automatically?
No I don't think that the more you act the more you develop focus.

Aikido is a very, very good example for this. You can have two or three guys side by side doing what appears to be the exact some exercise, kata, or what not, and they are both doing entirely two different things.

For example, one can be focused on developing internal skills related to physical development, the other can be attaching spiritual meaning, catharisis, mental development...whatever.

The third guy could be "just getting in shape".

Okay, you say, well, IF they were doing the exact same things, wouldn't they develop the same way even if they didn't mean to?

I think not, because the mind set, focus, or "endstate" is different enough to cause them at a "micro" level to not really be doing the same things that appear to be the same at the "macro" level.

Simply showing up in ANY activity, be it Tennis, Aikido, or Basketball, is not enough.

It is a process that requires personal focus, adjustment and attention. You have to "Begin with an End in Mind". and then constantly recieve feedback and re-assess what you are doing and make the micro adjustments necessary to ensure that you achieve the benefits.

The devil is in the detail.

Sure, you can start out in say Aikido cause "Seagal did it" and move your endstate as you become more aware and educated about the process and what Aikido is really all about.

However, this is not "Gaining Focus" IMO....it is "Changing Focus".

I think there is a distinction that needs to be made there that is important.

You began with a end in mind to kick ass, and you shifted to something other than that. The measurements and endstates are different, so you adjust what you do in your training.

It is also possible to have several focuses, or a hybrid focus, or mutually supporting focuses...or anything in between.

The important thing is "knowing yourself, and what you want to be or become", and then doing the necessarily things in order to get there.

Alot of us go through life unhappy and confused because we want something "better", don't really understand what that might be, and then drift around looking under the rocks hoping that it will eventually find us.

This is a technique, but I don't believe it works very well, and leads to the mindset of "well if I just surrender myself to the practice, then eventually it will find me". "Have faith, train for 20 years and the secrets will reveal themselves."

Lots of wisdom in Mark Twain I think.

"Where ever you go...well there you are!".

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Old 09-22-2009, 05:54 AM   #18
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Re: Focus

To me, focus is preparing myself to complete the task at hand. I do this while changing into my gear for a class, or getting my drink for a long day of programming. As I put on my gi, or wrap my hands I become another person. One with a sole purpose. I stop thinking about that shitty drive to work, or that tough problem I need to solve, or what's for dinner. I am not a 9 to 5 work guy, I am not a husband, friend, etc. I am a student warrior hell bent on absorbing and integrating the abilities of those around me.

The same is true in any aspect of my life that needs 100% of my attention be it my job, being a husband, or sweeping a floor. Obviously I have varying levels of success on this depending on the day, but this is my goal.

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Old 09-22-2009, 07:43 AM   #19
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Josh Phillipson wrote: View Post
Mary - Can you say more about this? I recently had an experience like this...and found out what i was made of. .it was disappointing. It was beyond my limit to endure with any semblance of 'mind' left. it ablated me completely. Can you suggest coping/focus strategies? .. perhaps specific drugs?
If drugs could do it, you wouldn't need focus strategies.

I'd say the first part of it is to accept that this is something to be endured, not something that you can do anything about (more than you've already done, anyway). If you've broken your leg, your focus needs to be on getting help for it, and minimizing damage in the meanwhile, so that's not the time to be going into "endure" mode. When there's nothing to be done, though, I have found that the best way to get through it is to try to identify the source of the pain -- like if you've got a migraine, try to locate the spot in your head where the pain seems to originate. Isolate it as narrowly as you possibly can. Describe the pain as fully as you can: the quality, the intensity, where it originates. The thing about severe pain is that it seems to fill up the whole universe...but by focusing your mind on the pain, you become aware of all that isn't pain. By "finding" the spot where the pain is, the whole experience becomes more endurable.

So that's kind of backwards really. Severe pain can teach you to have better mental focus, because if you don't have that focus, the pain is a whole lot less endurable -- the pain doesn't make it any easier to learn how to focus, it just makes it suck a whole lot more if you can't/don't, kind of like how the military teaches recruits to "discover" all kinds of abilities they never knew they had -- can't climb the wall on the obstacle course? Okay, fine. We'll just kick your ass every time you fail to do it. Oh, look at that -- you can climb that wall after all.

The upside of that rather depressing tale is that if you do learn focus in such a sucky manner, you can bring it to bear pretty much anytime you want.
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Old 09-22-2009, 09:00 AM   #20
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
No I don't think that the more you act the more you develop focus.
Yeah, in retrospect I think that was a good example of how dumb questions do exist. I've read enough of your posts that I should have known the answer to that question before I asked it. I was in a bit of a rush when I wrote it.

Quote:
I think not, because the mind set, focus, or "endstate" is different enough to cause them at a "micro" level to not really be doing the same things that appear to be the same at the "macro" level.
What about people who share the exact same (or near enough) goal and appear to train very similarly, yet one progresses quicker than the other? I typically think of the difference as a matter of focus because in my experience that's always seemed to make the difference. That is to say, where mind leads body, the ability to focus in on the key elements of a lesson/situation (which can change easily from situation to situation despite outward appearances) seems to make the difference. So I'm curious about ways people work on it.

Quote:
You have to "Begin with an End in Mind". and then constantly recieve feedback and re-assess what you are doing and make the micro adjustments necessary to ensure that you achieve the benefits.
Once you have this process in mind, how do you work on refining it?

Quote:
Lots of wisdom in Mark Twain I think.

"Where ever you go...well there you are!".
Mark Twain is quite possibly my favorite personality of all time! You officially have a friend for life.

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Old 09-22-2009, 09:26 AM   #21
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Sammy Gray wrote: View Post
When I'm playing soccer I try to just be relaxed, smile while I'm on the pitch and enjoy the fact that I'm doing something beautiful. I'm able to focus through this enjoyment. If I try to really focus on the game I find mistakes getting to me and I just become aggravated and very unfocused.
That's interesting...and ties into a thought I had while rereading my post to Ashley w/re: generating "intensity of feeling." When I've been the most focused, the most "in the zone," it was a combination of intensity and calm (yin/yang? The "active" principle and the "passive" mentioned by O Sensei? ...As I recall from a doka.)
Coincidentally, I feel like I learned a lot about body movement and timing from soccer. I learned how to shift weight quickly between feet for rapid kicking (which I think also can translate into generating internal power), maai, and I think I even learned something about grounding because I developed an ability to kick the ball at the same time (in the opposite direction) as bigger guys in a way that often caused them to fall over (irimi all the way).
On a disappointing note, I recently took up soccer again and seem to have lost this ability. I guess you might say my body lost focus on what my mind recalls so clearly.
I also remember being taught how to kick a ball and it was amazingly similar to what I've been taught in projecting ki to perform technique, FWIW.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 09-22-2009 at 09:32 AM.

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Old 09-22-2009, 09:50 AM   #22
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Re: Focus

To focus on something is to concentrate on it. You cannot concentrate if you don't focus and vice versa.
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Old 09-22-2009, 09:53 AM   #23
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Re: Focus

One thing that has also helped me over the years is leaving your physical and emotional baggage at the door to the dojo. My old sensei used to tell everyone that. When I first started, I had to make an effort to leave my worries, annoyances, etc at the door before I walked in. If I didn't I couldn't focus, was miserable or took out my anger on my partners in one way or another. Now, I don't even think about it. As soon as I enter my new dojo's downstairs door to the changing room, everything fades. The world begins to fade away and there is only aikido. I just think about what I need to do and focus on class. It is actually a relief for me and I feel as if the weight of the world has been taken off my shoulders. A nice little vacation away from the worries and troubles of the world if you will.

Unfortunately, I haven't mastered not picking up the baggage as soon as I leave the dojo. HAHA. I may forget to pick it up, but somehow.... that baggage still finds its way back into my car and I take it home with me. Sometimes I lose a piece or two though.... so that is a start for me I suppose.

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Old 09-22-2009, 11:00 AM   #24
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Re: Focus

I have found focus to be where one puts one's mind, or concentration. The problem that arises is not a lack of focus, but rather a misplaced focus which is attached to a thought that remains where you last left it. You have moved on, but you mind is still at the other place.

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Old 09-22-2009, 12:23 PM   #25
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Re: Focus

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
On a disappointing note, I recently took up soccer again and seem to have lost this ability. I guess you might say my body lost focus on what my mind recalls so clearly.
I also remember being taught how to kick a ball and it was amazingly similar to what I've been taught in projecting ki to perform technique, FWIW.
I found aikido has helped me with soccer recently, just by making me keep the ball at my center and be in control. By the way, if you want some soccer tips, PM me haha.

I was having a great time playing today and was focused and successful. I'm hoping for that to be the case in the dojo tonight as well.
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