When You Become Distracted, Bring Back Focus By Zooming Out
At one time or another, we are all daydreamers, stress balls, disconnected, or whatever else is taking you away from focusing on your moment. It is whenever you find yourself in past or future events, i.e. things that don’t exist anymore or do not yet exist. Why is it that we insist on bringing our awareness to places that are not real, when the only reality we have to concern ourselves with is the very present moment? I think Prof Steve Peters puts it in to a very good and humorous context in “The Chimp Paradox”; we have all have a very lonely chimp inside who demands constant attention and only wants to get up to mischief. Whether you call it your chimp, ego, shadow or something else doesn’t matter, the result is the same; you are stolen away from fully enjoying and embracing the present moment.
Many times when we focus too much on the past we can find ourselves in a pattern of depression. We basically have a fear, shame, guilt, sadness, grief, etc. about the past. We may fear the past coming back to haunt us, or perhaps we fear that we will never experience something that awesome ever again. We bring ourselves back to moments when we did something we are not proud of, evoking feelings of shame and guilt. What really is the benefit in revisiting the negative emotions of past events? Many of my clients come up some interesting reasons for it, e.g. “If I don’t feel bad about it then I don’t regret it and then it’s like I would think it was a good thing” or “I know I shouldn’t suppress things so I must hold on to it”. Often when they write their reasons down and they can read it themselves they realise the lunacy of them. The idea is that you explore the lesson behind the event and drop the feelings surrounding it, which allows you to draw the benefits of experience without having to relive the negative feelings surrounding it. You will then not constantly revisit the situation either as you will only draw on it when the lesson you learned is needed in your present moment without having to actively and consciously evoke the memory of the event.
Similarly to how we treat past events that no longer exists, but these events are yet to exist. Your persistent focus on the future leads to anxiety. The excuses here range from, “If I don’t worry, who will?”, “I need to think of the future, otherwise I won’t foresee what’s coming next”, “I’ve been told that I need to focus on what I want in order for me to manifest it”, etc. For a future event to turn out exactly as you’ve perceived it is a near impossibility as there are always too many elements that you cannot control. The only thing you can control is how you feel about a situation. With that in mind, i.e. we do not control how the future comes together, we only control how we feel about it, why do we insist on worrying about the details of the future? We in fact view the future from the point of view of our past experiences. For some reason we believe that the future will be no different to the past. Our programming gives us a negative feeling about the future because we have been taught not to expect too much of it or that we are not capable of achieving greatness that we can’t even yet imagine. We impose these limitations on ourselves because we focus on the minutia. Most of the great philosophers, inventors, spiritual leaders, etc. could not envision where they ended up before they got there, they just did not impose any limitations on themselves, instead remaining fully open to any opportunity and guidance to get to where they would be the greatest version of themselves.
Since neither the past nor the future exist, what is the only thing that determines your future, or the past for that matter? The present moment is the only control of how your past and your future will shape up.
Is it realistic, irrespective of your external circumstances, for you to bring contentment into every moment of your life? In my experience it is absolutely realistic. There are many prominent inspirational personalities around the world that have used their most traumatic experiences to turn their lives around. Two perfect examples of this are; Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwandan genocide, or Viktor Frankl, survivor of the Holocaust. These amazing people viewed their futures out of the possibilities of their attitudes in their present moments. They both decided to bring forgiveness into their hearts and not let their horrific pasts determine who they were going to be in the future. It is when you string your past and future moments together that you get the full time line of your life. So if you start embodying what you desire to become in the future at this very moment, you will start building up a past and present moments that reflects the future you want. Naturally, as an extension to this your future also become what you want it to become because you already have it. Through this train of thought you will also see how you may control and change your past by bringing what you want to become in the future into the present moment.
We’ve now explored why the present moment is critical in creating the life you desire, but your attention keeps getting dragged in to the minutia of the future and/or the past, how do we train ourselves to move int the present? Many books have been written on this subject, one of my favourites being “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, but my objective her is to give you one simple tool to use.
When you focus on the minutia of life; mainly past and future, you get bogged down and cannot focus on bringing in what you desire for your future to the present moment. The present moment really does not have any minutia because you are creating every moment as it happens, so there is no planning for the current moment, you flow where it takes you. Invariably your monkey brain or ego will tempt you away with distractions to think of the little details. When you notice this happening, just zoom out and take a bird’s eye view of what you want the sum of your life to be. How do you want to feel on average on a daily basis? What are some of the big aspirations you have in life; e.g. make life better for refugees, create a successful company, help as many animals as possible, be the best parent possible, etc? As you can see, the idea here is to keep it as broad as you can and not allow yourself to focus on any details. With the bird’s eye view in mind you then come back to the present moment with the past and the future out of your focus. As you return to the present moment, bring that feeling of what you want to accomplish with you and create each moment as a building block towards the broad goal you set for yourself. Keep repeating this when ever your focus is dragged away from your present moment and you will find that it becomes a habit and not something you have to do, it just happens.
Stay in moment and enjoy every second of it 😉
Also published on Medium.