Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Getting What You Want Through the 'Law of Focus'

This law states that ‘what you focus on becomes your reality’ Now, I ask you, ‘is the reality you have the reality you want?’ To see a target is to see a goal, an outcome and to see means not just physically with our eyes but mentally through visualisation. There is another saying which goes ‘you cannot achieve something that you cannot visualise having’. If you don’t believe that you can achieve or do not deserve a certain goal then you cannot visualise its achievement well enough to make it happen.

‘You can’t hit a target that you can’t see’

This is not to say that you cannot have it eventually because goals are like steps and each goal we achieve is a step toward a greater goal, for instance to become a world class Tennis player can be difficult to focus on unless you focus on the steps that will get you there. Many new students cannot imagine themselves becoming black belts and often do not set it as a goal. However as they progress through the coloured belt ranks they realise that black belt is achievable step by step and then they make it their focus.

Another saying goes ‘what you focus on expands’ and this means that once we set our selves toward a goal it can become all we can see. The philosopher and thinker Abraham Maslow once said ‘give a child a hammer and the whole world becomes a nail’. The intensity of our focus is crucial toward the achievement of our goals, and there is even a part of our brain whose job it is to recognise anything that could be useful toward achieving something that we are focusing on. It is called the reticular cortex and it is activated whenever we focus intently on any goal. If we are looking for a new car and we decide upon the model that we want, suddenly we start seeing them everywhere. If we are looking to buy a new house all of a sudden we see ‘for sale’ signs on every road we pass. They don’t simply appear because we are looking; they were there anyway but once we start to look our brains re-align their focus toward what we currently desire.

In martial combat our focus is trained through 100’s of hours of repetition to discipline our focus to what is necessary to survive or thrive; initially our beginners focus is on the physical aspects of the martial arts. In the early days of practice we push our selves physically and mentally to achieve proficient technique and even though our hearts and muscles are complaining at the stress they’re under we apply our will power to continuing through the pain barriers under the guidance and encouragement of our instructors. Gradually as we achieve better technique, smoother movement and stronger muscles we feel the benefit of what we have pushed ourselves to achieve.

Our focus is to improve our martial arts and as we focus our attention on martial arts everything around us seems to be martial arts just like the child with the hammer, everything has become a nail. Sometimes we push ourselves too hard and sustain injury and this is dangerous toward our continuation of our training as time out of our studies can cause us to shift our focus elsewhere and away from the life long benefits of the martial arts. However, if we exercise care and thoughtfulness in our training, applying our rest so that our bodies can recover and repair and if our instructors have the skill to know our limits even if we don’t we can progress safely. If they keep us away from heavy handed partners and practices that are dangerous for beginners we can avoid injuries and bad experiences that will falsely prejudice us against continuing our studies.

Focus must be tempered and this takes discipline, discipline that the martial arts will bring in abundance over time and this discipline like so much in martial arts can be applied to the achievement of other goals in our lives. In combat this focus is essential and required at extremely high levels; much higher intensity is needed than on the practice floor and your instructor will push you to increase your focus and intensity so you can draw upon it when needed.

What we focus on is important too and our focus will shift over time as our priorities change. Parents come to me to say how their child can’t focus ‘he doesn’t pay attention to anything’ the child is focused on what he wants and that is not the same as what you want. In time and with the right support the child can learn to focus on not just what he wants but also on things that he may not see the need for now but in time will see if he trusts his teacher that there is more to find.

This is where discipline becomes a part of focus, the ability to focus on things that we have to do but don’t really enjoy or want to do. The achievements we make in life are drawn from what we want on an emotional level, tempered with what we know we need on an intellectual level and the spirit we can apply to their achievement on a physical level. No worthy achievement fails to engage all the 5 intelligences but those that are not worthy will pull us out of balance. Unworthy goals beguile and seduce us toward them, our parents, teachers and mentors are here to guide us on what is worthy and what is not based on their experience but how do we really make the distinction ourselves. What is a worthy goal? Well this comes down to personal choice but I would say that we all know what is really worthy and what is not. We can ask ourselves the question ‘is this goal worthy of my focus?’ listen for what answer comes back.

Here’s a useful rule of thumb to help you decide what is worthy and what is not a worthy goal – ‘a worthy goal is hard today but easy tomorrow, an unworthy goal is easy today and hard tomorrow’ for instance go out drinking tonight (easy) but tomorrow we are hung over (hard) compared to a worthy goal let’s say exercise; its hard today but tomorrow is easy. When we pursue life through easy (or unworthy) goals we make ourselves more difficult later and the converse is true with hard goals.

‘Live for today’ some people say to me and I completely agree we must live in the now but what we do to ourselves today we pay for tomorrow. So if we want more ‘Now’s’ in good mental and physical health we have to discipline and focus ourselves passed immediate gratification and the transitory joy that brings and instead take joy from what we have or are trying to achieve over the longer term because one day the choice of how we live will be limited by our health. When we get older we lose our strength but if we have laid a firm foundation of health when we are young we are more likely to avoid debilitating health problems when we are old. It is true that what we do today, we pay for tomorrow and that works for both the good and the bad. Eating bad food today might bring instant gratification now but in the future their will be a price to pay if you’ve made bad food your habit. Difficult goals strengthen us, easy goals weaken us.

I get disappointed when I see people applying their focus to things that are useless. X-factor, East Enders, Big Brother and programs like these are not worth a second of our focus because they are subtly addictive but they gain us nothing. We waste our time by watching them and anyone who spends time focusing on rubbish like this will fail to achieve what they are capable of because they are focusing in the wrong direction. We can all have the life of our dreams but we must focus without being sidetracked onto things that have no value. People say to me ‘but they’re only a bit of fun’ well so are drugs, alcohol and food. For most of us we have the discipline to pull back from things when they take too much of our attention but for many others they cannot. This brings into the realms of education which I don’t want to cover today but I hope you see what I am talking about. Focus is a skill that we can develop, it’s tremendously valuable toward a fulfilled life but it must be pointed at something worthwhile or it’s wasted.

Every successful person that ever lived has applied their focus toward their goals. Life is not a lottery win where we bypass the journey for the destination we think we want i.e. money, no, life is a journey where we focus on what we want and that focus shifts over time and achievement toward goals that at the outset we don’t know exist, but by focusing step by step on goal after goal we learn on the completion of each goal whether or not it brings what we really desire. Money may be an initial goal for many of us because it allows us choice and the ability to purchase things that make our life easier. However we learn after a while that whilst money often accompanies our goal achievement it is not the end in and of itself, rather a by-product of what we are striving for.

In the martial arts we strive for improvement in technique focusing on the very smallest things to understand how our technique improves our whole life. Our discipline and focus develops as we go deeper and deeper into the practice until we achieve what the Zen Buddhists call the ‘mind of no mind’ or as some call the ‘normal mind’. This comes with sustained and disciplined practice over many years and could be called ‘unconscious competence’ the ability to do something that is difficult with such ease that we do not even have to think about it.

The master martial artist doesn’t focus on the technique he uses to achieve his aim he focuses simply on his goal and the techniques fall into place as required. Just like with something we do much of for instance walking. We don’t think about walking we just walk. Our body makes all the decisions necessary allowing our minds to be elsewhere. In martial arts we make ourselves ‘walkers’ of every technique or strategy performed so often that when we need to use them they simply act doing the absolutely necessary without our minds having to be engaged. This is what I see as the ‘mind of no mind’ to achieve every task with the same mentality, effort and ease as if we were simply taking a walk.

At this point of ‘no mindedness’ we have achieved mastery and we enter into a new realm of spirituality a realm that can be difficult to achieve as so many things spring up at us taking away our focus to things of no importance like computer games, internet or TV. But what do you do when you need to solve a problem? Well you might take a walk in the country; re-connect with nature and the myriad of living things that exist there and by doing so attain connection with your spirit and the problem shrinks away or the answer springs into your consciousness often fully formed.

So focus is essential; focus requires motivation and discipline. Focus needs worthy goals. Focus is a learnable skill. Focus changes and matures with the accomplishment of each target or goal and focus links us to our spirit which is why I have placed it under the Law of Study because study requires practice, repetition and review and this takes our focus deeper and deeper until we connect with our spirit and connecting with our spirit is the true test of a worthy goal. Spirit is contribution, gratitude and conscience. Spirit is our real selves but to find our real selves we must apply the law of focus which states ‘what you focus on becomes your reality’ so focus on that which will if not immediately, will eventually uncover your real self.

Thanks for reading today. For more details on how you can learn, use and benefit from improved focus in your life you should book a Free introductory lesson at one of our Colleges. For more details go to http://www.nat-mac.co.uk/www.nat-mac.co.uk/info.php?p=8 where you can read more about what we do and book your first lesson at the same tie if you want to. 

Best wishes

Tony Higo
Chief Instructor
National Martial Arts Colleges UK
0800 0920948

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