By Kate Tojeiro
So — it is that time when you decide you need to replace the car. You look at various brochures, adverts on TV and in magazines, and probably cut the list down to two or three. Then, amazingly enough, as you drive around to and from work, the gym, picking children up — you start to notice a huge amount of THAT type of car. It suddenly seems that everyone has the same taste as yourself — even the colour. Don’t worry, you are saved from becoming ‘just like everyone else’ — it is in fact the Focus Phenomenon. Our brains have to take in millions of bits of information continuously, and simply can not process all of it; it has to find a way to filter some information out and focus on the key things. Our subconscious mind is brilliant at alerting it to the things that it believes you need to focus on — without us consciously knowing, in many instances.
The Focus Phenomenon is not only brilliant, but can be utilised to make you even more successful at being a leader. However, it can also limit your thinking if not kept in check — so let’s focus on making it useful.
Our subconscious mind acts as an excellent filter so that you can sift through huge amounts of data to focus on the key information, which is something that you will do, as a Leader everyday. Even if you have not physically said ‘OK subconscious mind — let’s focus on overheads, or the HR department, or this marketing programme’ the subconscious mind will assume to focus on things that have been processing in your brain recently, and your assumptions or learnt behaviours. Think back to the last time you poured over data. How quickly could you pick out what you needed? What had you told your brain to focus on, and was this consciously or subconsciously? Therefore what we THINK or ASSUME becomes the trigger for filtering, and you can train your brain easily and effortlessly. Make conscious your thoughts or questions — and really experience them so that the brain knows what they feel like. You may even want to write them down to cement them clearly in your brain. Then leave the rest to the Focus Phenomenon. Try it with your next challenge.
Before you think that this is too easy, you also need to consider what do you MISS as a consequence of that filtering process?
Think about the next team meeting coming up, or one-to-one with one of your colleagues. What assumptions have you made about that person, or the content of the meeting? What are you looking for? The answers to these will probably help you get to the information that you are looking for quickly. However, you are also in danger of missing much more, by the assumptions that you make.
A client of mine recently was ‘exasperated’ with one of their team members, as they would always take forever to come to the point. When he would start to talk in the meeting, you could almost feel the sighs from around the table. His subconscious mind immediately said that this is going to take forever so do something else, rather than listen. As a result, the whole team missed some great points, by making a huge assumption about the quality of this person’s contribution. How often do you do that? Make an assumption about someone, before they have had a chance? And of course, the subconscious mind looks for CONFIRMATION of your assumptions and focuses on those — ‘I told you so’ — so they never have a chance unless, of course, you choose to change your thought process.
In a meeting coming up, see if you can instruct your mind to make no assumptions, and try to really listen to this person as if you did not know them — and find out something that you may well have missed by your Focus Phenomenon.
If you stepped into the next meeting with colleagues, and said ‘please don’t go to sleep in the next hour’ — just wait to see how many of them will yawn through that meeting! Unfortunately, the brain does not detect negatives, so will focus on SLEEP, rather than ‘don’t’. This is the same reason that you miss that goal in football, if the coach has been yelling ‘Don’t miss the goal posts’! How many of your ‘Focus Phenomena’ thoughts are negative? — ‘I must not miss this deadline’, ‘I will not eat that extra bag of crisps’,’ I am really tired today’. Your brain will do an excellent job of reminding you continually of all these negative things. Go out there today and be positive in your thinking — it will soon happen without you thinking!
Use your Focus Phenomenon to your advantage — train your brain to focus on the important things, the positive things and surprise yourself by changing the focus on occasions — you may suddenly see something that has been staring you in the face!
Kate Tojeiro is an Executive Performance Coach at Xfusion.