A Coaching Power Tool Created by Regina Wilson
(Conflict Coach, UNITED STATES)
Always remember your focus determines your reality – George Lucas
I have always been interested in the dynamic between focus and distraction. When I am focused, I feel completely different than when I am distracted. Through my coaching journey at ICA, I have gained more insight into the importance of being focused, not only in personal life but also in my journey as a coach. There have been times when I have allowed distraction to delay my coaching journey.
In March, I began working from home due to the pandemic. Even though I spend the majority of my time at home, it seemed as though my level of distraction grew. As my level of distraction grew, there was an increased demand for my time from various areas of my life. I was doing more for my family, so those at risk didn’t have to leave the house, work got crazier, I stepped into a leadership role in my local bar association, and I was still on my coaching journey.
I thought I would be more focused because I was at home, and yet I found myself more distracted, scattered, overwhelmed, and anxious. When I paused and reminded myself of all of the things that I have learned on my coaching journey, I shifted from being distracted to being focused.
A distraction is something that distracts: an object that directs one’s attention away from something else. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Our brain receives a constant stream of information from our environment. It is estimated that our brain receives eleven million bits of information every second. However our brain only focuses and processes about 40 bits of information per second (Bailey 2019 P.55-56). These bits of information come from our five senses, taste, sight smell, touch, and hearing. It is estimated that people are distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds and that it takes more than 20 minutes to refocus. The brain is programmed to respond to anything pleasurable, threatening, or novel. The brain is flooded with dopamine when it discovers something new. (Bailey, 2018). Distraction is also a way to deal with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is easier to be distracted by social media or Netflix than it is to acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety about the pandemic. (Brewer, 2020).
When we think of distractions one of the first things that come to mind is smartphones, television, social media, e-mail, or phone calls. Distractions can also be meetings, unannounced visors. However, not all distractions are external or within the person’s control. A distraction can also be a daydream or negative thought.
While some distractions may be fun and pleasurable, being distracted can make a person feel overwhelmed, frazzled, forgetful, scattered, unfocused, and frozen. A distracted person may feel like they are stuck and not getting anything accomplished. When a person is distracted, they are not present in the moment or intentional in their actions. They may also feel a lack of control over their life. Distractions are an impediment or challenge to a person determining and reaching their goal.
Focus is defined as a center of activity, attraction, or attention. It’s also defined as a point of concentration or directed attention. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Focus and attention are like muscles, they take time to develop and maintain. What you focus on or pay attention to grows. Being focused is not just about being productive. Per Daniel Goleman, there are three different types of focus, inner, other, and outer. Inner focus is about self-awareness and self-management. Another focus is on empathy and relationships with others. Outer focus is about systems and their impact on there on our world.
Attention and focus are some of the most precious things like time. When focused, a person can determine where they direct their attention and how they spend their time. They can control their schedule and live with intention. When focused, a person does not feel overwhelmed or scattered.
One of the first steps to take to shift from distraction to focus is to control the distractions that can be controlled. This may include turning off the television or smartphone, closing the unnecessary internet tabs, closing your e-mail, and turning off the social media alerts. To help control the internal distractions, make a list of all of the things circling in your brain or a brain dump. It does not have to be a to-do list, it can be a list of what the person is worrying about.
Another way to shift from distraction to focus is to practice mindfulness. A person can be aware of when they become distracted and pull themselves back to being focused. Sometimes it helps to set three intentions for the day, to ensure that you maintain focus throughout the day.
Coaching can help a client create a focus in their life. Focus can be created during the coaching journey by creating a coaching space free of distractions. As some distractions are external, the coaching space should be cleared of as many distractions as possible. This can include ensuring that the coach and client are both in a quiet space, technology and alerts are silenced or turned off.
The coach should prepare to hold the coaching space for the client. The coach should be present and not distracted by internal thoughts. The coach is there to focus on the client, be an active listener, and pay attention to the client’s body language and tone of voice.
Coaching can assist the client in gaining and maintaining focus from the first step of creating the coaching agreement. Inviting the client to explore their goals and the importance of their goals, helps the client create a focus. Checking in on the coaching agreement throughout the coaching session, helps the client retain that focus. It also helps the client gain awareness of their goal and thus their focus has shifted.
During the coaching journey, the client may gain new awareness around their goals and what impediments may have stood or stand in their way, including distractions. The client can create an action plan to accomplish their goals. A client may create a plan to limit or contain the distractions that could keep them from accomplishing their goals.
A person may move from distraction to focus by pausing and taking time to be present at the moment and assessing the situation. There are several ways that a person can move from distraction to focus. The shift can help a person move from feeling stuck to feeling motivated to accomplish their goals.
Bailey, C. (2018). 4 Strategies for Overcoming Distraction. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/08/4-strategies-for-overcoming-distraction [Accessed 16 Sep. 2020].
Bailey, C. (2019). Hyperfocus. Penguin USA.
Brewer, J. (2020). Are You Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop? [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2020/05/are-you-stuck-in-the-anxiety-distraction-feedback-loop [Accessed 16 Sep. 2020].
Goleman, D. (2015). Focus : the hidden driver of excellence. New York: Harper.
Lipson, M. (2015). To Improve Your Focus, Notice How You Lose It. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2015/11/to-improve-your-focus-notice-how-you-lose-it [Accessed 16 Sep. 2020].
PositivePsychology.com. (2017). 22 Mindfulness Exercises, Techniques & Activities For Adults (+ PDF’s). [online] Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/.
Wiens, K. (2017). Break the Cycle of Stress and Distraction by Using Your Emotional Intelligence. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/12/break-the-cycle-of-stress-and-distraction-by-using-your-emotional-intelligence [Accessed 16 Sep. 2020].