Mindfulness vs. Focus: What’s the Difference?

I find that in speaking with others about focus, people often confuse it with mindfulness. While the two can go hand-in-hand, they are not completely synonymous. To me, mindfulness is simply one component of the larger concept. It is a tool that can help you focus in the short-term, but mindfulness alone will not solve the sustained lack of focus in modern society. So, then, what is the difference between the two terms?

Mindfulness, as defined by Merriam-Webster, involves maintaining a total “awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis;” my focus concept is much larger than this. To me, focus is:

  • Awareness of your thoughts and an understanding of why you think them
  • Recognizing what’s important and what’s irrelevant so that you can better sift through distractions
  • Your ability to be present and resist impulses
  • Joy and peace stemming from understanding how to manage tasks and choose what does and does not need to be completed
  • Choosing and sticking to a path despite the many paths available to you
  • The ability to clear your mind of all inner and outer disturbing thoughts to become fully attentive to the task at hand

As you can see, mindfulness and focus are slightly different ideas. The former is a practice that helps you gain awareness; the latter is a mindset that enables you to take concrete action towards your goals. You can utilize mindful practices—meditation, yoga, etc.—to aid you on your journey towards relaxed focus, but it is certainly not a requirement. Mindfulness is merely one of several ways to alleviate the core issue (a lack of focus); to truly solve the issue, one must understand the causes of it.