There are two types of people in the world: those whose lives are steered by others, and those who take charge of their focus and steer life down their own course. The latter of the two have refined their controlled focus, and this skill makes all the difference in leading the life one wishes to live.
Controlled Focus vs. Automatic Focus
So, what is controlled focus? In psychology, it is referred to as “controlled attention” and can best be defined in contrast to “automatic attention,” or as I like to call it, “automatic focus.” Automatic focus is reactive attention to a sudden event. For example, imagine an animal jumps in front of your car while you are driving. Your full attention instantly shifts to the animal in the road and away from any other thoughts that may have been going through your head. This is automatic focus at work—and a scenario in which it is a very beneficial thing to have; however, in scenarios such as phone and email notifications, this is not such a useful reaction. The automatic focus that we give to these modern distractions has lessened our ability to maintain a relaxed, long-term sense of focus.
Controlled focus, on the other hand, occurs when you deliberately give your full attention to one thing despite distractions that may arise. In my sharpshooting career, I’ve practiced this type of focus many times. I had to learn how to ignore all the distractions surrounding me and give my full attention to the target in order to make it to the podium. This type of focus requires practice and patience, and its value extends far beyond a single moment.
The Importance of Controlled Focus
In today’s world of information and sensory overload, controlled focus is an invaluable skill to master. So many things compete for your attention daily, from social media to the news to commercials flashing across your screen. Add to the mix your inner distractions, such as nervous thoughts and mental to-do lists, and it’s no wonder that we often feel so unfocused and overstimulated!
When you refine your controlled focus ability, you become more adept at staying on task despite interruptions. You know how to acknowledge and ignore distractions in order to quickly revert back that which requires your attention. Think of it as your personal thought filter, sifting through the unnecessary information to determine what is truly worthy of your attention. The end result is total autonomy over your focus, deciding for yourself what merits your attention and keeping your focus there.
The distractions of everyday life will not be able to blow you off course when you know how to maintain your focus. Developing this skill allows you to take greater charge of your life and steer it in the direction you would like it to go.