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The Power of Focus


Is it black or is it white? Perhaps there are multiple shades...

Life is full of contrasting experiences. What is considered good or bad can strangely be a matter of perception. One person’s joy may be another’s indifference. The contrast of life enables us to form preferences and make choices about how we want to live. When we understand that all the “good” and “bad” forms part of the whole and it all adds to the overall expansion and growth which enables life to endure, we begin to understand our own personal power to make choices.

Whilst we cannot always control the conditions and circumstances around us, we can control how we respond and/or react to those conditions or circumstances. We can do this by focussing our attention in the direction of what we want. Deliberately choosing what we focus on is empowering and enables us to:

  • Create our own reality through our thoughts
  • Re-frame our thoughts in constructive beneficial ways
  • Prioritise our emotional well-being above all else
  • Recognise our personal strength and power to discern the best way forward
  • Determine our own life preferences by looking at what is unwanted and “taking the  bounce” to what is wanted
  • Consciously choose our attitude
  • Create emotional shifts

My aim as a coach is to facilitate the client’s growing awareness of their capacity to shape their life experiences by consciously and deliberately focusing their thoughts in the direction of their desires.

My Coaching Approach

Step 1. Exploration of Values, Paradigms, Belief Systems and Habits

The first step to understanding where we are at and why we are where we are is identifying what underlying beliefs, values and paradigms give us our view of the world. A crucial part of the coaching process it to explore with the client to understand the “lens” through which they see the world by asking a series of questions relating to their beliefs and values. 

I help clients identify any unconscious thoughts or behaviors which might be helping or hindering them. This enables both of us to understand what empowering and disempowering perspectives the client might hold and if we can then work on re-framing if necessary. The thing is, when thoughts or behaviours are unconscious the client isn't always aware of their presence nor their underlying purpose. This can mean that they are focussed on achieving something that they are not consciously aware of, and this affects where they focus.

A basic Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) principle is that "behind every behavior is a positive intention" Motives drive behavior. Our brains do nothing without some (usually unconscious) purpose.

An NLP process which is effective at identifying the positive "secondary gain" behind certain beliefs or behaviours is the "N Step Reframe" which involves establishing communication with the unconscious part creating the unwanted behavior or response. It is possible to start communicating with that unconscious part to identify it's positive intention and then by doing so, it can help clients to understand why they are pointed in that direction. This then enables them to develop CHOICE of focus, which is empowering.

Ever heard of the term "confirmation bias?" In simple term confirmation bias means that we see whatever it is we’re looking for.  We will inevitably highlight what we shine a spotlight on.

Step 2. The Power of Focus

“Your perspective determines your experience in life, not your circumstances”

We all see the world differently and we have filters on without knowing it. We may be consciously choosing to focus on one thing or another. Even though we look around and respond to what is happening around us whilst feeling at the mercy of conditions, we do in fact always have the power to choose how we feel about our circumstances. There is nothing more empowering than knowing that you are the creator of your experience. You have the power to decide how you feel, despite your circumstances.

Our attention to something gives it energy, bigness, importance and presence in our lives. Things cannot impose themselves on our experience, we let them in. It is ok to notice the unwanted as life survives on contrast, but it is not useful to dwell and focus on them for an extended period of time. Take the contrast and use it to clarify what it is you want. When you know what you don't want, you are accutely aware of what you do want.  When we realize that we decide what we give our attention to, we discover a very powerful way of looking at the world, a world where we decide what we allow in.

"What you resist, persists"

"What you think you create, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you become"

Step 3. Where is your focus?

We often become so accustomed to simply responding to circumstances around us that we forget that we are deliberate creators who can choose where we direct our attention. Through powerful questioning I would explore with my clients exactly what it is they are giving their attention to and how that it is making them feel. I would ask them to consider what they truly want in their heart so they can identify where it is they could be focusing their attention in order to feel better. Trying different perceptual positions, and exploring ways to reframe perspectives can create powerful paradigm shifts for clients.

Questions at this stage might include:

  • What do you really want?
  • “What inspires/energizes you? “
  • “What depletes/drains you?”
  • What feeling are you hoping to achieve by attaining this?
  • What are you seeing in this situation? What are you feeling, hearing, thinking?
  • What is your internal dialogue focussed on? 

Step 4. Focus Exercises - Affirmations and Visualisations

To cement the understanding of the power of focus it is often useful to integrate focus exercises. This can include asking clients which representational system they prefer to operate in, e.g are they predominantly visual, kinesthetic, auditory? Then inviting the client to go on journey to explore what could be.

For example I might ask them to talk me through their dreams and ask they what they daydream about?  I would ask them to describe your perfect day, their perfect partner, their perfect world. Fairy godmother wishes.

I could then talk them through a guided visualization where we imagine them experiencing the things they want most and really feeling what it might be like to possess them. By connecting them emotionally with their desire this will further cement their intentions and help them remain focused on what they want.

Step 5. Focus on the Positives - Appreciation and Gratitude

It is widely accepted that gratitude is a very powerful emotion to help people adopt a positive attitude and to encourage people to focus on what is going well in their life. The act of writing a daily gratitude diary could be a very useful tool to employ with clients as it encourages them to draw attention to what went well that day or what they appreciated.

I invite my clients to appreciate, bask and savour what is going well for them in their life and to be mindful of the things that they are grateful for.

So is it possible to have clear focus but still be stuck? Yes. How do we as coaches then help clients move in the direction of their desires? Is focus itself enough? In itself, no I do not believe so.

You can have clear focus and be pointed in the direction of your desires but fear, doubt and blocks can still raise their heads. Life happens. Bad things can happen and all the best-laid plans can be rudely interrupted by life’s challenges. The aim is not to eliminate all negativity and pretend everything is perfect, it is just about strength-based coaching and following the appreciative enquiry model of coaching to keep the client energized and inspired in the direction of their desires. It is about lightening their viewpoint and their emotional state so they can then make more empowered, clear and inspired choices and actions.

When we truly want something and we focus our attention on it, the desire usually arises from deep within us, based on life experiences, discernment of preferences, our intrinsic values system, our underlying beliefs and generally a sense that we will feel better in the having of it. When we truly want something we feel inspired towards it.

Inspiration can be described in spiritual or theological terms as a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.” Take a minute to consider the difference in this description compared to the one provided for motivation. On an energetic level it is easy to feel the difference between when you really want to do something versus when you think you should. Another way to describe it might be the feeling of being propelled as opposed to feeling compelled.

When we want to do or have something we feel a sense of excitement, anticipation, eagerness, even impatience. In moving towards our genuine desires we may feel:

  • A clear sense of FOCUS
  • inspiration
  • a sense of effortlessness
  • an organic, natural “calling” towards it 
  • a sense of it feeling right and that “wild horses could not drag us away”
  • nice-flowing, nicely unfolding circumstances
  • an absence of resistance
  • spontaneous impulses to take action

When we genuinely want something with a sense of pure desire we always find a way, we make time to do it, we prioritise it. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. Everything aligns to allow us to do it. We do not feel a sense of effort, we just do it. We do not need to try. Commitment comes organically because we know the value and benefit in doing it.  This is where I believe the true power of focus can be beneficial for the client.

Coaching Application

As coaches we must seek holistic long-term change for the client. This means possibly facilitating shifts in attitudes, behaviors and thought processes to equip clients with the ability to view their circumstances more favorably no matter what the specifics of the situation.  Hence where focus comes into the equation.

So what can we do to help our clients make this shift? Do we encourage them to just focus on what they want and ignore all else? This sounds good in theory but it’s not realistic. There are some tasks that just have to be done and some circumstances that are unpleasant that unfortunately command our attention. It is too simplistic to just ask a client to bury their head in the sand and think about the good stuff. So how do we as coaches help the client to maintain their focus?

I believe that we can help client’s make the shift by holding their vision consistently and helping them align their actions with their values and desires so that they can move forward towards what they want. It is about holding a vision with your client when they may doubt themselves or their ability to achieve it. It is about bringing them back to a place of alignment when their attention is drawn away from their goals.

This may include helping the client to re-frame their position on a subject so that they create better-feeling thoughts around it. This will lighten them energetically and help them become unstuck. This then hopefully enables them to direct their focus in an empowering way in the direction of their desires.

The act of focusing is simply a means of making yourself feel better in any given moment, which in turn could bring clients into a clearer sense of self-alignment. From such a state a client may therefore better equipped to make more inspired decisions.

Melanie Kearsey

Melanie is a Certified Professional Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Certified Trainer and HR Consultant

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