Your Most Important Superpower: Present-Time Focus
As an A-Performer, you operate best in the here and now. You are not distracted by the past, the future or useless thoughts. You are focused on the real world.
Because you are in present time or “in the zone,” you perform your tasks with intelligence and precision. You are interested and aware of everything that is going on right now. As a result, you rarely feel frustrated, afraid or depressed.
Like most people, you already experience present-time focus from time to time. For example, do you remember a time when the present moment consumed all of your attention? When your senses were sharp and you felt bright and alive?
What Is Present Time?
The importance of living in the present has been taught by philosophers from every part of the world, from Greece to India, Rome to Asia and Arabia to Europe, since 400 BC.
Present-time focus goes by many names including “mindfulness,” “flow,” “in the here and now,” “consciousness,” “spiritual awareness,” “wakeful,” “power of NOW” and “being present.” When you are focused on present time, your “head is in the game,” you “seize the day” and you are “high on life.”
To be an A-Performer, you need to operate at your best. You need to be in the present moment as much as possible.
Five Examples of Present-time Focus
The first step to increasing your present-time focus is to recognize when it happens to you.
Do you remember times when your attention was not in the past or future, but right now? These five examples are common to most people.
1. You were in the present moment during an awesome experience, like a beautiful hike in the mountains, a warm afternoon on the beach, winning a thrilling game or when you arrived at an exciting destination. Do you remember being thrilled by the moment in such a time?
2. During an important experience in your life, like your first date, your first car or your first child’s birth. Do you remember having amazing clarity at such an event?
3. From the thrill of real or imaged danger, like a race, a roller coaster ride or a difficult rock climb. Did you feel more alive than ever?
4. During a moment when you had to perform at your very best, like during a delicate technical task, a public speech or an important meeting.
5. When you reached a goal like graduating from school, earning a license or taking ownership of a special possession. Do you remember how focused you were in those moments?
Try this Exercise
To experience the power of present time, do these steps (right now, of course).
1. Think of a moment when all your attention was in one, wonderful, present-time moment.
2. Close your eyes and enjoy the memory of that time for a few seconds.
3. Open your eyes and put all your attention in the present moment. Just look around and think of nothing except the space and objects around you.
4. Notice how you feel. Notice your thoughts.
5. When you experience the present moment for at least a faction of a second, you have no thoughts; you feel alert and alive.
6. If you did not experience the present moment, for even a fraction of a second, repeat the above steps until you do.
Living in the present moment all the time would be easy, if it were not for three problems.
Three Barriers to Present-time Focus
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Lao Tzu
While app notifications, texts, bad weather, Facebook, phone calls or news stories are distracting, your present-time focus is distracted mostly by these three issues:
1. The Past
Your past experiences and memories take up part of your attention all the time. You remember or partially remember bad things that happened to you: relationship breakups, thefts, injuries, illnesses, assaults, deaths of loved ones and so on. You also think about bad things that you have done: your failures, mistakes, crimes and so on.
Memories can make you feel depressed, embarrassed, guilty, sad and upset. They can make you angry and make you want to seek revenge, hurt people or prove them wrong. They can make you miss the “good times,” regret the “bad times” or feel sad for your losses.
2. The Future
You try to focus on the present, but still worry about what might happen. These worries make you feel stressed, worried or afraid. You might think about the future a lot more than the present. When you are constantly solving real or imagined problems in your head, you are living in the future.
For example, you worry you might lose your job, your income or your savings. You might get sick, cause an accident or lose someone close to you. You might miss out, be ignored or fail.
As Mark Twain wrote, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
3. Mental Chatter
You suffer from endless thoughts. Your mind is constantly reviewing stressful experiences, imagining difficult conversations or figuring out problems. You might have the same 5-10 thoughts, over and over and over.
Buddhists call it your “monkey mind” because your thoughts jump around like a monkey swinging from tree to tree.
As a result, you are not at peace. You cannot create anything. You do not enjoy being alone. You cannot comfortably sit and wait. You need your phone, reading material, games, movies, news, conversations or other distractions to keep your mind off the stressful chatter.
Your thinking can be fixated on bad habits, like junk food, unhealthy relationships, drugs, drinking, sex, gambling, shopping, smoking, etc. You can’t stop thinking about it, from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.
“A controlled mind brings happiness.” The Buddha
Fortunately, all three barriers to present-time focus can be reduced and even eliminated by learning to focus on present time. Everyone can master this skill. You learn the Action Steps that work best for you and you repeat them as often as you can, every day. Focusing on present time is your most important A-Performer superpower.
15 Benefits of Present-time Focus
1. You think faster and with more clarity. You are more alert.
2. You have more attention available to perform your tasks and make progress toward your objectives.
3. You make terrific decisions, find great solutions and have bright ideas.
4. Emergencies are easier for you to handle as you are not distracted by memories or imagination.
5. Your reaction time is faster. For example, your performance in sports, video games and races improve. You live “in the zone.”
6. You relax and enjoy your free time without needing drugs or alcohol to have fun.
7. Your relationships improve as you deal with people as they are right now, not how they were in the past or how you hope they will be in the future.
8. You notice more detail in every moment. For example, during a meeting you notice tiny reactions in others that are easy to miss. As a result, you say or do the right things. You also do them immediately instead of later realizing what you should have said (“Oh no! I should’ve said . . .”).
9. You have less drama in your life. You understand others so well that you find no reason to argue with them. You enjoy being with almost everyone.
10. People naturally follow you. Your plans make more sense. You get more cooperation.
11. You see opportunities that others miss and you act without hesitation, greed or fear. You are a better investor.
12. You use your failures to your advantage by applying new lessons. You quickly turn sour lemons into delicious lemonade.
13. You make better choices, act more responsibly, get more done and earn more money.
14. You feel fresh enthusiasm for your goals and purposes. You have a sharper vision of where you are going, but you focus on the only step that matters: the single one in front of you.
15. You have a kind of silent power.
Five Facts About Present Time
1. Your entire life is right now. It happens in the present and at no other time.
2. Everyone lives in the present moment physically, but not always mentally.
3. Present time is real. Your past and future are just memories or illusions that you mistakenly believe are real. They are only in your mind.
4. Everything that you have done was done in that moment’s present time. Everything you will do will be in those moments’ present time.
5. When you focus on present time, you don’t think, but are totally aware and conscious. You don’t plan, you act. Time is not a factor; you only see the present. You are right here, right now.
“When you make the present moment the focal point of your life, instead of past and future, your ability to enjoy what you do, and the quality of your life, increases dramatically.” Eckhart Tolle
Five Wrong Ways to Focus on Present Time
1. You grit your teeth, squint your eyes and force your mind to focus. You try to block memories, cut out illusions and fight your monkey mind. Fortunately, focusing on the present moment is easy once you find Action Steps that work for you.
2. You might think you can only fully arrive in the present if you move to India or Tibet and listen to your breathing for a few years. While such an experience might be amazing, it is not necessary nor practical. Rituals, secret words, prayers or chants are also unnecessary.
3. Many people seek mental satisfaction by engaging in dangerous professions or activities. Risking your life forces you to temporarily focus on present time.
4. Drugs, alcohol, gambling and other bad habits might give you thrills as your past failures and future worries temporarily disappear. However, you become addicted because the habit snaps you into the present and gives you joy with no effort on your part. You do not cause or control your peace of mind.
5. Intense movies, video games and other electronic experiences are a popular way to focus on the present. Unfortunately, the joy of the moment stops when you return to real life.
Fortunately, you can enjoy living and working in present time without risking your health, without a chemical and with no side effects. You can train yourself to focus on present time with simple, natural and enjoyable techniques . . . for free!
How to Focus on Present Time
Living in the present is an important part of all philosophies starting with the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Taoism, and is recommended by most present-day spiritual leaders, writers, motivational speakers and philosophers. From these sources, we have identified and simplified 30 powerful Action Steps you can use immediately. You may recognize some of the Action Steps from your past studies and discover methods that are new to you.
To help you put these Action Steps into use, we have created a slide show with one Action Step per slide. You read a slide, think it over and give it a try, as you wish. Take your time and look until you find one that works for you. Enjoy the results and make it part of your life and performance.
Repeat the Actions Steps that work for you on a daily basis. Return to the slide show as often as possible to constantly improve your present-time focus skills. The more you focus on present time, the easier it gets and the longer it lasts.
Finally, do not “concentrate” or squint up your eyes and force yourself into the present. Focusing on the present is like focusing a camera lens. It takes very little effort to rotate the lens to change a blurry object into a clear, sharp image.
With practice, you constantly auto focus on the present. You live in the present.