by Maki Moussavi
When I was trying to find my way out of my high-achieving success box in my corporate job, I knew a key to making that happen was to find the time to focus. This can be a weird tricky thing, because sometimes what “focus” means is having a down-the-road end goal in mind, and the end goal requires that your mind has some downtime. If you’ve ever attempted to meditate and hated it, it’s probably because of the way you can’t get that mess swirling around in your mind to STOP for 60 seconds, for the love of God. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Why on Earth do we expect to swing from frantic-nonstop-circus in the brain to quiet, peaceful silence that rides on gentle waves?
As a person who’s driven to get shit done, focus that doesn’t have a tangible outcome can feel uncomfortable and even pointless. Like, you want me to sit here and write about the things in my head with no particular goal in mind? Or spend ten minutes staring at a candle flame, listening to something zen, and paying attention to my breath for … what, exactly? It’s like unfocused focus, if you will. Focused time to stop focusing on the usual crap to make space for what you really want to come in.
Confused? Don’t be. This is freeing in its own way.
We are constantly trying to get and keep ourselves on track. I can’t count the number of times I felt myself slowly sliding down my office chair, staring at my laptop, knowing I had to get going but feeling so not able to do it. I would eventually end up at eye level with my keyboard, haul myself back up, take a deep breath, and dive in. In those moments, what sounded awesome to me was the option of having a few minutes to not be worried about what all needed to get done. The ability to take that time to let my mind wander, thinking of nothing in particular.
When I began to take that seriously and scheduled my focused-unfocused time into my day, that’s when things really started to change for me.
When you stop trying to control your mind the way you do everything else in your life, it creates space for clarity. Not necessarily in that moment, but it will come (probably when you’re in the shower!).
The other benefit is that you’ll find your mind is more willing to listen when you’ve given it a little freedom to be off the leash. It was much easier for me to concentrate on work after I gave myself the opportunity to sit and write or do a meditation. Think of your mind as a busy toddler. If you keep trying to make it sit down and focus on coloring in the lines with no outlet for running around and playing, you’re going to have a major uphill struggle on your hands. If you allow the toddler(mind) to go to recess and THEN give it some coloring pages, it will be much more willing and able to do so.
Find ten to fifteen minutes a day to let your mind off the leash.
Maki Moussavi is a corporate career veteran and Master’s trained genetic counselor who left the glory of societally-defined success to become a transformational coach, motivational speaker, and author. Over the last several years, she has focused on personal development and how to help high achievers create fundamental change in the pursuit of fulfillment. She is the author of The High Achiever’s Guide and can be found online at makimoussavi.com.