Last week, I had taken a peek into my son’s journal, an activity that he had banned me against doing. I mean, that is what mothers are for, right – taking tiny little peeks into their children’s tiny little lives. Because, mothers obviously know what is best. Duh!
Anyway, I was on a mission, and that was to discover all the wonderful things that my eleven-year-old was interested in. So, I could help him in his journey. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when all that I saw was four things listed under the title “Ten things I am interested In.”
Four things. That’s it!?
When I decided to prod him that evening, without mentioning that I had been through his personal stuff of course, he once again came up with the same four things. Now, my disappointment turned into worry, because just about everyone I know would list at least fifteen things under the “Ten things I am interested In” category. I myself, would curse the author for not mentioning “20 things I am interested In.” What was wrong with my kid?
Turns out, everything about him was just fine. He was simply focused on his wants.
How did it turn out this way?
Neural connections. Focus has got everything to do with the number of neural connections that the brain makes. More interests means more things to explore, and more things to explore results in more neural connections. But that’s a good thing, right? Because, more neural connections results in more information downloads. And of course, information is always good. Keep in mind though, more downloads always occupy more space, and slow down the system.
More information is good and all that, but exactly how much of it is useful to us? How much of the information are we going to use, and how much of it is just occupying space? More than anything, how much of what we do is slowing us down from what we really want to do?
We are prone to buying things that we don’t use, and these things stay useless, occupying valuable space. Mental clutter is no different from the physical clutter.
How is multiple interests a mental clutter?
When we develop multiple interests, we are leading our brain towards making connections with several things. That means that I would making a craft, organizing my desk, colouring a picture, creating a new fragrance, experimenting with a new dish, reading about the latest, hottest news; when what I really want to be doing is, writing.
You see what I mean.
Having multiple interests moves us away from the bigger, more important things that we should be doing and want to become great at doing. Multiple interests leads the brain towards multiple destinations, all the time. So, the brain is always looking for different things to do. This results in what is called, parallel thinking.
What happens with parallel thinking?
If you are someone who is wondering why you are thinking about gardening when you should be thinking about the cake you are baking, or how you suddenly came up with a brilliant idea that has nothing to do with the sales pitch that you are currently working on, then you are someone who has developed parallel thinking.
Parallel thinking is the reason why I am getting stuck with the words that I am typing out. There are several thoughts that are huffing and puffing at my brain, going “Open up, little piggy, I want to eat you.” And I know if I open up, the parallel thoughts would eat up the words that I want to type out. That is how not good is parallel thinking.
The reason for this is, all the information transformation happening within the brain. Information within the brain is transformed into thoughts that keep moving around the brain, knocking to gain entry at the most irrelevant of times. These irrelevant thoughts are what are called distractions. And distractions are what cause the loss of focus.
And it all develops because of our multiple interests.
Multiple interests is all great and wonderful, when what we are having on hand is, hobby time. But if what we want to do is, bring out the best sales pitch, or score the highest runs in the season’s play, or become a great baker, then we simply have to do away with our multiple interests.
And that can be the most challenging thing to do. Because, we need to rewire our brain.
So, how do we rewire our brain?
Practice, practice, practice. That is the only thing that we can do to beat the connections that our brain has formed as a result of our wanting to do “everything.” That means, we pull back our thoughts every time we begin to fly away with them. That also means we have to consciously stop taking in every piece of information that our mind leads us towards. More than anything, rewiring our brain, requires acknowledging our real wants, becoming aware of our thoughts, and instilling enough discipline within ourselves to help our brain leads us towards our destination.
Some helpful suggestions…
Write down your interests and narrow them down to the things that you can do. It helps to stay realistic in this matter.
Practice is always the greatest guide. So, start doing the things that you can do. And do them every day. If the things that you can do exceed everyday practice, then take another look at your interests and narrow them further. Stick to this discipline.
The greatest challenge is to reign in your flying thoughts. Thoughts are time – they can never be stopped. However, it is possible to enclose them to move within a circle for as long as possible. Set a time, choose a task, and try to think only about the task that you are doing. That is your circle. From personal experience, albeit difficult, this is a very doable thing. The first thing that I did was move away from focusing on my son’s interests and move towards focusing on mine!
Good luck in managing your thoughts, and finding your focus!