Why is it so difficult to focus?
When we want to do anything important, why do we often find it so difficult to focus? Due to the combined consequence of three forceful factors.
Ever-increasing distractions: We are exposed to far more entertainment than any other generation in recorded human history. Whereas past entertainment was simple, today’s entertainment is filled with sensuality, violence and myriad special effects. And entertainment through movies, soap operas and sports is available not just on TV’s but also on our phones. Even news, updates and notifications add to the distraction,
Ever-intensifying competition among distractions: The many forms of entertainment compete with each other through aggressive marketing for one purpose: to target us. And they use the most advanced technology and the most sophisticated insights into human psychology. They target us not necessarily because they are exploitative or evil, but because they need our attention for their success and even their survival. Companies often spend as much, if not more, on marketing their products as they spend on actually making those products.
Ever-decreasing attention spans: All these external stimuli don’t just distract us in the moment; they also fill our minds with a plethora of desires and fears: desires for the many things that are dangled before us and fear about the many things we may be missing. A mind that is crowded and clouded by so many desires and fears just can’t focus on one thing for long.
By thus understanding our predicament, we can become both gentle and grave with ourselves. Gentle to not condemn ourselves when we struggle to focus, for we are fighting against unprecedentedly difficult odds. And grave to persistently apply the Bhagavad-gita’s recommendation (06.26) that we use time-tested practices to train our mind to refocus whenever it wanders.
Focusing is so difficult because our culture is characterized by ever-intensifying competition among ever-increasing distractions for ever-decreasing attention spans.
Think it over:
- What external reasons make focusing so difficult?
- What internal reasons make focusing so difficult?
- In our age of distraction, how can we prepare ourselves to focus better?
06.26: From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.