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Why focus is more than getting things done

This article covers why focus is more than just about being productive, and how an attentive presence is an empathetic one.
a kid listening to music
It’s so easy today to get swept up in celebrity fixation and materialism and searching for some validation outside of yourself when we know it’s really found within and through meaningful connections with other people.
Geoffrey S. Fletcher

Focus is more than getting things done

Writing about her late, beloved life partner, photographer, Mary Malone Cook, poet Mary Oliver remarked,

“Watching M. (Mary) when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about. Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness – and empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”

Attention, as Oliver brilliantly perceives, draws us deeper into life. An attentive presence, says Oliver, is an empathetic one.

An attentive presence is an empathetic one

Whether we characterise the optimal state of rapt attention as “flow” (a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) or what the Buddhists call mindfulness – being fully present with an in the moment awareness and attentiveness to body, emotions, thoughts – to whatever we are doing, alone or with others.

In this state, each activity, however mundane, has our full attention. One of the distinguishing hallmarks of being fully present is that the experience feels fresh and spontaneous. What we are present to is often memorable because it is embodied.

When we bring our full attention to our interactions with others, the common power-play dynamics that characterise so many interpersonal interactions feel artificial and unsatisfying. From this place, we can understand that “knowing” we are present arises out of presence itself.

A distracted mind

By its very nature, a distracted mind is often filled with unease and tension. Impatience and frustration are common emotional states when attention is fragmented and frenetic. When we’re in distracted states, our breathing is usually choppy (or held in) and we rarely experience the feeling of being at home in our own bodies.

For me, it has been recognising that my girls will be young for such a short time – that I need to live and enjoy every minute of it. I now spend much more time consciously connecting with them – through storytime, listening and making eye contact. Everything with the intent of not thinking about work or watching TV/ tablets, or any other distractions which don’t “add value” to our moments together.


  • What is fulfilling about allowing ourselves to be constantly distracted?
  • What holds us back from staying more present?
  • What would motivate you to be more present?

If you’d like to learn more about building effective professional networks and relationships, check out the full online course, from Central Queensland University, below.

© CQUniversity 2021
This article is from the free online

Building Effective Professional Networks and Relationships

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