Curve balls.  We all get them.  Whether it is someone placing irrational demands on you or the sound of shots because of yet another hijacking on the N4.  (You can’t do anything about it.  This is basically a war zone.)  There are many things that break a person’s day and distract one from what needs to be done.  Some you can ignore; others, not.

But there is a curve ball that is being thrown at the younger generation that is worse than all others; because it completely destroys the actual principle of focus.

It’s social networking.

I’m not only talking about the big, commercial social networks.  Electronic media have amplified our social networking (which is a natural, human thing to do) into something monstrous.  It’s a wonderful thing to have a Whatsapp group when you need to organize a rehearsal.  It simplifies things immensely.

But on the other hand, if you’re studying for an exam and your friend needs help in Clash of Clans now or he dies…  Physics exam or your friend’s life?  Which young person needs this pressure, to make such a choice?

The Bowing Experiment

This past week I did an experiment.  I taught a highly effective and fairly complex bowing exercise to my whole studio, from beginners through to advanced. I “dressed” it in cool kiddie terms – see-saw, round-about etc. It wasn’t that they needed to be little adults to understand the exercise.  (I’ll see who took me seriously by the next lesson – but TBH I think I can predict it.)

What I found (in my experiment) confirms something I already knew.

There are two kinds of students.  Those who focus and those who don’t.  My four-year-old displayed amazing focus!  And he only started violin this year.

Some of the students didn’t stay with the exercise for longer than two seconds at a time!  Not even though I used words like “Paganini’s secret” and “magic bowing”.  Intrigue, apparently, doesn’t work on a person with ADHD.

And I’m saying ADHD though I don’t believe it’s a “genetic disorder”.  Or, caused by evil sugar.

What breaks our children’s focus (and ours)

ADHD kills, I tellya!  I was starting to write a seminar on how children connect things in their brains and …  TMI, IMHO!  Read Manfred Spitzer’s “The Mind Within the Net” if the topic interests you (and it should, if you are a human.  Doesn’t concern giraffes so much).

But to illustrate my point, just watch some TV ads, and some “kiddie” channels.

What do you notice?

Jumble, mess, noise.  Everything moves fast, is loud, is interrupted by unrelated noises etc.  I’m sorry!

I don’t know if you ever had a grandparent telling you a story?  Did they need to make loud noises and interrupt themselves?  Or, did they mesmerize you with a lowered voice, building tension by not yet telling all?  Did you love listening to them?

My argument is:  ADHD is real, and it is caused deliberately by the media, and the social media, and even the way a lot of school books are laid out these days (short, unrelated snippets of “fun facts” – some grossly inaccurate and some even wrong – and a change of topic in every paragraph).  Look at your facebook feed.  Every post takes your attention between 3 – 10 seconds, just long enough to “like”, “sad-face” (you hypocrite), “funny” or “angry”.  I just called the sad-face hypocritical because do you genuinely feel sad, sorry for your friend?  Do you pick up the phone and call?  Few do.  (Real friends do!)  And if you’re sad, how can you find the next post funny ten seconds later?

Yes, social media train us to be shallow and not to pay attention.

You create your own reality

We learned this in the wave of holistic healing modules and life coaching courses that welled up in the 90’s.  At times it was misquoted, misapplied; of course, if another car crashes into yours in a way you could not prevent, you didn’t create that.  You didn’t create 911, for instance.  (Someone else did though.)  It can be abused as victim-blaming.

It can also be abused as magical thinking.  “If I keep on thinking of myself as rich, one day I’ll be rich.”  The joke’s on you.

But in fact, you are creating your own reality – by the actions you take or fail to take, day by day.

Days are made of hours and hours are made of minutes, and minutes are made of – here’s the core – the moment “NOW”.

If you can string a whole lot of NOWs together, you get focus – like a laser. 

If you can’t – well, then you can’t ever achieve anything!

It’s as simple as that.  And social media, television and a lot of the electronic games we play, are aimed at destroying your capacity to focus.  They are purely reactive. If you are reacting, you are playing to someone else’s agenda, not your own.

(Some games are actually the opposite, and can train you to goal-set, focus and achieve.  I’m not bashing the invention – I’m bashing the way it is applied to destroy people’s capacity for focus.)

Children, as a rule, learn faster than adults.  So too their focus gets destroyed faster than that of adults.  Their brain is highly adaptive, and will, over not much time, adapt perfectly to a highly reactive game where someone else calls the shots and focus gets in the way.  They learn ADHD, and fear staying with a thought for any length of time (because in the background their “clan” gets slaughtered by rivals).

How to fix this?

Start with yourself.

Audit how you spend your time.  “Shadow” yourself for a whole day and jot it down.  So many minutes on social media, so many answering emails (social), so many answering emails (business), so many struggling with something that won’t work; so many taking calls (business / friends – specify), and so on.

Then sit down in the evening, switch off the telly and the computer, take pen and paper (yes, manual please, preferably a notebook – the paper type) and write down your goals.

1 year, 5 years, lifetime.

And write down how much time you spent today working on them.  And how much time you could have spent if you’d cut back on frustrating & reactive stuff.

Take a pencil.

Twirl it around your fingers, one by one.

Spend one hour (yes!) practising this, not allowing the pencil to fall.  Don’t let anything interrupt you.  For every interruption, you have to start the hour anew.

This is not about the pencil.  It is not about your fingers.  You get it.

Can you do it?


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