This is going to be a weird one. It’s time for an exercise, so you need to focus.
Whether you’re reading this on your phone or laptop or palm pilot, take 30 seconds to slow down and walk through this activity.
From now until you’ve finished reading, don’t move your eyes anywhere from the device you’re looking at. Focus only on the letters making up the words.
Now, with your eyes locked in place, absolutely locked on your screen -
Wait. I don’t think you realized the importance of that sentence to this exercise. DO NOT move your eyes other than what is required to read. They must stay fixed on the screen. We’re almost to the big reveal, so stay disciplined.
Ok, now, with your eyes locked in place, absolutely locked on your screen, draw your attention — but not your eyes(!) — to the area around your screen. What can you start to see simply by focusing on your peripheral? Do you see more?
Now that you’ve focused your attention on your peripheral, a flood of objects and colors and shadows and shapes probably people or animals or artwork are now in your awareness. They’ve been there all along. They haven’t moved at all. But you changed your focus and now they are real to you. They’ve been real all along, but not to you.
I find that the more I focus on my peripheral, the more I see. At first, I notice things closer in proximity to my original focus. But as I really concentrate, I see even more objects and colors further away. It’s as if my mind gets better at focusing on things farther away from my eye line.
This has really obvious implications for life. They feel too obvious to even write.
There’s a great big world out there, the physical world, that we miss because we’re focused on the wrong things. Usually our phones or TVs. Even books, typically a good thing, can be a distraction. Sometimes we can even be focused on good things, like making sure we’re eating healthy, which can turn into a distraction from better things.
There’s also a great big world out there, a non-physical world, made up of relationships and emotions and feelings that we miss because we aren’t focusing on the right things. Maybe a friend makes a comment to us and we interpret the comment through our lens instead of theirs. We don’t know that their boss called them out for subpar work that afternoon, and when we see them at dinner they are being really negative. We attribute that negativity to their personality, rather than just having a bad night. We’re probably too distracted by the restaurant TVs to realize what’s going on and ask them how work is going.
Focusing on things is good. It’s the only way to get real work done or build meaningful relationships. But focusing on the wrong things is really bad. We miss out on what is going on in our peripheral when we get wrapped up in superficial things that won’t matter in 5 years or even 5 minutes.
What is in your peripheral vision that you have been ignoring?