Expand Focus

Article: What We Focus On Expands


What we focus on expands. More specifically, what we focus our attention on will expand what we think about and what actions we take. How we relate to stress determines whether our thinking and actions expand our attention in a helpful or unhelpful way.


First, do we see stress as a problem or opportunity? All learning will include some degree of stress so we need to embrace it. Let’s look at the stress associated with falling. “I dread falling” is framed as a problem to avoid. I refer to this way of thinking as “problem focus.” We could also see stress as an opportunity. “I’m curious about falling” is framed as an opportunity to engage. I refer to this way of thinking as “opportunity focus.”


Next, our attention will expand a problem OR an opportunity. “I dread falling” expands attention of thought processes and actions to avoid falling. We’ll think of routes we want to climb that are comfortable for us and avoid stressful ones. A “problem focus” tends to cause actions that keep us in our comfort zones so we don’t learn.


“I’m curious about falling” expands attention of thought processes and actions to engage falling. We’ll think about how to fall and routes where we could practice falling safely. An “opportunity focus” tends to cause actions that move us outside our comfort zones so we can learn.


To be mentally fit we need to identify clearly what the tasks are in climbing. Doing this will expand our attention to think about and then act on those tasks. There are tasks to do when we stop to think, tasks to do when we commit to climbing, and tasks to do when we fall.


Climbing is an opportunity we choose to engage. No one is forcing us to climb. Whether we are thinking, taking action, or responding to a fall, if we see stress as an opportunity–not a problem–then our attention will expand to maximize that opportunity.


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