Finding balance in the second half of life

Posts Tagged ‘focus’

The Mechanics of the Magical

In Fulfillment on November 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I was inspired last week by a post by Katie Talo on about the power of momentum. Momentum, she says, is her “coach, mentor, and teammate,” and it propels her in the direction she’s chosen to go.

I was inspired. For a day or so. It sounded magical, that I could rely on this force to carry me forward. And then I was flummoxed, because it was hard for me to see in what direction my momentum was taking me. What if your momentum is tied to sloth, for example, or to excessive knitting, to eating Oreo cookies, or, a pivotal part of Katie’s experience with momentum, to smoking cigarettes?

This week I read “Pray It Again… and Again,” by Andrew Holecek. He’s got the answer to overcoming the inertia that keeps us moving in the same direction regardless of our intentions. He’s talking about a spiritual journey, but I’m figuring these days that everything is spiritual.

What we’re doing, he says, is working to stop “old habits that come easily and replacing them with difficult new ones.” And, the part that gives me a foothold, he recognizes that the path is “full of magic, but it is also full of mechanics.”

So it’s not just the magic of momentum. It’s also the mechanical work of making goals, writing daily checklists, developing some routines—even though they don’t feel magical—that become habits that redirect my momentum.

And it’s being intentional. Katie’s momentum began to build, I now realize, with a deliberate decision. It’s not disembodied magic, this momentum: It’s the magic of a wizard, exercising her own powers.

–Lois Maassen

This Is your Brain on Friends

In Community, Fulfillment on November 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

It went against my better instincts to have lunch with Lois before my first meeting with a prospective client. I felt that I should be brushing up on. . .I don’t know–something–and I’m not great company when I’m anxious. But we had lunch scheduled and I like having lunch with Lois. She makes me laugh.

Turns out my instincts were wrong. Research from the Institute of Social Research shows that the kind of “friendly talk” you have with a good friend or when making a new friend improves focus and working memory. My meeting went well and I got the project.

You might want to keep this in mind if you’re giving a big presentation. However, if the only person around to talk to is a frenemy, skip it. Researchers say conversations that have a competitive edge don’t have any cognitive benefits at all.

–Christine MacLean