Why fear of not focusing (FONF) is a problem

It’s been said, what you focus on you get more of, but when you focus too intensely for too long you can become more frustrated and not necessarily achieve better results. When you are working on building a family, or solving a problem within your family, it’s natural to put intense focus into the particular project until its completed. But what if the project takes a long time, as family building or solving a problem within your family often does? Do you keep focusing on it? Do you go down the rabbit hole of Dr. Google or social media?

We have all done it, and sometimes we enjoy it. Sometimes these activities can give us the feeling of being connected with the world or productive because we may be finding new information or just become distracted from the matter at hand. The problem is that prolonged focus on something over which we have little or no control, can raise our stress levels. Stress can cause an increase in our cortisol levels and increased cortisol levels can contribute to a whole host of problems ranging from increased weight gain, to high blood pressure, intestinal problems, memory issues and lowered libido.

Let’s think about this issue practically. While our immediate reflex may be to focus on these issues until they are completed, this is often unnecessary or counter-productive. For example, let’s say you are pursuing family building and focusing on the process even after you have done everything you can do. You have chosen your clinic or agency. You have chosen your team of professionals and you are taking all of the steps that you have been instructed to take, but you keep focusing on the same plan over and over. Or perhaps you need to address an issue with your family. You find the right professionals and put a plan into motion. Now you need to give it some time before you determine if it is working, but instead of just moving through the process and otherwise living life, do you spend more free time focusing on it, worrying about it and researching it? Some people feel that they lack devotion if they don’t keep focusing on it. Others feel that focusing on it feels like it will make the project more successful. There are many reasons why we do this, but just because our mind tells us to do it, it does not mean it is helpful.

In New York City, the subways are a very efficient way of getting from place to place. They are fast and there are many trains. On average, the trains come into the stations every two to ten minutes. Therefore, if we stand on the platform, we can answer email or enjoy looking at pictures we have taken knowing that within a few minutes our train will be entering the station. Some people do this and enjoy those free minutes of time. What do others do? Stare down the tunnel, over and over. Why? Because somehow it feels that a train is more likely to come quickly if we stare down the tunnel. Practically, this makes no sense but we do it in so many areas of our lives and we waste precious time that we can never recover.

This dynamic happens in other places as well. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a popular term that many can relate to, and I can’t tell you how many times I have seen my kids stare at their phones waiting for something (who knows what it could be) to pop up on Snap Chat. Are they thinking if they stare at the phone long enough something will pop up faster? We have all done these things in various area of our lives. But aren’t we wasting time that could otherwise be spent with family or friends, or just relaxing? And when we focus too intensely and for too long we can also cause harm to our bodies. So why not practice trying to change this reflex when we are able?

The next time you put a plan into action and find yourself continuing to focus on it, remember that the Fear Of Not Focusing (FONF) has taken over. Even if it feels a bit uncomfortable, make the decision to give to your body and mind by redirecting your attention to something that is more beneficial. Even if it is only for a few minutes. If you feel some resistance, remind yourself that although your mind may tell you that you can produce better results by intense and prolonged focus, you are probably not changing anything that you haven’t already put in motion. If your project requires many steps then for each step, put the plan in motion. Then take time away from the plan to relieve your mind and body from the stress. Habits take time and repetition to change but aren’t you worth it?

If you have children, and are in the New York area in April, you may be interested in using some of that free time to learn helpful tools to manage disclosure issues at our TIP TOP workshop. Click here to learn more.