Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Morning Focus

A tidbit to chew on in regards to concentration.

Before I get to that, though, I’d like to mention that I have a lot of other public writing available on my Facebook page, where I explicitly track my self-improvement goals (other stuff). Follow that if you want to see another subsection of my writing.

Anyhow, it’s already been stated before that I’m quite keen on the benefits of strong concentration. To me, the benefits are just too fundamental and multi-faceted to be neglected, so I urge myself to make a lifelong commitment towards nurturing concentration through means such as minimizing distractions and doing meditation, as it’s a skill necessary for success.

A wrinkle in my life that I’ve been working on ironing out is the nature of my morning routines, for I, admittedly, tend to lollygag and whatnot too much in the morning, making a bad habit out of “playtime” that takes up too much of the day, resulting in late starts and diluted powers. A few days ago I noticed a rather interesting effect in an undeliberate change I made.

A coworker managed to get me into the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I enjoyed it so strongly that I marathoned my way through the seasons and rapidly finished the series, which is a change from my usual routine of watching some videos on the internet or aimlessly listening to music. After a few days of this I noticed that my mind was notably quieter and still, and that I wasn’t so fidgety in my thoughts, not committing such ADD behavior such as switching from train to train. In a way, I felt mentally stronger.

When I examined my prior, more aimless routine, I see that there’s a certain wisdom to this. Even though it may not be exactly desirable to start the day watching programs -- though, for Avatar’s quality, I publicly forgive myself! -- it’s better for the mind, in moderation, since it’s a more focused and controlled activity. The episodes are always of measurable length and of a focused subject, and require you to keep your mind on it for full enjoyment, rather than allowing it to flit around.

In contrast, my previous practice of watching videos and listening to music is far, far less controlled. The videos are hodge-podge in subject and of varying length, and since there’s no definite purpose in my choice to listen to music it results in a lot of daydreaming and of jumping from song to song, especially in only listening to favorite parts and then moving on.

Thus, the previous practice encourages a flittery mind, diluted cognitive powers, and a whole habituation of being fidgety, which results in me being more stressed and less able to channel my attention and ability.

Avatar, on the other hand, is far more definite in its structure, allowing for very reliably and measurably controlled watching time, and without the bane of commercials it becomes a more focused activity through its demand of attention for full enjoyment. The end result is a less fidgety mind, a greater ability to direct myself, and so on.

I see now that it was a drastic error to let my playtime, so to speak, be so unstructured as it was, which was inducing lots of undesirable effects I haven’t been able to connect to my morning procedure as I have now. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so vulnerable to stress!

The reason why the previous morning routine is so detrimental to concentration is that it encourages a kind of “slot machine” mindset, for the mind urges one to continue engaging in an activity that has an inconsistent and indeterminate payoff, and due to that randomness one stays engaged in it for hope of that elusive payoff. Say you’re looking at funny cat pictures, and the first one makes you smile and laugh, the next two don’t, and the fourth one does. Since there is an inconsistent payoff, it’s easy to get trapped into a vicious cycle of endlessly looking at cat pictures (and any other internet distraction) because the mind finds the payoff worthwhile, and encourages you to keep at it since it “feels” like the reward is just around the corner, no matter how much dissatisfaction is met along the way (no matter how much spent money is not returned by the slot machine).

By aimlessly watching irregular videos and listening to music, I was getting myself trapped in seeking for the undependable payoffs, which affected my whole mind and, in certain ways, my whole personality.

Lesson learned. If I want to contribute well to maximizing my being, I need to start my day off in a structured format, whether it be watching an educational program, reading a comic, engaging immediately in exercise, and so forth, instead of acting on whim as unplanned internet surfing would involve.

The morning is an excellent and pivotal time of day to set the tone, especially in stablizing concentration.

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