They say that “patience is a virtue” and “time is money”. I’d like to suggest that “focus is a virtue and money” combined. Our inability to focus, concentrate and reflect deeply is significantly and negatively impacting productivity. In fact, getting distracted costs businesses billions – $588 billion per year by some estimates!
Does that number catch your attention?
It definitely caught mine. As I was reading the article The King of Concentration by Brian Dumaine, I was reminded of the character strength of self-regulation and its important role in helping us effectively manage our impulses and self-control. What do self-regulation and character strengths have to do with it, you wonder?
In 2004, two psychologists set out to study the character of individuals who experienced meaningful, happy and successful lives. They wanted to focus on the positive traits of humans, not their weaknesses or difficulties. So they looked across global cultures to determine universal and valuable character strengths in humans around the world. The VIA Institute on Character was born.
By definition, character strengths are the psychological ingredients for displaying human goodness; they serve as pathways for developing a life of greater virtue. While personality is the summary of our entire psychological makeup, character strengths are the positive components – what’s best in you. The 24 VIA Character Strengths are universal across all aspects of life: work, school, family, friends, and community. The 24 strengths fall under six broad virtues (wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence) and encompass our capacities for helping ourselves and others. Whereas most personality assessments focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on what’s best about you, those traits at the center of the science of well-being.
It’s intriguing that the top three character strengths of Americans, as a whole, are kindness, fairness and gratitude. Our lowest (or least focused on) are prudence, modesty and self-regulation. This isn’t surprising, given our distractibility and challenges maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The encouraging news is that, with focus, we can improve our strengths (or less strong character aspects). Mindfulness, also called attention training in corporate America, can help us decrease impulsivity and focus more deeply for longer. Improving our ability to stay focused will help reduce errors and increase productivity. Worthwhile outcomes, wouldn’t you say?
Making sure I’m intentional, starting the day slowly and breathing deeply helps me tune into what’s important. I used to apologize to those on Facebook who were sending me messages that I kept missing. Yet I continue to fight the distraction of Facebook, instead focusing on my priorities and issuing fewer apologies.
What helps you focus more deeply? What distracts you? Share your wisdom and challenges and I will continue to address them in my writing to you.