“Focus is the quintessential component
of superior performance in every activity,
no matter what the level of skill or the age of the performer.”
Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Focus-power is special. It is magical. And when you have it, you have that which gives you “genius” or mastery or joy. Focus power is being able to stay focused on what you’re doing when you’re doing it. That sounds simple enough, does it? So focus must be a simple matter, right? We wish it were.
This is an article about focus power that describes how it relates to the heart of Meta-States, Accessing Personal Genius.
Do you want to know why we run “accessing personal genius” as we introduce Meta-States?
Would you be interested in knowing why we consider “genius” a matter of focus?
Would you be interested in developing more focus and concentration power in your own life?
When the Lack of Focus is the Problem
Everywhere I go, I hear people complaining about the lack of focus. More than anything else, I hear that the lack of focus is one of the key problems that most people have. Working with highly motivated people, business people, men and women of immense creativity, what I hear as often as anything is, “I’m so distracted with so many things on my plate!” “If only I could stay more focused.”
I also am asked over and over again about my own focus. Well, I’m not asked about that as directly as I am about efficiency and getting a lot done. “Don’t you ever sleep?” “Do you do anything other than write?” “How are you able to get so much done when you are traveling, training, and meeting people? The secret is focus power.
Focus power is the ability to be all there. That’s the essence of the problem, isn’t it? We’re not all there! Part of us is still back at home. Part is off in our future taking a trip, solving a problem, working on another project, taking a holiday, etc. Yet when we focus, when we are able to totally and completely to focus on what we’re engaged in, then we are able to actually and fully show up. This is good. It’s good to show up for whatever you do. To be present. To be in sensory awareness. The power of showing up is that we are present with all of our mental-and-emotional resources available. This makes a tremendous difference in our experience, our learning, our performance, and our effectiveness. This is focus power, showing up and being present with intention, decision, and energy—what we mean by “personal genius.”
With focus power we are in that state that world-class athletes call “the zone” and what psychological researcher, Csikszentmihayli calls “flow.” Ah, yes, the flow state! And when we are in that state, we can ease through tasks and challenges that we would otherwise find difficult or impossible. Now how would you like to have that state at any time you choose? Suppose you could just “access” that state, turn it on and go for it? That’s what “personal genius” means in Neuro-Semantics.
When we’re in the flow state, interruptions are nothing. They still come as they always will, but we are in charge of ourselves when they do. We have a higher level meta-states that enable us to respond to those that we commissioned as important and to not easily dismiss the others. Then we won’t notice those that are unimportant and those that are, we simply step out, take care of them and then return … return fully and completely to the engagement state of focus with no loss. That’s effectively handling interruptions! With focus power we will experience more productivity, creativity, and personal vitality. What a way to live, wouldn’t you say?
We all know that we do our best when we are focused. Isn’t that true for you? Whether you are writing a report, doing customer service, playing a game, marketing a new product, watching a movie, or reading a book—don’t you perform best when you are focused? Don’t you enjoy the experience more? Don’t you remember things more thoroughly? No wonder Gallwey says, “Focus is the quintessential component of superior performance in every activity.” Focus improves the quality of our mind, learning, enjoyment, and so much more.
Say Goodbye to “Attention Deficit”
Today it seems that everybody has attention deficit. Many, of course, use it as an excuse. Others have been mis-diagnosed. Yet anyone passionate about living life fully probably has too many things on his or her plate. As a result, some of the signs or symptoms of ADD (attention deficit disorder) show up:
- Difficulty staying focused.
- Ideas, feelings, demands constantly interrupting.
- Distracted with 127 things on your “To Do” list.
- Feeling the stress and pressure of too many demands.
- Low motivation, fatigue, and even depression from the over-load.
- Wondering if what you are doing is even worth it?
- Doing more things and more activities with less enjoyment.
So we ask, Is that any way to live? I don’t think so. Would you call that “living” in the first place? Is that how you want to spend your life? I don’t. Wouldn’t it be far better to learn the skills of focus power and live more intentionally? That’s precisely why we have developed the Meta-States training, Accessing Personal Genius.
Focus: The Pathway to Mastery
Actually, focus is the secret of everyone who has mastered an area or skill. To live more powerfully and purposefully—we have to rise up to our highest intentions to create the kind of meanings that will revitalize and excite. So, are you ready to jump up to a new level of experience and performance?
In the pathway to mastery, there is a formula for creating focus power. What is it? We take the prerequisites for mastery or “genius,” mix them together in a three-day training, excite you about the possibility of taking an intentional stance in life that defeats all ADD, and give you the keys for running the higher levels of your mind. That’s what Accessing Personal Genius Training is all about.
Accessing Personal Genius is a training being taught world-wide to empower people not only to “run their own brain” but also to take charge of the Matrix of their mind—of all of the frames and attitudes they carry with them. In three days, you will learn to manage your states, power-up for new vitality and creativity, take an intentional stance for aligning your everyday attentions, feel more alive and congruent as you step into your energy bubble for that laser-beam focus power.
Why is this important?
Focus power is important if we want to experience a higher level of self-mastery over our own passions, visions, and values so that we can get ourselves to do what we know and want to do. That’s true mastery. And as you close your own personal Knowing-Doing Gap, you’ll become more focused, resilient, energetic, passionate, optimistic and present in your work, relationships, health, fitness, and vitality. You will be easier to live with, productive and successful, you’ll experience richer relationships, and make more money.
So much of what we have been focusing on in Neuro-Semantics in recent years is summarized in focus power. That’s because without the power to focus your attention and concentrate on what you’re doing— you’ll be distracted, torn, inwardly conflicted, and ineffective. Without a strong and intense laser-beam focus of attention, you will either get bored and unmotivated or stressed out and over-loaded with too many commitments. Either way you will miss mastery.
Without focus, decisions will be difficult. Engagement in an experience will be challenging because you will be somewhere else. Focus power gives you the edge. It accelerates your learning because when you are all there, you are fully engaged and then memory and comprehension is improved. Focus power enables you to put yourself into your activities, relationships, and engagements … to truly be “in-ter-ested” —inside the essence of something (“est” to exist, “in” inside of).
With focus power we have the ability to translate what we know to what we’re engaged in and so close the knowing-doing gap. This makes us more congruent and aligned. It chases away the old dragons that otherwise lurk in the back of the mind.
The Day of the Radio Interview
“So Michael, what’s this ‘personal genius’ stuff really all about?”
That’s exactly what Jim said. I was in his studio at a local radio station promoting both the Writing Mastery and the Wealth Mastery workshops. Jim had interviewed me the previous year when we brought Accessing Personal Genius to Colorado as part of our Neuro-Semantic trainings. So on this day I again mentioned that we would run “the genius pattern” so that aspiring writers could step into their “writing genius state” and never again suffer from writer’s block.
“‘Personal genius?’ So what is this ‘personal genius’ stuff you keep talking about? What is it really all about?”
“It’s about focus. It’s about the power to focus your mind and emotions on a single thing so that you are all there. Does that make sense? Don’t you often find yourself distracted with thoughts in the back of your mind or interrupted by other people and then blocked or sabotaged from doing what you know how to do best?”
There I said it. I didn’t mean to say it. I had not planned to say it. But that’s the way live radio and live workshops are—sometimes the nuggets, the jewels, the diamonds, the hot buttered biscuits come and you get to the essence of a thing. That’s what happened in that interview. Accessing Personal Genius is about stepping into your “genius state of laser-beam focus” and being all there with all of your mental and emotional resources available and then you are in that flow zone! Hmmmmmm. And Bob says, “Look, I think Mikie likes it!”
“Yes, I know what you mean, Dr. Hall. Anyone in radio knows that experience all too well! But what is this Genius state’ and how do you get into it? Don’t you just have to wait until the flow experience comes?”
“Ahh, time to explode the first myth of the morning. We don’t have to wait around for the genius state of focus—it’s our state. We created it. We created it inside of our mind-body system and we can learn to turn it on and off at will. That’s what the training is all about.”
“Really? You’re not over-selling this, are you? How can you just turn it on and off?”
“Watch the Olympic athletes turn it on and off, the gymnasts, the divers, the sprinters. Watch them take their stand, access the state and then explode!”
“Are you saying we all can be Olympic athletes? That we can be or do anything we want to be or do? Does it go that far?”
“Perhaps, who knows. My focus is on the focus state itself—on running our own brains so that we can get the best attitude, mood, and performance out of ourselves. Wouldn’t that in itself be enough to make your day, Jim? What if you could simply step into a highly focused state when you are here in the studio or when you are creating a new show or when you are with a loved one… wouldn’t that make your life a little bit more wonderful?”
“Yes it would. That really would. … And you will teach how to do this in the training?”
“And what about you? Are you able to step into … what did you call it, ‘the genius writing state?”
“Yes, people often ask how I can write so prolifically, create so many new patterns, come up with new models … and I can only say that since running the ‘genius pattern’ on myself in 1996, I have not had writers block but can step into my genius focus state of mind and let the world, time, and self all just go away.”
The Genius State as your Power Bubble
While I’ve been talking about imaging a state as a bubble for a decade—that’s when I started drawing states as bubbles, Andrew Sercombe, an NLP coach in the UK drew my attention to “Power Bubbles” after a training. He’s been working on a book by that title. Years ago I suggested that we take the NLP “circle” of excellence and let the circle become a Sphere … a full body sphere to step into as an energy field. From there we can fill up that sphere or bubble and imagine moving in and out of it like the Star Gate experience. In the Movie and TV series, Star Gate, moving into the Star Gate takes one into a different world, a different dimension.
We can do the same with our “genius states”— we can step into them and out of them leaving them intact as a “space” or “place” of mind-body-emotion. John Grinder calls this making “an impeccable state shift.” We added the visuals and meta-stated layer upon layer until the executive part of our mind commissions this and fully aligns it with all of our other values, criteria, relationships, and concerns. That’s the heart of accessing our “personal genius state.”
And inside, ahhh, here’s the magic— inside that Bubble of Focus, all of our intentionality, resources, and skills have a chance to “get in there and kick.” And why not? You are all there. And now you know why we call this, focus power. Want some?
As we move into the twentieth-first century, to be successful in our everyday lives at work in our careers, in making money to become financially stable and independent, in our relationships with our loved one and our friends and associates, in our health and fitness, etc. we need the focus power to show up for life, and to be present with all of our resources. And to do that we need to find or create a big enough reason and a meaning that’s exciting enough. Then we can wake up in that frame of mind every day for the rest of our lives! Isn’t that the way you would like to do life? That’s what you’ll experience in Accessing Personal Genius.
Where There’s no Focus Power —There’s Distraction
Compare focus to distraction. What happens every time we lose focus? We are not all there! Sometimes this can be funny when our absent mindedness makes us walk, talk, and act like a slap-stick comedian. Sometimes it is tragic as when we lose focus driving and then lose control of the car. When we lose focus, we make more mistakes in our performance, understanding, and learning.
Attending to whatever we are engaged in is one of the essential variables that make a critical difference in almost everything. Attention is critical for learning, comprehension, and creativity. It’s critical for being productive and efficient.
- So what’s the problem?
- What causes the loss of attention, the lack of focus, the distractedness of mind that prevents us from honing in on a subject and staying with it?
There are several things that can trigger the loss of focus. Recognizing them is the first step in addressing them.
1) We lose focus when we are distracted.
Even when our focus is very intense and riveted to something, other things can still enter into our awareness and “grab our attention.” This is good. It is really a survival mechanism that prevents life and death emergency situations from occurring without us responding. Of course, the problem becomes when we let every little noise, movement, and image to enter into our engagement as if it were an emergency. This explains why the more we have on our mind, the less we’re able to focus. Focus takes a quiet and calm mind. The more turbulent and distressed the mind, the less the focus.
2) We easily lose focus when our interest/ desire is weak.
What drives focus? Interest, desire, and a sense of choice. The more we choose what to attend, the greater our focus. We are more apt to “pay attention” if it is an attention we choose. And if we are interested in the object of our attention, the better. The more we “put ourselves into something” the stronger grows our focus. So with desire, desire powerfully drives focus. We find it easy to focus and stay focus when we’re doing something that we have chosen to do.
Focus results when we align our truest desires and highest intentions with our actions. When we do this, focus is easy. It spontaneously occurs.
3) We lose focus when we are stressed or caught up in negative emotions.
We focus best when we’re calm, relaxed, or moderately excited. Perhaps this is the smooth easiness of focus. When the emotional intensity becomes stronger, focus becomes harder to maintain. And when we experience strong negative emotions, stress, frustration, anger, fear, focus becomes almost impossible to maintain except for moments. With the more on our mind, the more easily we are distracted (the first factor in the loss of focus). .
4) We lose focus when we’re not in a physically resourceful or balanced state.
Just as focus evaporates with negative emotions, it evaporates with ill-health, fatigue, disease, and anything else that puts the body into an unresourceful state. When the body is not at ease, comfortable, and vigorously alive, it distracts and interrupts us from our focus. Pains and problems intrude to grab our attention.
5) We lose focus through conflicting motivations and intentions.
Just as having too many things on our mind can weaken focus, so can having different motivations and intentions. We feel inwardly torn between this motivation and against that agenda when this happens. Focus shifts from this agenda then to that one.
Focus Power Checklist:
|Loss of Focus||Strong Focus|
|Lots of Distractions||Few or no Distractions|
|Low Interest||High Interest|
|Low Desire/ Passion||High Desire/ Passion|
|Lots of Stresses||Relaxed, Calm|
|Lots of Negative Emotions||Low to no negative emotions|
|Ill-health, physically out-of-sorts||Physically feeling good|
|Conflicting motivations||Single Aligned intention|
The Magic of Focus Power
When we are fully engaged with something so that our focus of attention is strong, riveting, and sustained, it feels good and is magical. We experience an economy of effort. Every thought, emotion, and action seems smooth and elegant. Our actions flow as if in an effortless fashion. We’re “in the one.” We are in flow.
Casting a Spell for Focus-Power
What is the spell that needs to be cast upon us so that we enter into the magical state of focus power? What are the component elements that make up this empowering state? In Neuro-Semantics we call this laser-beam focus state a genius state. That’s because being all there with our resources and showing up so that we are fully present enables us to act with more congruence, alignment, and engagement.
1) Sensory Awareness in the moment.
Being in sensory awareness means being fully present with our mind and body. It means seeing and seeing, hearing and hearing, feeling and feeling. While that may sound easy, it is not. While any child can do that, most adults cannot. Most adults have lost that ability or only retain it minimally. Why? Because we can so easily move up the levels of the mind and get lost in the ozone of abstractions. When that happens, our mind gets in the way—our concepts, beliefs, understandings, etc. When this happens, we can no longer see the world innocently. We see th world as colored by our concepts and beliefs. The solution is to “lose our mind and come back to our senses.”
Via sensory awareness, we are able to see and hear and feel afresh. We are able to just be aware and observe what is. This is a rare gift.
2) Running our own brain.
It’s hard if not impossible to focus if you are not in charge of running your own brain. Do you have that option opened to you? Is that a choice you can choose? Of course, to run your own brain, you have to know how to run it. To move to the place where we truly have choice in our live we have to have the ability. Without the power to choose, there is no choice. And choice means that we have multiple options. To only have one option is to have no choice. When we have two options, we have a dilemma, this or that. It is only through having a multiple choice list of options that we have choice.
3) Clarity of what we value as important.
Focus also emerges from clarity of priorities. If we do not have a clear vision of what’s important or choice of our priorities, we will not have a focus of attention. What’s important to us? Why is that important? What do we get from that? What do we understand about that? Focus weakens at the rate and degree that our clarity of purpose becomes less and less clear, more confused and ambiguous.
4) Trust of ourselves and the focusing experience.
The spell for focus must include self-trust. It is self-doubt that distracts. It is self-fear, self-contempt, self-worry. For us to focus on one thing and give our full attention to it, we need to believe in ourselves, and trust our ability to learn, decide, and choose. Anything less weakens focus. When we release ourselves to that which we’re engaged in and let go to the experience of focused engagement—we experience the flow state of top athletes in the zone. Then the magic happens.
5) Resilience in returning to focus.
In focusing our aim is not to create an focus and never lose it. Focus ebbs and flows as the stream of our consciousness moves and flows. Our aim is to more quickly return to our engagement when we lose focus. Losing focus is just part of the way “mind” works, returning to focus means we’re able to catch ourselves and re-evoke the focused state.
6) Challenged to sally out from one’s safety zone.
Czikszentmihalyi postulated that the flow state operates between the extremes of challenge and safety. With too much safety we feel bored; with too much challenge and we are overwhelmed and so feel anxiety. When we have a balance so that we have enough challenge to our skills to be drawn and attracted we move into “the flow channel” that’s just right for optimal engagement and learning. This keeps the excitement up without threatening the basic security.
Focus fades with the negative emotions of anxiety, insecurity, and demandingness as it does with boredom. In boredom, our focus weakens until we fall asleep, alertness fades.
7) Practicing the skill of focusing.
Focus is a skill and, as such, is learnable. The nice thing about learning how to “pay” attention is that as we learn to focus and then come back to our focus and to ignore distractions and let follow our interest, we become more skilled at it. Doing so necessitates becoming meta-aware of our focus so that we notice where our attention goes, what grabs it, how strongly it is grabbed, and what we can do to keep returning to our focus. What are the key variables in your awareness that supports a more intense focus? When thought balls pop into the court of your consciousness, just notice them and decide—decide what you most want.
8) A energetic sense of decisiveness.
It takes a decision to focus our attention on an event, person, or idea. And it takes a decisive state of clarity about intention, understanding, and purpose to say Yes to our attention and No to everything that would interfere, interrupt, or distract from that intention. Decisiveness is the state that drives focus. Indecision weakens focus and nurtures inattention and distractive attention.
In practicing focus, most physical acts (i.e., exercise, gardening, hobbies) because they are willed give us a way to develop our intentional capacity. William James suggested the practice of “the useless exercise” for those who want to strengthen their will power.
“Keep alive in yourself the faculty of making efforts by little useless exercises every day. Be systematically heroic every day in little unnecessary things; do something every day for no other reason than its difficulty; so that, when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test. … The man who has daily inured himself to habits of concentration, attention, energetic volition and self denial in unnecessary things will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him and his softer fellow mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.” (From Personality and Personal Growth, James Fadiman)
So What are the Secrets for Focus Power?
It was in my research on resilience that I first happened upon many of the key secrets of focus power. It was really an accident. I was looking not to understand focus, attention, or concentration, but how to model the state-upon-state structure of resilience. That led to the discovery of Meta-States. This model describes the levels of the mind which explains why and how we never just think. No. We think (and feel) about our thoughts and emotions. This reflexiveness of the mind creates our frames of mind and layers of frames—the matrix of our frames.
Accessing Personal Genius is a three-day training that enables participants to mix 12 essential factors or prerequisites of “mastery” to create the emergent experience of focus power. This describes the genius-like state that every top-performer experiences from Olympic athletes to world-class leaders and speakers, to inventors, to successful entrepreneurs, and even lovers. With focus power you will be able to do so much because you will be all there, in your best states, in the zone, in “flow.” This is the state that makes attention deficit problems, stress, feeling defeated, blocked, etc. redundant.
My invitation to you is to check you the Accessing Your Personal Genius training. It is now being taught around the world by many Neuro-Semantic Trainers … it is your introduction to Meta-States … and it is your introduction to a world of focus power.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. invented Meta-States to give structure to self-reflexive consciousness in 1994 and so launched the Meta-States Model, Neuro-Semantics, and more recently the Matrix Model. See for much more about this … and for a calendar of upcoming trainings … and for Neuro-Semantic Trainers around the world.