The Value of Focus
By Sustainable Strategy Implementation NPC

Although we start our strategy planning masterclasses with the notion of ‘focus’ or concentration, this topic is still largely under-emphasised and ultimately deserves much more ‘focus’ itself. In fact, there are several researchers who have shown that the ability to focus, or pay full attention, may be the very driver of excellence and success.
"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light." - Aristotle Onassis
In our modern digital working world where countless distractions are available at the touch of a button and where competition for our attention is higher than it has ever been, researchers have realised that the ability to focus for longer than 280 characters is a crucial skill that determines one’s optimal performance. This is something we all know. The more we are distracted and let our attention wander, the less effective we are with the task at hand. It is the extent to which distraction affects performance that is rather surprising though. This relationship, the effect of stress on performance, has been studied for decades in psychology and is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law.   

Either Side of the Performance Curve

In terms of the aforementioned law; both too little stress and too much stress have a negative effect on performance. On the one hand you have the disengaged people, bored with their work and disinterested in the outcome. In some companies, uninspired employees have been estimated to constitute a third of the workforce. On the other hand, the more stressed one feels, the more impaired is the brain’s cognitive efficiency. Basically, the invading and distracting thoughts hijack the brains’ attention span and squeeze the cognitive resources. High anxiety shrinks the space available for wholehearted concentration and undermines the capacity to take in new information, let alone generate fresh ideas. To achieve proper focus, we must find a balance along this curve, where stress motivates rather than hinders.

The Zone of Optimal Performance

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say that 5 times fast) at the University of Chicago described the zone of optimal performance as ‘flow’. Flow represents a time of complete self-regulation, when emotions are harnessed perfectly in the service of performance and with an energized pursuit of the task at hand. Deepak Chopra speaks of three steps required in achieving focus; awareness, desire and intention, all brought together to pay attention. Daniel Goleman, a leader in the study of emotional intelligence, tells the story of a brain surgeon that was so concentrated on his work that he failed to notice that the roof of the surgery had collapsed. In truth it hardly requires mention that employees able to focus fully on the task at hand are more productive, give better attention to customers, and are more loyal to the organization. So, what if we do mention it? If we all deliberately focus on achieving focus the possibilities are endless.

Training the Mind

Fundamentally the need for improved focus is not new. Meditation and mindfulness have been very popular for ages, and their efficacy in training the attention muscle of the mind clearly improves concentration and attention span. These ways of building concentration have become even more popular though, as cognitive neuroscientists document the accomplishments of Emotional Intelligence training methods and the keener attentional focus they deliver. The results are organisations that dramatically feel the improved performance of engaged employees.
Any organization will perform at its optimum when the employees are contributing their best skills at full force. Maximising the moments of flow and enhancing the zone of engagement and motivation requires some practice and training but is most definitely worth the effort.  
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The only way communication can spread is if we actively share it. Without the telling of the story, the event itself is lost to history. We sustain life with our words, they carry with them a weight we often fail to realise and yet we continue to undervalue and under-appreciate the capability of communication. Especially in the Non-profit sector is there this reluctance to communicate. Not because we don’t want to share but rather because we don't really understand how to share. What parts of my story do I tell? Do I speak on my motivations or do I talk about goals and impact? The truth is that the Non-profit sector must gain experience at networking. By engaging more often we learn to express ourselves better, telling our stories with more clarity and offering the same understanding to those looking to tell theirs. 

There is undoubtedly a lot of reasons to network but simply to improve communication is probably the most important. Beyond that, we can forge bonds, gain support and offer it in kind to those in similar positions. By getting involved with our community we also demonstrate to ourselves and society that there is change happening, and we are constantly trying to get better. 

Ultimately, let's remember that if we talk now, we can work tomorrow, and start creating lasting impact for the years to come. All it takes is a little perseverance and courage, to get up, be counted and share your story. This is the platform for NGO Assist Trust and their networking breakfast, so please join us and let's start talking!

The NGO Assist Trust

This is an umbrella organisation intent on helping non-profits and social entrepreneurs within the community. Join other like-minded organisation and let's help each other become sustainable!

The Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System is a rather recent discovery, at least as far as its reach and involvement have been concerned. However we are now aware that this system is one of the more major ones within all mammals, not just humans, and as such maintaining it properly provides a good number of benefits. If we think back to science class in school we can probably remember chuckling at the word homeostasis, but its importance cannot be denied. To keep the body and its systems in balance though in this often out of balance world can be difficult. And since the Endocannabinoid System affects most areas of the body, supplementing and maintaining balance of it results in a range of benefits. For instance; metabolism, anxiety levels, cardiovascular function, reproduction, motor control and many more are affected by the Endocannabinoid System, making this one of the more involved systems in our daily lives.

Maintenance and Care

If we are to maintain this Endocannabinoid system then we require the necessary supplements and fortunately, nature has provided us with the ultimate one. Of course, we are talking about the hemp plant here. Now to be crystal clear there are several different forms of the cannabis plant than its. often more well known. recreational form. This distinction is based on the cannabinoids that the plant provides. Roughly based there are over 60 different cannabinoids but the two most often spoken of are THC and CBD. In its simplest explanation, CBD offsets the effects produced by THC which is the cannabinoid associated with the recreational psychoactive effects. Hemp is therefore often defined as having a higher ratio of CBD to THC, with many regulations setting it at a limit of around 0.3% THC content or less to classify as Hemp. This is the most effective way of introducing these nutrient-rich cannabinoids into the system, through Hemp and its various forms. This includes oils, creams, salves and more, each with multiple health benefits because as we’ve now seen, the Endocannabinoid system deals with a lot, so the more support we can give it the easier it will handle all of those responsibilities.
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