THE BLOG
01/25/2015 05:34 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2015

Focus Matters: Focus On Your Dreams, Not Your Distractions

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The suns rays do not burn until brought to a focus." -- Alexander Graham Bell

How would you measure up if someone observed you and wrote down what you were doing once every minute? Would they see you scrolling through social media, talking on the phone to your relative about a problem at home, or taking action toward your dreams?

Larry Rosen and his research team from California State University observed college, high school and middle school students as they completed their homework assignments. They recorded, once a minute what the students were doing as they studied. The results are astonishing. The students knew they were being observed and still engaged in some form of distracting technology for 35 percent of the time within just the first 15 minutes. One observer from a research project at Saint John's University was surprised to see a first year law student begin texting within the first 17 minutes of her first class.

In a well-regarded study of 8 to 18 year olds, the Kaiser family foundation found that our youth are engaging in entertaining technological distractions for 7 to ten hours a day, 7 days a week.

With school and work and home life, how is this possible?

The same way that it's possible for you to read this while you are sitting in front of your television, or periodically texting a friend. It's become difficult to track technology use because so many of us use technology while we are doing something else. If you add a personal conflict or problems at home to this distraction, you're in even more danger of losing the way to your dreams.

Research by Russell Podrack, a renowned neuroscientist, demonstrates a damaging bottleneck effect from multi-tasking while learning. Our short-term, or working memory can't handle too many bits of information, and it can only hold information for about 10 seconds. If you overload this short term memory by responding to a text now, rather than waiting until you are done reading this article, you will interrupt the flow of information from your working memory to the long-term memory area of your brain, where copious amounts of data are stored, processed, and made ready for retrieval by your conscious mind.

Unless you are paying concentrated attention as you read this, you won't transfer the information completely from your short-term to your long-term memory. You won't be able to use what you learned without thinking about it and it will be challenging for you to quickly access this content in your memory to make a point, inspire a new habit, or learn something new.

You see, you can talk with a friend or listen to a book while you are driving because the mechanics of driving are deeply embedded in this long-term memory section of your brain. You don't have to think about driving, yet you can quickly bring it back into focus if someone slams on their brakes in front of you.

For this reason and so many others, you must be vigilant about protecting your time, your mind, your energy and your resources. Don't be fooled by the idea that you can afford to waste any of your one and only lifetime.

And remember, what you focus on expands.

We all have the same 24 hours each day. What are you expanding? Where are you directing your energy, your thoughts, your actions and ultimately your life?

Whether you realize it or not, you are choosing your life with your focus.

Ask yourself the big questions.

Who are you? Where are you headed? How will you get there?

Be careful. Be sure. Be you. Focus.

"No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed.
No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined.
No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled.
No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined."
- Henry Emerson Fosdick