An opportunity came up the other night with some of my percussion students to scratch the surface of an important topic: focus and mindfulness. While there were only a few minutes to talk about it, there was a lot more I wanted to say, hence this essay.
This is a book topic unto itself to be sure, certainly within the perspective of building high performing teams/ensembles and also from the standpoint of helping your students realize the absolute maximum of their potential, which the last time I checked, is what teachers are supposed to do. This is true in any endeavor, whether it is academics, sports or the arts.
So what am I getting at? Here it is: Your ability to achieve any goal is a direct function of your ability to focus on achieving the goal. That sounds circular, so let's bring it down to an example.
Let's say you have an academic assignment that should take you 45 minutes to complete. Rather than shutting off your phone, or tablet, or TV and giving 45 minutes of consistent, sustained effort, you let your mind wander. You check your phone. Then you work for five minutes. Then you get a text and you see who it's from. You respond, and that conversation takes you away for 10 minutes. Several other things like this happen in rapid succession, and before you know it, 30 minutes have elapsed and you have not advanced your work at all. A 45 minute task just turned into a 75 minute task. That costs you time and you may be the only person affected by that. Had you applied yourself in the way I'm about to describe below, you could have completed that task in less than 45 minutes, and gained a half hour of time to yourself.
When you are in a competitive team environment, the stakes are a lot higher - because your actions don't just affect you. By allowing your mind to wander, by losing focus on the assignment/performance/task, you are hurting yourself in THREE ways.