Tag Archives: focus

Screen Time
From the Headmaster—Guest Author Jon Maksik

“Think” – Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Jon Maksik writes:

I sometimes joke that in a few millennia humans will have evolved into stooped beasts able only to look down at whatever glowing device they hold in one hand. But, how naïve; of course, Apple will trump Darwin and implants will preserve our posture. What though of our ability to distinguish between virtual reality and…well, reality? What of our ability to pay attention to one another and to the world around us?

Alarmist hyperbole? Walk into any restaurant, any sporting event, any school, any place at all where people are gathered, and look around. How many people do you see looking at a screen—or two? How often do you see a family of four eating together when each of them is looking at a phone? How often do you see people sitting next to one another, each on a device and never exchanging a word or a look? Exactly.

This is old news by now, so old that we barely remember the quaint days of yore when we scoffed at people bellowing pressing news into their cellphones: “I’m in the vegetable aisle at the market. Where are you?” As we’ve become increasingly inured to the beeping, pinging, quacking, barking, and ringing that intrude on our lives, we veer from grudging acknowledgement of a problem to celebrating the cleverness of the marketing geniuses who sell us so much of what we so rarely need. What we don’t do is address the problem for what it is: an addiction.

More alarmist hyperbole? Ok. How often do you check your email, texts, and social media? How often without justifying it, without thinking that you might better spend your time in other ways? Do you dare to calculate the number of hours in a day, week, or year that you spend on your devices, “connecting” with other people or, more accurately, their avatars? What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last before you go to sleep? Can you cut back? Can you stop? No, you can’t, but, really, so what? How harmful is this so-called addiction?

We’re beginning to find out, to go beyond the anecdotal and actually find out. Two recent studies provide some answers: We risk brain function; we risk our ability to engage with other people; we risk the ability to pay attention to one thing for very long. We risk our cognitive ability; our emotional equilibrium, and we risk depression. We risk altering or destroying relationships with the people we love because we don’t pay attention them. We risk friendships and, yes, we risk that vague notion of “happiness.”

Have a look at some specific findings.

“Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”

“Your Smartphone Reduces Your Brainpower, Even If It’s Just Sitting There”

When I showed these articles to a friend of mine, she asked me how I thought parents might best talk to their children about the problem. I think a better question is how adults and children can talk with each other about it. Two parents wielding cellphones and warning children about the dangers of too much screen time is akin to two parents wielding martinis and warning children about drinking. Besides, it is axiomatic that children have robust powers of observation. Even very young children miss little that occurs in their families; adolescents miss next to nothing. We adults aren’t fooling anyone. If it’s true that young people stand to lose the most from “screen addiction,” it’s also true that adult addiction can have an equally profound impact.

So, how do we talk with our children about all of this? We can save time and avoid the, “When I was your age” trope; and we can skip the Luddite vs. techno-savvy argument because we share the same addiction. Given those time-savers, we might consider discussing what’s important in our lives, what’s wonderful about what we share as families, what’s cool and useful about our devices and what isn’t, about what we gain and what we risk losing. Certainly, we might share some persuasive evidence, like that noted in the articles above, but hold the pontificating. This is one of those times when we are enmeshed in the same fast-moving phenomenon and we are no less vulnerable than our children. That’s an advantage, as it turns out, because it allows us to begin a collaborative conversation

And, perhaps vulnerable is a good word to consider. We are, demonstrably, every bit as vulnerable as our children and it’s good for them to see that vulnerability, to understand that this is not about “responsibility” or taking out the trash. We have no other motive than to help one another to live in the world—the real one, the off-screen world, the world of our friends and loved ones. Those are the people with whom we need to connect.

by Jon Maksik, Ph.D., who served as headmaster of the Community School in Sun Valley, Idaho, from 1987 until his retirement in 2006.

Read Jon Maksik’s “The Truth About Success” and other articles.

“Your memory is too good!” Forgetting or Directing our Focus?

"Collecting Moonbeams" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Live Desire

Sixty Minutes recently did a story on people with “autobiographical memory”—those who can remember almost every day of their lives, such as what they had for lunch on April 7th, 1982. Each memory is as vivid as if the event occurred yesterday. For people with such an extraordinary memory, “The past is never dead, it is not even past.”

~William Faulkner

Avoiding remorse

What struck me most was one woman’s comment that this ability motivated her to live every day of her life in such a way that she could live with her memories—memories presumably about the way she treated people and the choices she made. The fact that very little would be forgotten meant that she wanted to minimize regrets and remorse, which would always stay with her.

Is it true that the person with a clear conscience has a poor memory? I don’t think so. Memory seems to have little to do with how a person treats others. With or without a good memory, a person either has or lacks compassion for others. With or without a good memory, a person can benefit from living every day so as to avoid regret and remorse.

Directing our focus

Diane Sawyers asked these gifted people whether it was hard to have relationships with others, as their relatives found it difficult to ever win an argument about facts with them. They didn’t think so. They did stop arguing over facts though. A lesson for everyone might be to stop arguing over facts and get to the underlying reason for the argument.

How about the rest of us, many of whom can’t remember much more than the highlights and the low points of our lives? Is it a blessing to be able to forget?

It depends. As Joyce Appleby put it, “Our sense of worth, of well-being, even our sanity depends upon our remembering. But, alas, our sense of worth, our well-being, our sanity also depend upon our forgetting.”

Rather than clinging to our memories or trying to forget, we can improve life and relationships by directing our focus. By learning from our past experiences, we can concentrate on the positive within ourselves and others. Whether we remember all the detail of our lives or only the drama, it’s up to us to decide what to focus on.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Always being right: “That’s not what I said.”

Sports Psychology: “I’m terrible at this sport. I can never get it right.”

"Cool Drive" Ernie Els by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

To improve at a sport and be able to enjoy it, you need to stay cool and focused. No matter what your level, you don’t need to dwell on feeling disappointed about your performance. Simply focus on what you need to do to get better. Then you practice, and practice some more.

Swearing, throwing your equipment, and beating yourself up mentally will not inspire you to improve at any sport. Being hard on yourself simply doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind to progress.

Enhancing your game requires constructive analysis, coaching, focus, and practice. Constructive analysis means figuring out what you’re doing right and what your mistakes are without getting emotional.

Maintaining some humility gives a person perspective. But don’t let modesty turn into self-ridicule. Endless negative comments about how inept you are takes away from your focusing on the goals you set and becomes wearisome to others.

It’s difficult to be around people who moan and sigh about how lame they are. The fact is that most people focus more on their own game than how others are doing. However, what does count and get noticed is another person’s attitude. If you’re struggling, there’s no need to showcase your frustration.

The ideal mental and physical attitude for improving your game incorporates both intense focus and relaxed flexibility—which in turn is an good approach for living your life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “The Harsh Inner Critic.”