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Problem solving Principle of focus and Principle of defocus

Focus is everything, or is it?

Principle of focus and defocus

If you look at a thing with great concentration, you may lose the surrounding broader perspective. After a focused look, take another look from a distance.

A few years back I went to my friend’s house to learn photography. I never knew before that he was such a hardcore teacher. After three or four minutes when my attention veered away, he flatly scolded me, “Atanu pay attention, focus. Unless you focus how would you learn?”

It left indelible impression in my mind. Never before I was directly scolded by any teacher. Yes, I fully agreed with my friend, unless you focus your whole attention on the problem at hand, how can you know fully about it? And then how would you solve it?

Otherwise, it is also generally agreed that the first and most important thing in photography is sharp focus on the object of choice in the shot.

For mind focus of attention usually is on a single object or idea

It is like lighting up a fire by coaxing the otherwise harmless rays of sun to converge through an ordinary convex lens to a single point in a small pile of paper. The energy of each ray adds up with other rays and falls together on a single chosen point. The heat builds up, temperature rises and when it reaches 4510 Fahrenheit, the happy bunch of sunrays silently gives a shout. The first flare of fire has appeared, alive and ready to consume all that it can.

Examples are all around us

When hitting a tennis ball, a great player gives his whole attention to the act of hitting the ball fulfilling the single objective of winning this point in the process.

A mountain climber chooses his next step down very carefully with total focus. Coming down a rocky path is harder not only on the knees but also from cognitive point of view. You need focused attention.

A kingfisher sits on a broken stump of a dead tree jutting out of the water in the river bank watching intently into the water. Its eyes are on the fishes moving below and its mind continuously searching for the right moment when it will leave its perch in a flash going down into the water, its beaks reaching for its elusive prey.

In the exam hall, a student sits inside a bubble shutting out everything around her, fully focused on the questions, and how best way to answer each.

I consider the most powerful example of this type of focus as Arjuna in Mahabharata looking at the reflection of the fish in the water below and finally releasing his arrow unseeing to find the eye of the fish hanging high above his head unerringly and changing the course of destiny in the process.

These are short duration or single point focus

Occasionally we confront with such situations where we have to focus all our mental energies to the single critical point.

A crucial fact is – unless you make yourself ready with long disciplined exercise and practice, chances are high that you won’t be able to focus when the important point in your life demands it.

Though ability of intense concentration is important for everyone, it is an absolutely essential element in the life of students. How to increase concentration for studies is thus an oft discussed and important problem.

How to Improve Concentration in Studies with Meditation .....

Poor concentration is a common complaint by parents and teachers alike, and our all- time enemy. And the worst is, it evades us when we need it the most – studying at night for an important exam the following day, for instance. Well, now there’s a sure shot solution to this problem: a simple technique called meditation.

Several research studies have shown that regular practice of meditation can help increase attention and sustain it, even during boring tasks. To quote one such research, a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that even a few minutes of daily meditation can help improve focus and performance.....


All high level tennis players go through long rigorous and guided practice sessions, the kingfisher from its babyhood is on the job of catching fish optimally and Arjuna had of course gone through special guided practice sessions of great intensity to be able to finally hit the crucial target.

Principle of focus

It is known by everyone, but such things that are known by everyone, needed by everyone and are of crucial importance need to be formally stated and studied. When we take this stance of formalism, we always take care to define it in abstract terms so that it can be applied in as wide areas of thought and activity as possible.

It says,

Organize the disorganized elements around and direct them towards meeting a single objective.

If it is people, organize them towards a single objective, be it in an army or an organization.

Instead if it is your mind, gather together all the active neuron bunches in your brain that are busy with all kinds of thoughts and activities and direct them towards the all important objective now.

Mind has enormous power if focused.

We are not discussing here how to focus though, we are only critically looking at what is focus, where all it is needed and why.

But total focus on a single point, object or idea may sometimes be devastating or undesirable

Again in this opposing case, there are examples all around.

If you are too intent in cracking IIT entrance exam and didn’t get through you might feel devastated.

If you are in love and your whole being (whatever it is) is focused on a single person of opposite sex, when the fall comes, you feel not only crushed, you may continually think of only one thing, is it really over? Won’t I see her again?

In photography usually we want our object of interest to be in sharp focus. Nevertheless in landscape photography, we are greatly impressed when in a nature photo, all objects near and far are seen in their crystal clarity. That is high depth of focus or in more technically appropriate term, depth of field.

Depth of field

In optics, particularly as it relates to film and photography, depth of field (DOF), also called focus range or effective focus range, is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance at a time, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance, so that within the DOF, the unsharpness is imperceptible under normal viewing conditions.

In some cases, it may be desirable to have the entire image sharp, and a large DOF is appropriate...


You need to look far and clear

For a camera, it is relatively easy, for our minds it is not.

To be very crude and forthright about such examples, we might ultimately take recourse to the absolute cliché,

Don’t put all eggs into one basket.

Thus arises the need of the complementary principle of defocus.

Principle of defocus

When you have been past the focus point, look at the bigger picture – analyze life and times as a whole and decide on the next course of action with facts and reasons behind your deduction.

When you suffer a setback from intense focus on a single objective, immediate defocusing works wonders towards revival and regrouping active elements, either in your mind or in your army.

Sometimes chaos and disorganization is positively helpful – the enemy or opposing forces face that many different targets to hit rather than only one focused group.

Force dispersal

Force dispersal is the practice of spreading out soldiers and vehicles in an army. It is used to minimize the effects of collateral damage, such as from bombs and artillery, and increases the number of artillery rounds needed to neutralize or destroy a military force in proportion to the dispersal of the force. If a division doubles the area it takes up, it will double the number of artillery rounds needed to do the same damage to it. As more targets are spread out, more artillery and bombs are required to hit them all...


In abstract terms Principle of defocus says,

Disengage, decongest and distribute active elements over a wide desired spread.

On the subject of love, great minds have advised from time immemorial,

Love humanity.

We like such good sayings but when reality brings us down, sometimes we may need to use this great wisdom based on Principle of defocus for our assured recovery.

In medical life principle of defocus is desperately applied to clear our highly congested lungs or break down a blood clot in an important blood vessel in patient’s body.

What is Catheter-directed Thrombolysis?

Catheter-directed thrombolysis is a minimally invasive treatment that dissolves abnormal blood clots in blood vessels to help improve blood flow and prevent damage to tissues and organs.

When blood does not flow smoothly through a vessel, it can begin to coagulate, turning from a free-flowing liquid to a semi-solid gel, or blood clots. A blood clot, or thrombus, that forms within a blood vessel may continue to grow, blocking off the blood supply to certain parts of the body and causing damage to tissues and organs. In some patients, blood clots come from one site, dislodge, travel downstream, and lodge in relatively small vessels causing a blockage, or embolization. Untreated, a vascular blockage due to thrombosis or embolization, can result in the loss of an organ or extremity, with potentially life-threatening consequences.

In a catheter-directed thrombolysis procedure, x-ray imaging is used to help guide a special medication or medical device to the site of blood clots to dissolve the blockage.


To hit a bird we try our luck by spraying shots into a flock of geese flying peacefully in the clear sky.

In marketing we take recourse to multi-objective optimization, or in publicity campaign for a product resort to costly print ad that is a kind of minimal effect broadcast activity.

In fact if we look at life as whole, both principles work together

Reality is a mix of focus and defocus.

You make long term plans, with back up or alternative possibilities built in. You never are sure whether you would be able to achieve a single focus objective. What actions would you take if you fail in your endeavor?

After all, life is never a single objective span of time. It is a mix of flexible long term objectives and a series of intense single focus targets that are expected to lead you along an overall enjoyable path towards a final destination.


Note: Observe the wide variety of subject and activity areas that are covered by the two abstract principles. The more abstract a problem solving principle is, wider will be the area of activity or thought it would span.

In its abstract form, a problem solving principle will not specify how focus (in this case) will be concentrated. It will only say that focus of all the useful elements must be concentrated on a single point.

This emphasis on focus will drive a problem solver in education domain (for example) to find ways to increase concentration of a student (in this case). If there is a way, it has to be followed at the next step towards continuous analysis and betterment.