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Zoom In, Zoom Out: Master the Art of Focus and Defocus

Zoom In, Zoom Out: Master the Art of Focus and Defocus

Don't Put All Your Focus in One Basket: The Power of Focus and Defocus

If you focus on a single point, you may lose the broader perspective. After close look, take a look from a distance. Focus and defocus both are vital for reaching your goal.

For mind, focus of attention usually is on a single object or idea, but most cases sumltaneous awareness of a bigger picture is vital

It is like lighting up a fire by focusing 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 and flame leaps from the pile of paper. But you should be careful not to set your house on fire! This is balancing focus and defocus.

Examples of intertwined focus and defocus are all around us in real life

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. Same with a cricketer facing his next ball. This is focus. But the tennis player has to analyze in an instant where to hit the ball and with how much force to make the opoonent falter. This is broader view of defocus.

A mountain climber chooses his next step very carefully with total focus, but he never loses his awareness of the surrounding dangers: how the wind is blowing? Is there any possibility of a snowstorm? This is simultaneous defocus.

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 (focus). but without knowing how deep the water is, or how fast is the water flowing, it won't get total certainty in catching its prey (defocus).

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 (focus). But she also keeps track of how much time has elapsed and how many questions she has answered till the moment (defocus).

Single point focus: Continuous practice needed

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 often discussed and important problem. Quite different from the usual tips, the surest way to increase concentration is to meditate.

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.

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.

You need to look far and clear (defocus)

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. This is force dispersal in military terms.

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. This is Catheter-directed Thrombolysis.

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

In marketing we take recourse to multi-objective optimization.

The psychology of defocus is a very important actively researched upon area of interest with wide applications.

In fact if we look at life as whole, both principles work together: It is a balancing act of focus and defocus

Reality is a balance 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.