Alternating between direct & peripheral focus
is the ebb & flow of a productive and present life.
Life is a Series of Snapshots
In the past couple weeks my reading has doubled with no extra time spent thanks these speed reading techniques. In doing so, I’ve noticed other areas that the same principles can be applied. Specifically, the technique of widening my peripheral vision to capture more data in a shorter amount of time. For example, scanning which unfamiliar street to take, deciding which Thai hawker food cart to eat from, scanning a menu and assessing someone’s body language. The techniques to apply this one principle alone are endless and what I’ve noticed is focusing on what’s happening in my peripherals allows me to be more aware of my present surroundings.
I was practicing this while walking to my departure gate at the airport. As I widened my vision, I began to notice the moments happening all around me. People frustrated with a delayed flight, a concierge with a bloody nose, a joyous reunion of a separated family, a woman’s scarf that fell out of her bag. She was at my 2 o’clock and I no doubt would have missed the opportunity to save her favorite scarf had I been inside my own head or if my vision was limited to only the immediate direction was I looking in.
Try it out! Right now. You can even do this while reading this and I’m currently doing it while typing this. Notice the movements of life beyond your screen? Like anything, it can become second nature as you switch between narrow focus to peripheral focus depending what you’re doing. By applying this eye-widening technique when your direct attention isn’t needed, you can absorb more of what’s currently happening. Ya know, that thing we could all participate more in, real life.
Focusing on Finding a Balance
What I’ve found works well is to use narrow vision when my focused attention is deserved:
- Having a conversation
- Learning a new skill
- Jumping from one roof to another
- Tossing a baby
Then switch to peripheral vision when doing things that are second hand:
- Walking to my car
- Brushing my teeth
- Getting from one side of the crowd to the other
- Taking in new environments
Experiment with it. Find the pros and cons for yourself and learn to naturally widen or narrow your focus depending on the environment and situation.
Peripheral Vision = Present Vision
From my experience, what’s happening in my peripheral vision can be far more important than wherever my immediate focus is on. This can lead to opportunities that would go otherwise unnoticed.
I like how Lao Tzu said it:
If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
A cure to depression or anxiety could be as simple as opening one’s peripherals to be more aware of what’s happening right now.
This Just Happened
As I was writing the sentence above, this girl next to me was slowly sneaking the pillow off the seat in-between us. I could feel her looking to see if I was using it or if I cared. I waited for the opportune moment, then snapped around, snatch the pillow back, and after a couple seconds of awkward staring we both busted out laughing. Had I been “zoned in” mode, that would have been two laughs the world would have never heard. Actually, she’s kinda cute … see ya.