What is Focus?

Lyman A. Montgomery July 13, 2017

The essential idea of focus



Have you ever experienced a state of mind where you focus all your energy on a task and everything else fall into the background? Those times when you’re in the zone and time seems to stop? Psychologists call this state flow, and it plays a big role in achieving our goals.

Reaching this state is not that easy. Especially if you keep losing one of its most important components, focus.

But what is focus? There are thousands of books and articles on how you can keep your focus, but these don’t seem to highlight the importance of understanding what it is. Focus is also often interchanged with attention and concentration, but these are actually different concepts. Although it is used in a number of fields, we’ll concentrate on psychological focus.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, focus is defined as the “main or central point of something; especially of attention or interests.” In a psychological sense, this is the force that we need to keep so that we can stay on track and reach our goals. It’s something that we need to develop and work on so we don’t lose our way.

Focus can be divided into two types: unintentional or automatic and intentional or purposeful.

It’s also important to note that our minds process information in both automatic and controlled processes. Automatic processing happens with no effort and intention, while controlled processing happens with intent and requires effort and energy.


Unintentional Focus

Unintentional focus is natural and evolutionary. It deals more with the automatic processes of our mind. This is the type of focus that we use when there’s a loud noise, flash of light, or certain smell that can possibly harm us. It helps us survive by triggering our fight or flight response.

Intentional Focus

Intentional focus, on the other hand, is our ability to direct focus towards something or someone. This can be based on our attraction, comfort, and curiosity. This type of focus is connected to the controlled processing of our mind. You actually have to make an effort in intentional focusing and invest energy in it, which is why people often have problems keeping this type.


As for attention and concentration, attention can be described similar to a spotlight that beams your awareness onto what’s going through your mind and environment. Concentration is the ability to focus attention on your task and not be distracted by internal or external stimuli. Both can be considered as a component of focus.


How about you? How do keep focus? I would like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Let’s start a discussion! Also, grab a copy of my book, Focus-Driven Lifestyle. You may follow on my Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads account. Stay focused!



Hokie Sports. 2017. “Concentration and Attention”. Accessed June 6, 2017.

Psychology Today. 2017. “Attention”.  Accessed June 6, 2017.

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