In the film, The Mask of Zorro with Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, a young, wayward man, Alejandro Mullieta, full of revenge for his brother's death is taken to train by Don Diego de la Vega (the original Zorro). His training involves bowing to discipline and, most interestingly, to learn to fight within a circle. Nothing outside the circle exists, "unless I say it does," says Don Diego.
The circle is an excellent metaphor for focus. Everything outside the focal point becomes irrelevant and should be disregarded.
When we do not focus, we are tempted into doing many things at once - and we do them all poorly. (There is no such thing as effective multi-tasking - unless, one of the tasks is menial and does not require attention - e.g., ironing or cleaning: then we could be listening to an audio book!)
When we try to read book with the tv on, when we try to do our budget while having a conversation, while we try to play with our children while our attention is diverted by inner thoughts ... we half list, half read, half study, half pay attention. Or worse.
Instead, in everything we do, we need to be as focused as the young Alejandro must be. At first it is frustrating, the constraints make us angry - especially if we are creative and love having a go at everything (as I must admit I do!). But the circle conditions us to remain on task, to put our energies into what we're doing.
Slowly but surely, our abilities in that area increase; our expertise is enhanced and we are able to get the work done quicker, leaving us free to do more things.
Watch the clip here.
Currently, I am learning to trade forex and stock markets. I've thrown myself into the circle to calm down: for the past three months, I've been like a kid in a toy shop - there's so many markets to trade, so many movements and strategies...what to play with, what to play with?!
Trading gets rid of many demons in the head: so many emotions emerge when putting money down on the market and the direction it consequently takes - joy and despair mixed with frustration and exhilaration. But much of my trading has been like the young Alejandro - taking on too much without any focus. In the clip, Don Diego asks him what the sword is for - Alejandro replies, "for sticking it in the other men." "Oh dear, this will take time," replies the old Zorro. Similarly, with trading - what's the button for? For taking a trade. Oh dear, this will take time, I can hear my mentors...
And this is very much like life and any learning we do.
When we concentrate on that which needs our priority, our foremost attention - we do better.
And often, we enjoy it ... because our brains are wired to learn. We are a curious species - and when we focus that curiosity, we can change the world!
(Or at least our understanding of it!)