Character Chats

Focusing in Different Places

How can we focus in different places?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and I have two master’s degrees in education. We’ve developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest student, who is four years old, and our oldest student who’s 84.

This month we are talking about being focused. We started the month off defining what focus was, being able to pay attention and concentrate on the world around us. And then last week we talked about what we should do if we became distracted, how can we still be focused when we’re distracted?

And today that leads into being focused in different places like at home, at school, here at the karate studio, at a grocery store, or at a restaurant. How do we stay focused in different places? It goes back to what we talked about at the beginning of the lesson about focus, having our eyes focused, our ears focused, our mind focused, and our body focused.

Good Focus Habits

So staying focused at a restaurant would be having your eyes focused on what you’re doing right in front of you, who you’re talking to, who’s at your table, who are you sharing information with. That way when it comes to being at the grocery store, pushing the cart, wandering around, your body has to be focused so that you don’t bump into something or bump into another person, that kind of thing. So that goes to your body and your mind being focused, as well as your eyes and your ears.

But let’s say we’re at school and we have a list of things that we have to take care of. Well, how can we stay focused that way? What skills can we put in place? For some of us, it might be making a list. And as we get through our math assignment and then our reading assignment and then our writing assignment, we get to cross off those things. That helps us stay focused, knowing that we’re getting closer and closer to having the tasks completed.

The same thing goes with a list of stuff to do at home. Just this past weekend, my list was watering the plants and doing the laundry and taking care of the dogs, taking them for a walk. Those kinds of things can hit the list and you’re like, “Okay, I’m taking care of all of these things. These are things I don’t want to forget. These are priorities to me.” So when you make a list, that can help you stay focused.

Another thing that you can do to help yourself in different situations is to set a timer. “I’m going to work diligently. I’m going to work efficiently. I’m going to fully and completely concentrate for the next 15 minutes, and then I’m going to have a snack, drink some water, walk around.” Something like that can help you improve your focus because you’ve blocked out this time to really work on this activity or this task that you need to do.

And then maybe you incorporate other focus techniques. I’ve had students in the past that have had difficulty focusing on a test, and one of the skills that I’ve given them is to stand up next to their desk and do some jumping jacks. For whatever reason it helps to get those endorphins going. It helps to get the wiggles out. It helps them be able to concentrate because now they don’t feel like they need to move because they got the excess energy out. So maybe you use both. Maybe you set a timer, work really hard, diligent, efficient, and then you give yourself that physical break of doing some jumping jacks or taking a walk or whatever that might be for you and then you get back to that set timer. But it’s a matter of how do we show focus in different places? How can we show focus at home?

I personally don’t necessarily want to do certain tasks at home like washing the dishes or something like that. Maybe the timer would work really well for that idea. Singing a song to help us stay focused, playing background music. “I’m going to do this for just this song,” that kind of thing. It was actually a skill that we used to use when my kids were younger and they were just starting to shower and they would take forever. I told them they could only be in there for one song and then they started to get the idea of not taking 20-minute showers because it was one five-minute song.

Another thing to help you focus might be a calming place. Maybe you have the ability to remind yourself of a specific location or a specific place, and you go there when you want to help yourself calm down, refocus, be in the right idea. “I’m in that space. I can get anything done because this is my calm, focused, relaxed space.” And it might help in terms of that list might be too overwhelming and you need that opportunity to just rethink.

And then of course, we also have things like listening to music to help us focus. I wouldn’t advise putting on YouTube videos or TV shows or something with a video content because that would pull your eyes away from what you needed to focus on. But having music playing in the background, that can help you focus as well.

The idea is that when you’re focusing, when you’re concentrating, when you’re working diligently, efficiently on that task, it’s so that you get that finished. Every time you get pulled off, it takes a little bit to refocus so the more you can stay on task, the better you will be.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here