Let’s say your goal for today is to cut a design into a hard piece of metal. You’re going to need a tool. What are you going to use? You might want to use a cutting torch, or maybe a power tool, or perhaps even a laser beam.
You wouldn’t naturally think of using something as soft as water. But, amazingly, using a relatively small pump and a waterjet, you can cut through a piece of titanium that’s half an inch thick.
That’s the power of concentration, pressure and focus.
It’s a good way to illustrate how focusing on a single goal, one single task at a time, can concentrate the power of your mind and your will-power to achieve those goals that have been eluding you.
Championship archers know that the ability to focus intensely – to get into “the zone” can make all the difference between consistently hitting the target, or missing. The same holds true for most things in life, whether it’s business, academics, or personal development.
Distraction – the Curse of Our Times
If you’re a regular reader of online articles about personal development and motivation, more than likely you’ve wasted your fair share of time down the hyperlink rabbit hole.
You start out reading about a useful daily exercise routine, but before you know it, you’re reading about Bruce Lee, watching YouTube clips on learning to juggle, and finding out which celebrities are hardcore yoga enthusiasts – or something even more mindless.
There are a thousand things crying out for your attention. It might be mildly entertaining, but ultimately you’ve just wasted a couple of hours, and a Gigabyte of data.
Flitting from one personal development website to the next, you can learn some amazing things – but it can easily become a trap. At the end of it you’re so distracted that you don’t even know where to begin.
Zen Buddhism calls it “monkey-mind.” When your mind is distracted and diffused, it undermines your power, your potency and your effectiveness.
Instead of improving yourself, you may be deluding yourself.
That’s why you need to learn to focus on just one improvement at a time.
Forget Multi-Tasking – Focus on One Thing
“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.”
Are you constantly trying new techniques, exercises and programs? Are you simultaneously trying to improve many different areas of your life?
You might be doing more harm than good. Instead of building up enough inner pressure to make a lasting change, you’re probably wasting a lot of time and energy.
Steve Jobs knew the importance of focus, and he applied it to his business life with phenomenal succes. He never allowed Apple to become distracted or lose direction. Speaking to Fortune magazine he said:
“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more.
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
What’s the lesson here? Instead of holding on to the idea that you need to become a master of multi-tasking in order to be more efficient, think about how often that strategy backfires. Instead of completing lots of tasks properly, many of those tasks are left incomplete, or at best, completed in a half-hearted way.
More importantly, your mind remains constantly divided, and you’re left feeling as if there’s a hole inside that can’t be filled. There’s always more to do, and never enough time.
Giving your undivided attention to one important project or goal means that it gets done right. You get the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve given your best. Your mind, body and emotions pull together, and you feel complete.
You can reach an inner depth that is impossible to reach when you’re distracted.
Gary Keller, author of the number one Wall Street Journal bestseller The One Thing, drives home the same point. He asks you to consider the following question:
What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
When you have a center of focus, every aspect of your life falls into place relative to that one overriding goal. It brings with it a sense of meaning, purpose and balance. You no longer feel the need to waste time and energy on unnecessary things that don’t move you forward in the direction you’ve chosen.
Conserve your Forces – Choose What to Focus On
“Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensity over time.”
The quote above comes from Greene’s book The 48 Laws of Power. The 23rd Law is: Concentrate your forces. He illustrates the point with the story of Casanova.
History’s most famous womanizer attributed his success with the ladies to one thing: A single-minded devotion to one woman at a time. When a woman caught his attention, he became obsessed with the pursuit – he never relented until the goal was achieved. He thought of nothing and no-one else.
In later years, when Casanova was imprisoned, he used the same tactic – even when his attempts to tunnel out of his cell were thwarted when he was moved elsewhere, he kept at it until he escaped. He thought of nothing else until it was done.
Fair enough – but how do you know what that one single focus of attention should be?
That part has to come from your own innermost depths.
Whatever it is that you most desire, whatever consumes your mind, whatever makes your life worthwhile – that should be your unwavering point of focus.
Instead of choosing to waste time on TV, chit-chat or just passing the time, exercise your will by choosing to bring your focus back to your primary goal.
Doing so regularly will enhance the power of your consciousness over time. You won’t be allowing your vitality and energy to leak out, to be wasted on insignificant activities. Instead, each action, each conversation, each step will be deliberate, and full of power.
As a final note, I want to show how you can learn about energy from the laws of nature.
The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can never be lost. The total amount of energy in the universe never changes. The second law of thermodynamics is even more interesting. It tells us that energy will always tend to spread out, or become less concentrated.
It’s the same with our personal energy. Unless we make a conscious effort to concentrate our energy into deliberate actions, it will always tend to even out, and disperse.
In other words: Learn to focus your personal power.