“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” -Seneca, ancient Stoic philosopher
The truth is, most people are not very focused right now.
As a result, most people’s income is down.
Most people don’t have great relationships.
Frankly, most people are not on track to succeed.
The odds are stacked against them. Most people don’t realize just how much the world is focused on making you unfocused. The world doesn’t want you to be focused; it wants you to play along, even at the cost of your life.
To buy things.
To pay attention to your phone.
To fit in the system.
To consume entertainment.
Sure, lots of people have many things on their mind; most people have several priorities. But if they take a step back, most people will realize just how little progress they’ve made towards their goals.
All that worry and multitasking has just produced stress, anxiety, and an empty life, lived for someone else.
“The condition of all who are preoccupied is wretched,” writes Seneca in his 2,000-year old book, On the Shortness of Life; “But most wretched is the condition of those who labor at preoccupations that are not even their own.”
Fortunately, there is a simple, single choice you can make, today, that will instantly make you more focused, serene, and clear than 99% of other people.
The Key to World-Class Focus is Being Hyper-Present
“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” -Dan Sullivan
The world’s most successful and focused people don’t “time travel.”
They don’t think too far in the future or dwell too much on the past.
They are present; focused on what they can do today, right now.
This is how to consistently achieve enormous goals; by making small progress, every day.
When I was 22, I finally went to 12-step addiction therapy for my heavy addiction to pornography.
For 15 years, I had relied on porn to get through the day. It wasn’t a habit; it was an obsession. I desperately wanted to stop, but couldn’t. I finally went to therapy for something I thought I’d never be able to change.
12-step meetings helped. At first, I was positive I’d fail. Long before, I had started believing I’d never be able to stop; the very idea that I’d stop looking at porn for a long period of time was preposterous.
And for a while, I couldn’t stop. Months went by. Then a year. It wasn’t until around the 2nd year (!) that I finally saw progress. I was able to last more than a few weeks without my drug.
By taking it one day at a time. By being completely present on the current day.
Before, I kept thinking about years down the road in fear and doubt. “How can I possibly stay sober that long?” I’d wonder hopelessly. Then I’d fall back into old habits.
But when I shifted my focus to just today — doing what I needed to do that day — I started seeing results.
Because the truth is, you can do the work you need to do today. Even if it seems impossible.
That’s how I managed to string together over 4 years of sobriety. It was by being present, not thinking about the past or future; as long as I focused on the present, one day at a time, I saw success.
The key to world-class focus and success — the kind that allows a 15-year addict to gain real sobriety for the first time — is simple.
One day at a time.
You can accomplish anything that way.
Photo by Brennan Martinez on Unsplash
Being Present Gives You Incredible Self-Confidence, Self-Assurance, and Self-Belief
“Spend at least an hour today giving your fullest gift, whatever that is for today, so that when you go to sleep at night you know you couldn’t have lived your day with more courage, creativity, and giving.” -David Deida
Most people aren’t very self-confident. Very few people have high self-assurance and belief in themselves.
Why? Because most people aren’t present. When you regret the past, neglect the present, or worry about the future, you prevent yourself from growing.
Only by being present and giving all your energy on whatever is right in front of you can you experience enormous growth very quickly.
This is high-level thinking. Being present increases self-confidence.
Most of the time, people tackle the day’s tasks with half-hearted half-measures. They are worrying about tomorrow before today is gone. They are thinking of what they might do just-in-case instead of what they will do right now.
As a result, people don’t grow. They spend their limited time and energy preparing for “potential” disaster — getting fired, being abandoned, being left behind — instead of building relationships, learning new skills, or giving the precious gift of being present.
The world’s most successful people are hyper-present. They focus solely on whatever they’re doing, when move on.
When you are present, people know. They can tell if you’re not really there in the conversation. If you’re “phoning it in” for your relationships, career, or health, you will see consequences.
People want to know and be known; that’s impossible if you’re not present.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” -Ernest Hemingway
How to Completely Ignore Distractions and Consistently Enter Flow States
Most people can’t remember the last time they entered a flow state.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow, flow is “the optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” It’s the result of being hyper-present.
Most people sleepwalk through life without ever feeling so intensely focused, time seems to stand still.
The idea of flow might have been popularized the most with professional athletes, who often describe the feeling of succeeding on the field. Gold medalists, Tour de France winners, and World Cup champions, have all repeatedly recounted how they were in flow states for their winning performances.
But how can you and I reach this level, consistently?
How can you completely ignore the 1,000 distractions around you and produce intense, unbroken focus on complicated tasks? How do you stay present in a world full of distraction?
Here’s how you can train yourself to shut out distractions and enter flow states regularly.
Photo by Roman Laschov on Unsplash
Learn When You Are Primed for Flow States, Then Always Act.
“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” -Steven Pressfield
Consistently following routines creates physiological energy spikes.
Although your mind and body are extremely fluid (you can adapt to just about anything if you wanted to), there are specific times of the day when you operate best.
Dr. Michael Breus calls this “The Power of When.” He asserts there are specific times when you are most primed for nearly every task — having the greatest sex, waking up, when to see a therapist to immediately get to the root of your issues, etc. — and people are divided into “chronotypes.”
There are 4 main chronotypes (you can take a short quiz here to see which one you most align with). Each type has a very specific timetable for entering into peak flow states.
Most people will go their whole lives without ever really knowing when they’re the most primed to operate at world-class levels. They will continue to operate as a square peg in a round hole.
Learn about yourself. Find out if you get your best work done at 5AM, 1PM, or midnight.
“If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly.” -Neal Stephenson
When you consistently begin acting during your prime time, you can expect to see 10x or even 100x better results over time. When you are consistently present, you enter flow states more regularly.
The more you practice during these times, the more focused your mind will be. This repetition will train your mind to remember that focus and reproduce it on a daily basis.
Distractions will grow weaker. Flow states will become commonplace.
Operating at your peak level will become a daily routine.
Learn when you operate best for certain tasks, then act every single day.
Power will concentrate around you.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” -Somerset Maugham
Being hyper-present is a choice. Most people choose not to. As a result, many live lives that are, frankly, mediocre.
Very few choose to be present — in their relationships, their work, their choices. The result is an abundance of prosperity: increased focus, deeper relationships, more creativity, self-confidence, and self-assurance.
When your spouse comes home, choose to turn off your electronics and actually listen when you ask, “How was your day?”
When you are working towards your goal, choose to focus entirely on what can be done today — nothing more.
When you are spending time with loved ones, exercising, cooking, working, or resting — choose to be present. This will bring renewed energy, hyper-focus, and consistent flow states where you can expand your life.