“Attention or concentration is probably; the most important essential in the development of mind culture. The possibilities of attention when properly directed are so startling that they would hardly appear credible to the uninitiated. The cultivation of attention is the distinguishing characteristic of every successful man or woman, and is the very highest personal accomplishment which can be acquired.”
Haanel, Charles F., The Master Key System (p. 29)
I haven’t been writing lately, which is bad. But, holding true to my Stoicalness which says to find opportunity in everything, I have learned something about myself.
This is what I learned about myself: When I don’t write, I don’t cope well with life. When I am failing to fulfill my daily writing practice, life is harder to be good at.
And I like being good at life.
Writing is a therapy of sorts, allowing my subconscious to release the lid on things that are under pressure. When I write, I feel better than when I don’t write, and so I will make it a point to never again let my practice slack.
What thing provides you therapy? Are you staying on top of it?
We all have things we do on the regular basis that help us stay balanced—our own flavor of self-therapy.
For you, maybe it’s watching movies or taking long contemplative walks. Perhaps it’s meeting a friend for lunch every week. Whatever.
The thing is, we often don’t realize the power these therapeutic activities have on our sanity until after we’ve been neglecting them for awhile and life has started becoming more difficult than we are used to.
I’ve read lots of self-help books over the years. Some aim to motivate and inspire, and some try to teach you practical skills you can use in everyday life (like the book quoted above).
While I think each style of book is necessary for making real change in one’s life, it’s the practical recommendations that I find myself seeking out the most—visualization, gratitude practice and meditation being the three wisemen of these recommendations.
A thing about visualization and the power of the mind is it’s usually a subconscious act. Successful people have different brain chemistry than average people, and because of this different conditioning throughout their lives, they often use techniques like intense focus and concentration coupled with clear visualization of the future they want to create. While there are plenty success-minded individuals that purposely use techniques like visualization to their advantage, I bet the majority do it subconsciously as an innate part of their personality.
This is probably why we so often see individuals try to explain how they think and developed this way of thinking in retrospect—usually through books and seminars—long after they developed their method and after they realized that their method of thought was different from everyone else’s.
Sure, there are many rabbit holes to venture down on the topics of success and the mind, but today I want you to think of only one after you finish reading. It’s this: Attention.
Attention is a thing you were told to do in your younger years when you sat in cold classrooms and uncomfortable chairs while listening to boring lectures on things you probably didn’t care about (yet, at least). So maybe attention sounds like a chore, and maybe that’s why attention, in general, doesn’t get enough attention (I couldn’t resist).
Spend some time thinking about it and you’ll see that attention is the single most important thing in human existence, and not just as it relates to tangible success. (Read up on the Buddhist principles, and the techniques—and purpose—of mediation and mindfulness, and you’ll see what I mean.)
Attention is of paramount importance for us all because all we ever have is this moment, and if you aren’t able to focus your attention on the present moment because you are stuck in the past or future, you’ll never actually enjoy anything in life because you’ll always be somewhere else. (Not to mention all the suffering we inflict on ourselves by a mind that is always somewhere else other than the now.) Before I fully venture down that rabbit hole, let’s leave it at this: Attention is paramount.
Now, let’s talk about attention as it relates to success.
Think of any thing that has been ever built—your home, a city, a car, the Internet, Facebook, Google, the pyramids—and try to list which ingredients went into their creation?
You’ll probably answer something like, “Stone, metal, time, money.” You might even say, “Intent.”
And you’d be right on all accounts, but still missing the entire picture.
The thing you are missing that is paramount to every creation is attention. Attention is the universal thing to every thing that has ever been, and will be, built by man.
Without attention, your stone, metal, time and money are just potential. With attention, you can build a pyramid with nothing more than rope, wood and slaves. With attention, you can build the world’s best search engine, or the first automobile, and so on.
And the thing about attention is you’ve been applying it your entire life.
It’s pretty easy to see how attention is the fundamental ingredient for building anything, but is having good attention enough for success?
Attention combined with intention is the formula for success.
Intention can come in many forms; a vision in your head, blueprints on paper or a spreadsheet, or the simple desire to make something out of nothing.
This is why the most successful humans in the world always combine extreme focus with crystal clear intention.
To build anything, you need attention focused on intent.
Back to my writing practice I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. What does my writing practice (or lack thereof) have to do with attention or intention?
For me, it has everything to do with it. Let me explain. My writing practice is a way I pull my attention to my intention, which is what I think is probably true of any therapeutic endeavor. By pulling out the things in my subconscious—the yearnings, desires, expectations, stresses—I get to learn what I really want, who I really am, and how to go about getting what I want while quelling things I don’t really want.
For me, writing keep me in touch with myself, honest with myself. It helps me sift through the many things in life so I can focus on my true self and purpose. And when I slack, I get lost.
What thing keeps you focused and aware? What things are getting your attention? Are they moving you to where you want to be, or further away?