Focus and concentration; the keys to success – Letter 2

In these series of blog posts I translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 2, Seneca suggests why limiting distractions and having a focus is critical.

We live in a world full of information. So much so that it is easy to become diverted and side-tracked by it all. Even if you can ignore what is broadcast by the media, and you should try to filter this at the very least, there is still a massive amount of knowledge at hand.

As an example, a news story may interest you, then a political event catches your eye. Next, a report of a new gadget, followed by a desire to travel. Then you may go back to reading a book or writing a novel. Then it’s back to the news again, etc.

And while these topics may be more intellectually stimulating than the latest celebrity gossip, you still end-up only attaining superficial and shallow knowledge.

So why does a person do this? Because they capture your attention, well, for the moment anyway. After a little while its back to moving from one thing to another, to another. None of these topics will have an enduring effect on his life.

It’s like a person who has a lot of Facebook friends, but few real friends. Pick a few authors, speakers, or topics and limit yourself to only these. Decide what is important then concentrate and focus on this.

Focus and flow

Have you ever completely lost yourself in a task, so that the world around you disappears? You lose track of time and are completely caught up in what you’re doing. That’s the popular concept of Flow, and it’s an important ingredient to finding happiness.

Flow is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. They feel full involvement, and enjoyment of the activity. In essence, I characterize flow as a complete absorption in what one does. You feel a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge.

How do you get into flow? Well, it takes a bit of practice, but the first step is to find work that you’re passionate about. Seriously — this is an extremely important step. Find hobbies that you’re passionate about. Focus on now, rather than the past or the future isn’t easy, and takes a lot of practice.

Next, you need to clear away distractions and focus completely on the task you set before yourself. This is the part that takes a lot of practice.

Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory. — Bill Russell

Take care.

Read the original text here.

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash


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