How Meditation Keeps You Focused & Motivated
The Ultimate Guide To Focus, Motivation, & Meditation
Stay The Course Anyway
Quick exercise. Think of a well-known successful person... Who comes to mind?
Whether you thought of a famous actor, artist, athlete, or entrepreneur — they all share a few rare, yet incredibly valuable traits. Two of these are "focus" and "motivation."
History is full of people who, in the face of failure, diversion, and distraction, stayed the course anyway, achieving their dreams regardless of the roadblocks in their path.
Like who? Before it was the children's literary staple that it is today, Dr. Seuss and his "Green Eggs & Ham" were turned down by 27 different publishers. On his way to creating the vacuum, Sir James Dyson burned through his life savings and 5100+ prototypes. Before inspiring millions around the world, Oprah Winfrey's first producer found her "unfit for TV," firing her on the spot.
Want more? Before she was the world's first billionaire author, J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series as a single mom on welfare. Prior to winning 6 NBA titles, Michael Jordan wasn't good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team. Before he was Hollywood's most prolific movie maker, Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school again and again (and again!).
The Great "Resistance" Dragon: Distracting Us From Our Work
So, how can some of us stay focused and motivated no matter what, while others of us can't stay on task for more than ten minutes?
In his bestselling non-fiction book "The War Of Art: Winning The Inner Creative Battle," the famous American novelist Steven Pressfield (author of The Legend of Bagger Vance & Gates of Fire) describes the great struggle all creators, entrepreneurs, athletes, and artists face.
Pressfield posits that "resistance," a universal (though metaphorical) force, which, as you can guess by the name, throws hurdle after hurdle in every maker's path, whether it's writing a novel, painting a masterpiece, or building a successful business.
Resistance serves one purpose and one purpose only: to maintain the status quo. If we don't do our work, mission complete. From procrastination, to riling up fear and anxiety, to awakening the naysayer within, to opening yet another browser tab, resistance shows its gnarly face in many ways.
The thing is, every "maker" and "doer" in this world, including Steven Pressfield himself, has to battle resistance. Regardless of past success, no one is immune. To "do our work," to realize our dreams, and to grow, we must slay the great "resistance dragon" each and every day.
The problem is, our world is a buffet of distraction. Because our "always on" digital devices bombard us with so much content, we have trained our brains to seek something shiny and new every waking moment. The resistance dragon is stronger than ever. Its fiery breath, hotter than ever.
How Meditation Slays The Great "Resistance" Dragon, Restores Focus
Then, what's the solution?
To make the dragon fall from the sky, you need an army of highly motivated "attention soldiers" on your front lines, crossbows aimed high. To win the war on resistance, you gotta' have focus and drive. Luckily, meditation keeps "300-King-Leonidas-led-Spartans" on the battlefield at all times.
Here's how it works. When your brain needs to manage incoming stimuli, a region called the "thalamus" serves as the "gateway to consciousness," ensuring only the important stuff gets passed to the deeper, "higher thinking" areas like the cerebral cortex and subcortical areas.
Well, our always connected, overstimulated world has beaten our thalamus to a pulp. With "broken thalamus" disorders like anxiety and ADHD at all time highs, it's clear that we can only bombard ourselves with so much data before our overloaded dome raises the white flag.
Giving Our Overworked Brains A Little R & R
Luckily, meditation eases the burden. To ensure that downstream households, agriculture, and industry have enough water to take showers, grow crops, and do business (while not getting flooded) — a river dam lets through only what's needed. And nothing more. Likewise, meditation "upstream-filters" and fine tunes sensory data long before our "overworked thalamus" ever has to deal with it.
Because meditation saves our "gateway to consciousness" thalamus from our always-connected world's "death by 1,000 cuts," it finally has time to rest & recuperate. With a number of studies showing meditation's marked effect on thalamic gray matter "density" and "thickness," it appears that a little R & R is just what the brain doctor ordered.
A relaxed and fully functional thalamus allows the "emperor" of our brain (prefrontal cortex) to think more deeply, make more well thought-out decisions, problem solve more effectively, and do it's job better. Much better. A highly efficient brain is a highly focused brain.
Back to resistance. By training your brain to be focused no matter what, through failure, through diversion, through our over-stimulated world's buffet of distraction, meditation makes anything possible.
Dream big and aim high. Whether you shoot for the sky, the moon, or the stars, meditation can help you hit your target.
Meditation Supercharges Self-Motivation Too
"Cool, so meditation literally trains my brain to be laser-focused. But what about motivation, that's just as important as focus. How does meditation solve that rocket science?"
While being able to focus (finally!) on your goals is enough of a spark to do great things, if your inner-fire needs even more kindling, the ancient mind practice has you covered. As evidenced by Italian neuroscientists in 2015 (Tomasino et al), meditation strengthens the willpower, self-control, and "motivation" part of the brain: the "dorsolateral prefrontal cortex." So there you go, meditation covers both focus and motivation.
Deep inside, we all have something great to bring into the world. At least one masterful work to contribute to humanity. What awesome "thing" will you create?
Make it happen with meditation.