The Art of Focus

Focus is a superpower.

When most people try to focus, they become tense and tight. But being tense and overly controlling does not improve focus. Focus should feel effortless and relaxed. 

Focus occurs naturally when the mind is interested. Focus is like a tailwind, not a headwind. Focus is why curiosity is so important. It’s a sustainable and addictive source of motivation. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

The mind quiets as it focuses. By staying present, it stays calm. When this happens, the mind is so concentrated — so focused — that it feels still. Our unconscious leads without interference from thoughts. Body and mind waltz in harmony. Action flows as free as a river.

Kanye West says: “The main thing people are controlled by is their perception of themselves.”

Great poetry is born in silence; great artists speak of a muse taking over; great music is said to arise from the quiet depth of the unconscious; heartfelt expressions of love come from a source that lies beneath words and thoughts.

Focus is a flashlight you shine on the world. It dims all that is irrelevant, and illuminates what is relevant. Focus is always here and now. Present time. Present space. No internal chatter — present, aware, and free.

Focus is something we can all improve. Just as you need gravity to build muscle, you need distraction to build focus. Meditation acts like bicep curls for the mind.

When we focus, we use the intuitive strengths of the mind — a childlike experience. The ego is disabled. Less fear and doubt. Judgement disappears. We focus without thinking. It’s like spontaneous, focused play.

As @mistermircea once wrote:  “Every brain cycle spent on anxiety of the future, is a brain cycle not spent focusing, optimizing, and improving the present situation.”

When the mind is free of judgment, it acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they truly are.

Focus and flow are closely connected. There are three requirements for flow:

  1. clear goals
  2. immediate feedback
  3. challenging, but manageable activity

Flow is a state of inner tranquility — more focus and less stress. It cannot be intellectualized — only experienced. Flow itself can be more rewarding than what we’re able to achieve with it.

Immediate feedback is essential for flow and improvement. The longer the gap is between action and feedback, the harder it is to improve your skill. Phil Jackson, the greatest coach in NBA history wrote:  “All of us have flashes of oneness … When we’re completely immersed in the moment, inseparable from what we’re doing.”

That is flow.

Bill Russell, the famous basketball player for the Boston Celtics once wrote about what it was like to achieve total focus — to be in the zone: “At that special level all sorts of odd things happened. … It was almost as if we were playing in slow motion.”

When we’re focused, we enter a vivid state of consciousness. Instead of judging, we take an objective interest in the results, no longer paralyzed by thoughts of success or failure. 

Judgement interferes with the natural steps of learning. Awareness is relaxing, the best precondition for change. When we’re focused, we can learn at a higher rate of speed. But if we try to grab onto focus, it will squirt away like a slippery bar of soap.

Trust the body to learn, play, and improve. Relaxed concentration — focus — is our most powerful asset. 


  1. The Inner Game of Tennis 
  2. Tiago Forte
  3. @mistermircea
  4. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi