Is focus an innate ability or something you need to learn? What are the benefits of living a more focused life?
The Power of Unwavering Focus explores Dandapani’s advice for better focus and the many benefits of a focused life. He also explains how living a focused life brings you a greater sense of purpose and improved work performance.
Read below for a brief overview of Dandapani’s The Power of Unwavering Focus.
The Power of Unwavering Focus by Dandapani
Throughout your life, parents, teachers, coaches, and employers have probably told you to focus. Dandapani’s The Power of Unwavering Focus explains that focus isn’t something that just happens—it’s a skill that you must cultivate like any other. However, few people understand how to learn this skill and even fewer have put in the effort to master it.
Part 1: What Is Focus?
Dandapani defines focus as intentionally directed awareness. But before you learn to focus, he states, you must understand what’s happening in your mind when you maintain—or lose—focus. In this section, we’ll explore Dandapani’s model of the mind and how it relates to focus.
Dandapani’s Theory of Mind
Dandapani’s theory of mind boils down to two principles: Your mind is a space, and your awareness is a floating orb that moves around this space. Let’s explore each of these principles in detail and then consider how they work together.
The space of your mind includes many regions. Your memories, emotions, fantasies, knowledge, and beliefs all occupy distinct regions. Dandapani stresses that you’re not your mind, you’re only experiencing your mind. The part of you that experiences the different regions of your mindspace, Dandapani calls your awareness.
As your awareness moves around, your experience of your mind changes depending on the region it’s currently inhabiting. If your awareness inhabits the region where you experience fear, you feel afraid. If your awareness inhabits the region where you hold a childhood memory, you experience the memory.
Dandapani explains that your awareness can only inhabit one region of your mind at a time. For example, imagine you’re sitting at a desk near a window, working on your computer. While your awareness is focused on your task, you aren’t noticing what’s outside the window. While you’re looking out the window, you aren’t focused on your work. As your awareness shifts between the two, it travels back and forth between the regions of your mind.
Focus Is Directed Awareness
Dandapani asserts that either you’re directing your awareness, or your environment is directing your awareness.
When you let your environment direct your awareness, you’re distracted. When you direct your awareness, you’re focused. Dandapani maintains that focus is directing your awareness to the regions of your mind where you want it to go and keeping it in those regions for as long as you choose.
Part 2: Why Focus Matters
Now that we understand how the mind works and what it means to focus, we’ll explore why Dandapani says focus is a crucial skill to master. First, we’ll discuss the power of your awareness and how it can reshape the space of your mind—for better or worse. Then we’ll consider the many benefits of living a more focused life.
Reason #1: Awareness Reshapes Your Mind
Dandapani explains that your orb of awareness doesn’t simply experience your mind—it also slowly reshapes your mind for better or for worse. This means that if you direct your awareness intentionally, you can control this process and shape your mind as you want. However, if you let your environment direct your awareness for you, it may reshape your mind in ways you didn’t intend. In this section, we’ll explore how this process works in three steps.
Step 1) Energy Follows Awareness
First, Dandapani explains that your energy naturally follows your orb of awareness. He says that everyone has spiritual energy flowing within them. This energy flows toward whatever part of your mind you’re currently inhabiting with your orb of awareness. This happens whether you’re intentionally directing your awareness to a specific region of your mind or letting your environment direct your energy while you’re distracted.
Step 2) Energy Nourishes and Grows Regions of the Mind
According to Dandapani, your energy that follows your awareness also nourishes and grows the region so that it becomes more powerful. You can think of the different regions of your brain like muscles that get stronger with exercise. Every time your orb of awareness directs energy into a region of your brain, it’s getting exercise. The regions that you spend the most time experiencing with your orb of awareness are the ones that grow the most.
Step 3) The Regions You Nourish and Grow Exert a Pull on Your Awareness
Dandapani states that as you nourish regions of your mind via your awareness, these growing regions will begin exerting a pull on your awareness. Think of it like a magnetic force that grows stronger every time you visit it. This pull makes it easier for your awareness to return to these regions again and again. Over time, your awareness will start spending its time in regions that exert the strongest pull.
Conclusion: How Awareness Reshapes Your Mind
Once we put all of Dandapani’s steps together, it becomes clear how your awareness reshapes your mind in ways that can make you more focused or more distractible. Let’s compare two scenarios to see the difference focus makes in the long term.
Scenario 1: You’re sitting at a computer trying to get your work done. You guide your orb of awareness to the region of your mind that allows you to apply yourself to your work. The region may contain motivation, skills, or job-specific knowledge. When your orb of awareness travels there, your flow of spiritual energy experiences the region, allowing you to get your work done. Your spiritual energy also grows and nourishes this region. Next time you sit down to work, this region will exert a pull on your orb of awareness, making it easier for you to focus again.
Scenario 2: You sit down at your computer to work, but your environment distracts you. You open YouTube and begin watching entertaining videos instead. Your orb of awareness is now pulled to the region that enjoys being entertained by videos. Next time you sit down to work, you will feel your awareness pulled magnetically toward this region in your mind, making it harder to focus on your work and easier to keep watching videos.
Reason #2: A Focused Life Has Many Benefits
Fostering a more focused mind provides a wide range of benefits. Dandapani asserts that mastering focus will help you to: improve your work performance, overcome stress and anxiety, deepen your relationships, live with more purpose, and experience more joy.
Benefit 1) Improve Your Work Performance
Dandapani posits three ways that improved focus will improve your work performance. You’ll use time more efficiently, use energy more efficiently, and master your skills.
1) Use time more efficiently: Improved focus will save time that is normally used up by distractions. Dandapani states that distractions such as social media, checking news feeds, or simply letting your mind wander when you want to be on task eats up valuable time. By learning to focus, you’ll minimize time spent on distractions and use your time on productive work instead.
2) Use energy more efficiently: Improved focus will allow you to use energy much more efficiently. As we’ll discuss when learning Dandapani’s focusing techniques later in this guide, every time your awareness moves off task, it takes willpower (and mental energy) to bring it back. The more practiced you become in preventing your awareness from wandering in the first place, the less willpower you’ll need to use to stay on task. Therefore, you’ll be able to complete the same amount of work without becoming as mentally exhausted.
3) Master your skills: Finally, Dandapani explains that improved focus will facilitate greater mastery of any skill. Recall that your energy flows wherever you direct your awareness. Therefore, the more you guide your awareness to the regions involved in using a skill—anything from painting to analyzing a problem at work—the more energy you will invest in those regions. This invested energy grows the strength and capacity of the skill, like exercising a muscle.
Benefit 2) Overcome Stress and Anxiety
Improved focus also has the power to help you overcome anxiety and fear. Dandapani explains that you experience anxiety because your awareness travels to an imaginary future where things are going poorly. This then causes you stress and anxiety in the present moment. However, you wouldn’t be stressed out if your awareness wasn’t traveling to an imagined future in the first place. Therefore, Dandapani argues, you can overcome stress and anxiety by guiding your awareness back to the present and away from the distressing imagined future.
Benefit 3) Deepen Your Relationships
Dandapani asserts that focus can also deepen your relationships with others. This is because focus allows you to give a friend or loved one your undivided attention. This deepens relationships in two distinct ways.
First, giving someone your undivided attention can make them feel valued. Dandapani states that everyone has a finite amount of time and energy in their lives, making them the most valuable things you can give another person. By giving someone your undivided attention—which requires your time and energy—you show how important they are to you.
Second, by giving someone your undivided attention, you’ll notice more about the other person than you would if you were distracted during your interactions. This will enable you to get to know them better than you did before and lead to a deeper, richer relationship.
Benefit 4) Live With More Purpose
Dandapani states that learning to focus will help you live a more purposeful life. He provides two reasons why.
First, improved focus has the power to help you better understand your life’s purpose. To truly gain a sense of purpose in your life, you must understand your deepest desires and motivations—which you can only achieve by knowing and listening to your mind. If you’re always distracted, you’ll never listen to the regions of your mind that hold your deeper motivations in life.
Second, improved focus will allow you to prioritize the activities, relationships, and skills that contribute to your life’s purpose. Recall that one of the benefits of focus is control over your time and energy. This means you’ll be able to invest more time and energy in activities that feel meaningful and give your life a sense of purpose.
Benefit 5) Experience More Joy
Finally, Dandapani reveals that developing the skill of focus will lead to a more joyful life. He stresses that joy isn’t an experience to be chased on its own, but rather a by-product of living purposefully and investing in the people and goals that matter most to you.
Thus, as your focus allows you to understand your motivations and priorities and to direct your energy toward them, you’ll discover that a focused life is a joyful life.
Part 3: How to Become Focused
Now that we understand the benefits of a focused life, we’ll explore Dandapani’s methods for directing your awareness to focus. We’ll also discuss his techniques for creating a plan to practice focus and foster a focused mind over time. Finally, we’ll examine his advice on developing willpower, an essential skill for practicing focus.
Direct Your Awareness
Recall that focus consists of intentionally directing your orb of awareness to specific regions of your mind and keeping it there for as long as you need—without letting anything else direct your orb of awareness for you. Here, we’ll explore Dandapani’s advice on how to direct your awareness and stay in control. We’ve organized his techniques into three steps.
1) Become Conscious of Your Awareness
Before you can guide your awareness, you have to reflect on its current state: Where is your floating orb right now? What region of your mind has it traveled to? See if you can find out.
2) Redirect Your Awareness from Distractions
If your awareness isn’t where you would like it to be, you must pull it back from whatever is directing your awareness. Dandapani recommends shifting your awareness in a small way, like wiggling your toes.
You can also pull your attention away from a distraction by reframing your interpretation of it. Whenever you find something engrossing, you’re interpreting it in a way that makes it seem worth your awareness. You can redirect your awareness by changing your interpretation so that the distraction is no longer worth paying attention to. For example, if your awareness is absorbed in a game on your phone, remind yourself that you’re only looking at colored lights on a screen.
3) Set an Intention and Guide Your Awareness
Dandapani writes that to guide your orb of awareness to the proper region of your mind, you must first set a destination. Tell yourself where you want to focus. Then try to gently guide your orb of awareness to the desired region of your mind. Once you arrive there, notice if your awareness is able to settle there, or if it keeps pulling away.
Develop Focus Over Time Through Practice
Dandapani stresses that while the methods of directing your awareness are simple, the ability to focus most of the time requires years of practice. Recall that your awareness has the power to slowly reshape your mind by directing your flow of spiritual energy to different regions. Therefore, by focusing your awareness on the ability to focus your awareness, you’ll strengthen this ability over time. However, if you frequently allow yourself to fall into distraction, this will also reshape your mind to make you more distractible over time. Dandapani encourages you to think of focus as mastering a sport. The effort will be enormous, the results will be slow, but the rewards will eventually be great.
To get moving on your journey to mastery, Dandapani recommends that you start by making a plan to incorporate focus into the activities you do every single day. Here we’ll discuss his practice plan in four steps.
1) Choose a Daily Activity to Center Your Practice On
Pick an ordinary activity that you do every day. This should be something that you have to do, such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or making breakfast. Don’t pick something that you feel you ought to do every day but might not get to, like exercising.
2) Practice Focus Every Time You Do This Activity
For example, every time you brush your teeth, move your awareness to the present moment and focus on thoroughly brushing each tooth without letting your mind wander from the task.
3) Track Your Progress
Dandapani recommends that you create a grading rubric for yourself. Every day, you’ll grade yourself based on how well you focused during your chosen activity. For example, every time you brush your teeth, you could give yourself a letter grade of A, B, or C. You would give yourself a C if you were completely distracted while performing this task, an A if you were completely focused, and a B if you were somewhere in between. This will keep you accountable and consistent as you can look back at your rubric and see whether you’re growing or slipping in your practice.
4) Expand Your Practice
Once you’ve mastered focusing on this activity every day, choose a second activity that you have to do every day, and add this to your practice. However, note that Dandapani suggests that truly mastering the first item on your list should take at least a month, if not several. Recall that mastering focus is like mastering a sport. Start small and work your way up.
Develop Your Willpower
What if you try to redirect your focus, but instead of settling in the desired region, it keeps pulling away? To deal with this, you need the complementary tool of willpower: a source of mental strength you can call on when a task requires more effort. Much like focus, willpower is a capacity that you can develop through practice—or weaken if you habitually don’t use it. In this section, we’ll first explore Dandapani’s daily exercises for developing willpower. Then we’ll look at his suggestions for long-term willpower development.
Develop Willpower Through Daily Exercises
Dandapani recommends that you improve your willpower with daily practice. He suggests incorporating the following principles into daily focus practice.
1) Finish the tasks you begin. Dandapani explains that every time you start a task, you begin with a burst of enthusiasm, excited by the possibility of achievement. However, as you get tired or frustrated, the initial burst will wear off and you’ll have to call on your willpower to complete the task. If you allow yourself to abandon tasks before you complete them, you’ll weaken your willpower, but if you practice finishing them, you’ll strengthen it.
2) Always do the job well, no matter how long it takes. Putting in the extra effort to do a thorough job will strengthen your willpower. Conversely, rushing carelessly through a task will weaken it, because you won’t need to call on your willpower as much as if you did a thorough job. For example, if you’re cleaning a cupboard, take the time to get all of the hard-to-reach places.
3) Do slightly more than you planned. When you’ve almost completed the task, come up with an additional finishing touch that you didn’t plan on when starting out. Dandapani explains that by calling on your willpower one last time before completing each task, you’ll continue growing this capacity. For example, if you’re changing your bicycle tire, you could also take a minute to lubricate your chain and gears or test the pressure on your other tire.
Develop Willpower Through a Long-Term Exercise
Dandapani also recommends a long-term exercise to develop your willpower:
1) Make a list of five things you began in recent years but didn’t finish, or things you told people you were going to do but didn’t complete. These could be hobbies, home improvement projects, or other personal goals, but they need to be things that you can still achieve.
2) In your spare time, complete the items on your list one by one. For each one, use Dandapani’s three daily willpower-developing principles: Finish tasks you begin; always do the job well, no matter how long it takes; and do slightly more than you planned.