This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Relentless" by Tim Grover. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you having trouble staying focused? How are your emotions affecting your ability to stay attentive?
Your emotions control almost every aspect of your life, including how well you stay focused. In his book Relentless, legendary celebrity trainer Tim Grover says that to get focused on your goals, you have to use three emotions to your advantage—anger, calmness, and happiness.
To learn how to get focused on your life, career, or anything else important to you, keep reading.
Activate Intense Focus
Grover explains how to get focused by first looking at acting instinctively, which helps you control your emotions because it activates intense focus, a state of mind where you block out all emotions except for focused, determined anger. Acting instinctively helps you activate intense focus because you won’t have time to think and distract yourself. Intense focus only allows anger through—Grover argues that anger motivates you to overcome obstacles and succeed, so it helps you instead of getting in your way.
(Shortform note: Grover suggests that acting on instinct will help you avoid strong emotions, but many psychologists provide a contrasting view. Research around panic suggests that it comes from a “fight or flight” response—our natural, instinctual response to potential danger. In other words, instinct can create strong fearful emotions if you’re not able to direct it into intense focus.)
Grover says that activating intense focus involves a different method for each individual, but tends to involve one of these three: getting angry, staying calm, or staying happy. We’ll now explore how these three can help activate intense focus.
Method #1: Get Angry
Grover explains that you can activate intense focus by finding a challenge that stirs up anger in you and forces you to focus intently on beating it.
For example, Grover mentions that he would often insult unstoppable people he worked with or bring up their insecurities. This would challenge them to prove him wrong—a challenge they would meet by activating intense focus.
|Using Anger to Overcome: The 2,500 Year Debate|
Grover’s claim that you can channel anger towards productive action touches on a long-running philosophical and psychological debate on the subject. Philosophers from ancient Rome’s Seneca (On Anger) to modern day Martha Nussbaum (Anger and Forgiveness) argue against the use of anger, claiming that it’s a destructive and selfish desire that will get in the way of any productive action.
On the other hand, works ranging from Aristotle’s Rhetoric to bell hooks’ killing rage argue that anger allows you to recognize obstacles and inspires you to overcome them. Psychological research also suggests that anger plays an essential role in motivating you to survive and overcome adverse situations. By indicating that you can use anger to activate intense focus, Grover seems to align with the latter group.
Method #2: Stay Calm
To get focused intensely, Grover recommends you work to stay calm instead of getting excited or hyped up. By staying calm, you can more easily control your emotions to focus intensely. Grover recommends you stay calm by keeping consistent routines and avoiding new people or situations if you know you’ll need to focus intensely. This way you don’t have to deal with anything unexpected that might make you emotional.
For example: If it’s the night before a big presentation, stick to your normal nighttime routine instead of trying anything new or being around different people. This way, you won’t have to deal with any extra emotion or pressure from new situations.
(Shortform note: Chip and Dan Heath (The Power of Moments) further expand on Grover’s argument that routines are important for staying calm and acting instinctively. They explain that routines help you stay calm because they prepare automatic responses to high-pressure situations. These prepared responses mean that when you experience tense moments (like a big presentation), you’ll act out your response on autopilot. This way, you won’t have to plan while in a tense moment, something that often leads to panic and uncertainty.)
Method #3: Stay Happy
While not thinking is the goal of intense focus, if it’s not possible in a given moment then Grover recommends instead focusing on positive thoughts like happy and relaxing memories. These allow you to stay calm and prevent emotions like fear from holding you back. (Shortform note: Grover’s recommendations in this section might confuse you, since feeling happy or calm conflicts with being angry. To clarify, Grover claims that each person has their own way to activate intense focus, not that everyone should use all three methods.)
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Tim Grover's "Relentless" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full Relentless summary :
- The qualities you’ll need to become the best in your field
- Why sacrifices and discomfort are necessary for growth
- Why you should practice indulging in your primal self