And Why People Are Losing Their Ability to Achieve it
The Secret to Success
To accomplish anything difficult, we need to be focused. When we are unfocused and distracted, we may be able to do easy things, but we often make mistakes and blunders and create problems rather than solve them. To do difficult and important things well, we need to be focused.
In 1852, the Rev. Charles Marriott gave a sermon where he preached “Singleness of Purpose is The Secret to Success”, drawing upon a lesson he learned in his religion. That lesson was: we will be empowered and possessed by that which we put first in our life. When we focus on that one thing, we will be powered by extraordinary energy to realize it.
Later, in the 1920’s, Napoleon Hill taught this in his classic “Laws of Success” and then in “Think and Grow Rich”. Even later, Bill Willson taught it in his 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With countless documented cases over the years, we know that these men taught people how to overcome great obstacles and achieve great things, things that many had thought were impossible.
The lesson: what we focus on taps an almost magical power to bring it about, to help us acheive solutions and accomplishments that had been beyond our reach. You have probably also heard it referred to as a metaphysical “Law of Attraction”.
In my early business career, I discovered that in the very early morning, before anyone else arrived, in the dark with only my writing pad illuminated, magical things would happen. I developed ideas and plans that flowed like a fountain. I created plans and imagined things I had never thought of, and experienced a drive and desire to get them done that strained against the bounds of reality. When others arrived, they seemed to be in slow motion and could not catch up.
I had discovered the power of focus and undistracted attention to a singular purpose. Later, I was able to apply it, along with other lessons learned, to solve my 25 year obesity problem, lose 140 pounds permanently, shift from being a 40-year-old college dropout to a holder of undergraduate and graduate degrees, become a licensed health professional, develop a network of therapists using my weight loss methods, and author a book and audiobook that teaches others how to solve their weight problem. The lessons learned not only changed my life, but thousands of others. It could change your life too.
Perhaps the most important lesson: stop being scattered and distracted and get focused.
The mental magic phenomena. It’s real.
In the training I’ve engaged in as a mental health counselor and therapist, I’ve made some very interesting discoveries in the study of clinical hypnotherapy.
When we are relaxed and extremely focused, we can slip into an altered state of consciousness that generates phenomena that does not occur in normal wakefullness. It is not sleep, but it’s not normal wakefullness either. It is a natural experience that usually happens routinely if we are not stressed and distracted. It was what happend to me when I arrived before anyone else, before people started chatting, the phone started ringing and I was being pulled in a hundred different directions.
This altered state is called “trance”, “meditation”, “being in the zone” or “focused”, depending on what frame of reference you are using. Scientists have documented it by measuring brain waves that show us activity in the brain. When we are in this focused and relaxed state, the brain waves are different than when we are asleep, and different than when we are awake. Not only are the brain waves different, but other physiological conditions are different too.
These phenomena that occur in this state are quite remarkable, almost magical. With this altered state, we can improve performance in sports, the arts or business, performing flawlessly and effortlessly, experiencing creativity and execution that is genius. We can turn off the experience of physical sensation, even pain, such as when we are having dental work done. We can improve physical health, acheiving with the mind what we used to think could only be done with drugs. We can set our mind on problem-solving in our sleep, so we wake up with a solution. We can set our mind to move toward goals in ways we are not even aware of, our “luck” improving as we come up with ideas we hadn’t thought of before and opportunities present themselves that are quite serendipitous.
It seems we tap into a source of energy and genius, a consciousness within ourselves, other than the ordinary one when we are not focused. In fact, some, like some who frame this experience as meditation, think that we become connected with a consciouness greater than our own. When we are focused like this, we access power and knowledge not available to us otherwise.
How We Prevent This “Higher Consciousness”
Simple. If you live in a way where you are constantly distracted, scattered and stressed, never giving yourself a chance to be quiet and alone without the chatter, you will never experience this higher consciousness. If you are constantly attentive to your smartphone, email, texts and newsfeeds, you’ll never discover what it is.
Before I discovered the benefit of arriving early and being alone in the quiet, I, like most others, came in to be greeted by the phones ringing and people needing my attention. Often times, before I knew it, it was noon. I had been busy, but it was like running in place. I was getting nowhere.
Today, people walk around with their smartphone going off all the time, calling for their attention every few seconds. They multitask, as if they were a computer, intentionally avoiding focusing on any one thing more than a second or two. I’ve been advised that smartphone users spend less than two seconds on most content, the attention span of a gnat. If that becomes habitual, we have someone unable to focus. It’s a case of learned attention deficit disorder.
In the past few years, we have created a lifestyle of being stressed and distracted rather than relaxed and focused. With this, we never experience that altered state of consciousness I was describing, or the accompanying phenomena that had been a regular part of life prior to being stressed and scattered.
Hans Selye is the doctor who was the first to demonstrate biological stress. He taught the world what it did to us physiologically. He defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.
When you have to be ready to respond to a demand, you experience a state of tension, of physiological and psychological stress, a readiness to respond.Unrelieved, it can cause all sorts of problems. I discovered this in 1991 when I was one of the few people to walk around with a cell phone attached at the hip as an on-call crisis intervention counselor. Even when nothing was going on, if I was on-call, I knew the cell phone might sound and demand my attention at any moment. I was not relaxed for the entire time I made myself available to respond, even when I slept. When my shift was over and I was without the cell phone, only then could I relax. When I was at the beach where no one could interrupt me, I was able to experience an even greater relaxation, unavailable to all demands.
If you live a life with a device that calls your attention all the time, your body responds with every chirp or bing, and you live in a constant state of stress and distraction. If you have the phone next to the bed and you know it’s on and might sound, you live in a constant state of stress, even when you sleep. If you are scrolling through newsfeeds and multitasking through your day, you never focus on anything for more than a few seconds.
There is a good possibility that you have never experienced this state of consciousness I described that occurs when you are relaxed and focused, the magical “zone” that artists and athletes describe where they are inspired to create flawlessly, that meditators say you need for 20 minutes-a-day to perfect your health, to really heal in all ways. Not even for a second.
Getting relaxed and focused everyday, for as long as possible, can produce miracles. Being stressed and scattered can make you sick. That’s why getting relaxed and focused is so important. And people today are losing their ability to achieve it, living the way we do, always attentive to our devices, always multitasking, always distracted.
Get relaxed and focused every day, away from the world and its noise for a while. Make a habit of it. It could generate your miracles.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He was an obese heavy smoker and workaholic until his early thirties, and burned out, but survived and changed direction. He changed in many ways, among them, losing 140 pounds permanently. Health, in a holistic way, is now his mission. He is the author of The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss.