“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.”
― Marcus Aurelius
How often do you take time in your day to retreat the the tranquility of your mind? Our phones, our computers, TV, radio, YouTube, so many things that can drive us to distraction. So many things out that we could give our attention, that often we feel overwhelmed by all the noise.
With the myth of multitasking coupled with the fear of missing out, we can easily be in a a victim of a full frontal assault of our senses. I know that for me, I used to feel that my mind was just moving too fast and felt rather chaotic, and if I could just stay one step ahead of it, I wouldn’t feel like I was being overwhelmed the many thoughts racing through my head. The only problem was that I often felt too scattered to really focus on things when I needed to. Because I was in a perpetual state of staying busy, when I did stop, I would often feel uncomfortable in the stillness.
When we try to multitask believing that we’ll be more productive, we pay a cognitive cost for switching between tasks. In study after study it has been shown that we actually get far less done, and the quality of our work is far below what it could have been if we focused on one single task.
So what would happen if you took some time each day to practice focusing on just one thought or idea? In the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, he talks about the need to give our minds a rest and be bored, saying, “To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”
Taking time to just retreat into our own thoughts helps us to practice having well ordered thoughts, and learning how to have clearer thinking is not something that simply comes because we want it. Like all things, it takes effort to train you mind. Newport goes on to say, “Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”
When you put aside some time to just think, or to write down your thoughts, you begin to find that little by little you are able to strengthen that muscle, direct your thinking, and keep your focus on things longer. And when you have this kind of focus, you are generally more relaxed, and less anxious because you don’t feel like your mind is racing a million miles an hour. Whether that’s taking some time to go for a short walk, or to sit down and write your thoughts, you’ll find that you are able to focus on task for a longer amount of time, without having to check Facebook every 10 minutes.
Building a practice of being able to retreat into the tranquility of your own mind helps you to have clearer thinking and help you be far more effective in any area you chose to apply yourself.
Remember, your time and attention are priceless treasures. Learn to invest them wisely, and you return on in investment will be far greater that you can imagine.