How To Really Sustain Focus...

How To Really Sustain Focus, According To One Japanese Martial Arts Method

Recently, I read another article about the advent of digital natives — those under the age of 10 who were born after the invention of the iPhone — and their ability to multitask and sustain it. While this newfound ability to sustain concentration across multiple inputs sounds enticing (and certainly real), I wonder about its effects over the longer term on developing leaders sustaining goals and vision over longer periods of time.

Carving out a vision and strategy takes effort, persistence and, in a nutshell, work. It requires sustained concentration in a direction that for the most part others around you might not even see. More and more in today’s modern business world, I see executives who feel the need to “get away” or go into deep retreat to evolve their next plan. But the reality is this type of exercise, while valuable, is not available to everyone. Life cannot always stop while you spend time in the mountains, by the ocean, or simply walking or sitting quietly, regaining the ability to concentrate and focus long enough to evolve the next steps.

The reality is the ability to develop and manifest sustained concentration on demand is a skill set that has proven invaluable to leaders over the centuries and one that will never go away. In the practice of martial arts, this development of focused concentration is referred to as Zanshin.

Many business leaders and thinkers have used martial arts references to help identify, describe and evolve coherent, competitive strategies. Ultimately, your primary combatant or enemy is yourself, or more specifically, your underdeveloped, less-skillful and, in some cases, weaker self. Understanding the value of something like Zanshin is a perfect example of how a deeper understanding of the practices involved in martial arts can help us no matter what we do.

Zanshin or “continuing mind” is a state of continuing awareness. It's being present without being stuck and being open without being vague. In martial arts training, if a practitioner becomes distracted by what they see or hear, or their thoughts or feelings, the consequences are experienced immediately. This type of pressure applied slowly over time helps develop an ability to sustain an open focus with a deep concentration, and typically, this development carries over into other aspects of life. …