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Book Summary: The Power of Unwavering Focus – How to Live the Life You Want

The Power of Unwavering Focus (2022) is a practical and personal guide that offers clear steps toward ending the distractions, fears, and worries that keep us stressed out and anxious, while carving a clear path toward more mental clarity and focus. Packed with concrete steps and personal reflections, it offers a deep look into the awesome power of the mind and how focus can help everyone live a more purposeful and joyful life.

Book Summary: The Power of Unwavering Focus - How to Live the Life You Want

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction: Reclaim your life by mastering one simple skill: mental focus.
Happiness is a lifestyle, not a goal.
The mind doesn’t wander, but awareness does.
Renounce multitasking to reclaim your awareness.
Focus requires practice and progress tracking.
Focus can help overcome worry, anxiety, and stress.
Summary
About the author
Table of Contents
Overview
Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award
Video and Podcast
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Genres

Motivation, Inspiration, Productivity, Business, New Age Meditation, Personal Success in Business, Investing, Self-Help

Introduction: Reclaim your life by mastering one simple skill: mental focus.

It’s a brisk September morning in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Gusty winds rustle the tall grass sprouting between rocky outcrops. The chill in the early morning air makes it feel alive. We’re here to see the wild Mustang horses on their nature reserve.

Suddenly, in a cloud of hooves and fury, a herd comes flashing up the canyon. Snorting clouds of steam in the morning air, they jump and buck and turn on a dime. They scrabble up cliffs and perch on dizzying outcrops. Frolicking in the cool air they’re a vision of strength, power, and endless, chaotic motion.

Now imagine you are asked to ride one of these wild horses right now. Just hop on and experience that raw power and speed for yourself. Would you say yes?

Even if you train horses for a living the answer is likely still a resounding no! All that power and energy is awesome – but uncontrollable. And you simply don’t have the skills to make that wild horse follow your commands and keep you safe.

The same is true of your mind. The human mind is powerful and full of energy, but it, too, often runs wild throughout the day as we multitask, scroll, and ruminate on the past or worry about the future. This distraction might interfere with relationships, increase stress – even keep you up at night.

In this summary, we’ll look at how mastering one key skill – the ability to focus – can harness the power of awareness to help you live a more stress-free, successful, and rewarding life. You’ll learn how consistent practice in focus can deepen your relationships, overcome stress, and help you chart a path toward your goals that is clear, measurable, and achievable.

Like training a wild horse, it will take daily practice. But if you want to ride off into a fulfilled, happy life harnessing the awesome power of your mind, let’s trot together into the first section.

Happiness is a lifestyle, not a goal.

It’s early morning in Sarah’s kitchen, and she’s half-awake and making coffee before the kids get up for school. Smartphone in one hand, she’s scrolling notifications while shoveling coffee grounds with the other. Noticing the time, she shuffles over to the fridge to start breakfast when email notifications start pinging.

Not smelling coffee, she notices she didn’t turn it on. Frustrated, she jabs at the button before her eyes wander again to her phone, curious about the new emails.

Her pulse jumps as she reads that a colleague is sick and can’t do a presentation this afternoon. Sarah’s mood jumps from frustration to fear – she hates giving presentations. Her heart pounds as she imagines the team asking her to step in.

Now she’s riding a roller coaster of emotions and worries. Just then her kids bound down the stairs for breakfast. She snaps at them to go get dressed as she’s running late. Instantly regretting the harsh words, she sees their good mood disappear. What can she do? she thinks to herself. She’s got a million things on her mind and the kids will understand.

Her day is already full of frustration, worry, anger, and sadness.

After years of mornings like this, Sarah feels burned out and disconnected from her kids. She’s unhappy and wonders how things got this way.

Now let’s imagine the same morning, but this time Sarah does one thing differently: she focuses her mind.

Rising early after a good night’s sleep, Sarah makes her bed – closing her sleep routine before starting the day. Once complete, she gives her full attention to the next task, making her coffee. Then does the same with breakfast, and so on.

She’s already decided not to check her notifications until later at the office so she can give her full attention to her morning. Sensing her attention, the kids feel happy and loved. Their joy and openness over breakfast bring her happiness, too, and they start the day happy.

Focusing like this throughout the day means that each client or task that arises gets Sarah’s full presence. Feeling energized by her interactions, she brings that feeling home at the end of the day to her family. After years of this routine, Sarah feels fulfilled. Her relationships thrive and her projects are rewarding.

While the goal was the same – get up and start the day – these two Sarahs end up very far apart. The only difference? One used her daily routines to practice focusing her awareness and the other didn’t. How can focus make such a difference? It all comes down to the mind.

The mind doesn’t wander, but awareness does.

If focusing the mind is so powerful, it’s a good idea to spend a few moments now to understand how the mind and awareness work.

First, your mind exists in three states, a conscious, a subconscious, and a superconscious mind. Others might define these differently, but for our purposes let’s consider these states using unfocused Sarah as our guide.

Her conscious mind is the one that is interacting with the world – moving her through the kitchen, reacting to bodily sensations, and aware of her hunger. It reacts through instinct. If something sharp or hot touches her skin, this conscious mind reacts and pulls away.

Her subconscious mind is bigger. It’s caught up in Sarah’s reasoning and logic. Unlike her conscious mind, it records all her daily activities and decides whether she remembers them or not. It recognizes patterns and functions a lot like core programming, interpreting what it encounters and predicting what comes next.

Her superconscious mind is the hardest to describe because it goes beyond words in many ways. This part of the mind generates creativity and intuition. It’s what some might call the spiritual mind, the core self, or higher mind. It experiences the profound and transformative.

Only this third mind understands what is good for Sarah in the long run, but Sarah lives only in the conscious and subconscious mind. The daily barrage of information and emotions means her superconscious remains silent.

By now, it’s clear the mind itself is vast. But defining the mind must include a definition of its agent, awareness. So, let’s take a closer look at this.

As unfocused Sarah moves through her morning, her awareness travels through areas of her mind as she navigates. Imagine her awareness as a ball of light that illuminates only a small area around it and can only focus on one area at a time. As Sarah makes the coffee, for instance, her body goes through the motions while her awareness, that glowing ball of light, is actually lighting up the news-oriented part of her mind as she scrolls her phone. When she notices the coffee’s not on, her awareness jets over to the “frustration” area of the mind. Reading the email about the presentation, that glowing ball exits frustration and rockets over to “fear.”

Her mind has not moved in all this, but her awareness has traveled at light speed through distant areas of her mind. Seeing her kids, which usually moves her awareness into happiness, couldn’t budge it this morning. It was held tight in “fear” and she snapped at them. This hurtled awareness over to the sadness area of her mind, and so on.

But focused Sarah chose to keep that ball of light fully illuminating each task, and followed it to completion. She used her morning rituals to practice focused awareness in each moment. Without multitasking, coffee is made and breakfast prepared. When her awareness is fully on her family, they feel her presence. She isn’t distracted and awareness doesn’t drift into the future or the past.

In other words, she is not at the mercy of outside influences, and chooses where in her mind her awareness dwells. This is a choice we can all make, as we’ll see next.

Renounce multitasking to reclaim your awareness.

Understanding the states of mind and the role awareness plays in navigating them, leads to a startling point. Your mind isn’t you, your awareness is.

To find out why, let’s return to our wild Mustang horses but twist our metaphor just a little bit. Let’s imagine just one of those racing mustangs as our awareness. For most of us, this awareness runs wild and untrained throughout our vast minds. As a result, our awareness races from place to place, situation to situation, until it exhausts itself. Darting between the past and future, it might cover miles in a day, but it wasn’t moving toward any defined goal. It only stops to rest when exhausted. A creature of habit, it returns again and again to the same places, even dangerous ones – even though it’s harmful to long-term survival. The vast area the horse wanders through doesn’t change much, but where the horse wanders determines how it experiences life.

Now, let’s imagine awareness as the same horse after training. Listening carefully to commands from the rider, this horse moves from area to area efficiently and with control. It doesn’t exhaust itself in a few moments of panic. It’s created well-worn paths to happy, healthy areas of the mind, as the rider often goes there. The longer awareness – this focused horse – follows signals from the rider, the more trust is developed. The horse no longer startles and runs off into the swamps of trauma or the cliff edges of unresolved emotions – no matter what comes up.

To do this, awareness must follow, not lead. But who is the rider? The rider is your superconscious mind – that core that knows what is good for you, the source of your intuition and creativity. Focus allows the third state of mind, the superconscious, to activate. It can start to move as one with awareness, and flow to places that are healthy and good to dwell in the mind. You and your surroundings thrive as your mental energy is channeled wisely. You can keep focused on your goals without unnecessary stress, and be fully present in all you do.

All training, especially something as energetic and powerful as your awareness, must begin slowly and steadily. Returning to focused Sarah and her morning, we saw her using her daily rituals to practice focusing her awareness. Sure, some mornings go better than others, she’s not perfect. But she uses daily tasks and interactions to practice attention, with the ultimate goal of focusing her mind all the time.

In the next section, we’ll explain how everyone can start to do the same.

Focus requires practice and progress tracking.

To begin, start small. You wouldn’t hop off the couch after a long holiday weekend of burgers and beer to run the New York City Marathon. You wouldn’t make it very far and likely give up running altogether after a few sweaty miles.

To start practicing focus it’s best not to attempt becoming a yogi overnight, either. Think of how many hours in the day you go down social media rabbit holes, or find yourself running late because you were mulling over a fight you had and lost track of time. You’ve spent a lifetime practicing distraction, it’ll take time to practice focus.

So keeping patience close at hand, begin by making a list of five things you do each and every day – things like brushing your teeth or talking to your partner over a meal. Write your list in order of importance, too. If your family often complains that you’re distracted, knowing it is important to your relationships might bump that last one up the list, for instance.

For the first task, commit that from now on, you’ll be totally focused on that task until it’s complete. Do the very best job you can at whatever the task is, and try to increase your effort each time. When you notice your focus wandering over dinner with your spouse, for instance, bring it back and redouble your effort. Your full presence may be difficult to maintain at first – again, you’ve practiced distraction for ages now. But with enough practice, it becomes easier.

To keep yourself motivated, take a quiet moment after you’ve completed the practice each day and score yourself. You can use a simple scale like three points for excellent focus, two points for mostly focused, one point for doing okay, and zero if you felt your attention wandered.

Once a month, add up the score and divide by the number of days you tracked. It might take a few months for your score to improve for just this first task – but don’t add on the next task until you’re consistently scoring yourself excellent in focus on the first. Only you can decide when you take on the next – but be patient. Like a muscle, practice builds strength over time. The more you flex your focus muscle on these small, daily rituals, the stronger your focus will be.

Daily practice and progress tracking train your awareness to hold firm, even in the face of external chaos. Holding your awareness in a conversation with your spouse, for instance, can keep you from responding angrily in the moment during a misunderstanding, and instead ask for clarification. Over time, this strengthens your relationship. Devoting full attention to cleaning your teeth will pay benefits at the dentist, too.

So keep motivated knowing all your efforts to practice focus, even on days when they fail, are helping you in many ways all at once. Being honest and patient with yourself, as with physical training, will help on tough days. As your practice deepens and you remain focused more and more of the time, you’ll be ready to thwart the enemies of focus, like worry and anxiety. We’ll see how in the next section.

Focus can help overcome worry, anxiety, and stress.

Returning to unfocused Sarah one last time, let’s use her awareness to uncover some common enemies of focus.

When she reads the work email, her awareness flies from preparing breakfast to the part of her mind where she projects the future. She imagines herself nervous and sweaty in front of the client, her mouth dry and stammering. Her awareness might have flown backward remembering an earlier experience in life when she was afraid in front of a group. As her awareness moves to this part of her mind, she’s flooded with unresolved emotions from the past, and projects them into the future.

Her awareness travels from the present, to the future, to a painful past, all in a few moments. The result is she feels overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

Focused Sarah, on the other hand, puts off reading emails until she’s ready to focus on work. If she’s tasked with the presentation at the last minute, she might notice her awareness trying to imagine terrible things or remember painful memories, but she brings her focus back to the task at hand until it’s complete. Her practiced focus keeps her awareness from wandering and so she makes wise decisions here and now. The presentation goes well and she feels exhilarated.

The stronger an unresolved emotion or traumatic memory is, the more awareness may be drawn to that area when new stresses arise. Some traumas have well-worn paths in the mind as our awareness travels back to them often, channeling mental energy but resolving nothing. There are many good ways, including therapy and treatment, to help resolve these over time. Practicing focus can also help.

For example, while brushing your teeth, you might notice your awareness wandering into unresolved emotions or traumatic memories. That’s OK, but try and bring it back to brushing patiently. Remind yourself that you’re OK right now, and let your focus stay in the present. Over time, you’ll trust your ability to focus your awareness away from destructive thought patterns and back into the current moment.

Similarly, when you find yourself worrying, you’ll notice that you are imagining the future, not focusing on the present; you’re using past, often negative, experience to predict possible futures; and you’re exhausting your mental energy. Gently bringing your focus back to the present shuts down this process and returns your energy to the task at hand. Helping you respond wisely to what is actually happening in the now.

With practice, this can yield incredible benefits, and you don’t have to change your life to get them. Using the things you already do to practice focusing your awareness, over time, can change how you experience much of your life. The more your focus is present, the more connected you can be to yourself, your relationships, and your life’s journey. Helping you to make excellent use of the most limited and valuable resource of them all: the time of your life.

Summary

Your mind is vast and has many areas in it, but your awareness is finite. Awareness can be controlled by focus in constructive, rather than destructive, ways. Start slowly by bringing full attention and effort to small daily rituals. Expand this over time to give you control over where you direct and invest your mental energy. As your focus strengthens, the practice can help root out worry, overcome chronic stress, deepen your relationships, and change how you experience life.

Here’s a piece of actionable advice as you navigate your process:

Keep going!

No matter how long it takes, once you’ve learned to focus completely during all five daily routines you’ve chosen – don’t stop! Make another list and choose five more daily rituals to take on. Add them one at a time and slowly, just like the first. Be sure to track your progress and reflect regularly, too. You’ll begin to notice how the more you stay focused each day, the more easily you prioritize and free up mental energy to invest in the things that truly matter in your life.

About the author

Dandapani is a Hindu priest, entrepreneur, and former monk of ten years. An internationally renowned speaker and world-leading expert on leveraging the human mind to create a life of purpose and joy, Dandapani has shared the stage with world-renowned leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-moon, and former French President Francois Hollande. He and his wife are currently creating a 33-acre retreat center and botanical garden in Costa Rica to further their mission of inspiring personal growth and self-transformation.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
Part 1 A Life of Purpose and Joy
Chapter 1 Foundations for a Concentrated Mind 3
Lesson 1.1 Living a Purpose-Focused Life 5
Lesson 1.2 Taking Charge 9
Lesson 1.3 Desire, Life’s Supreme Force 15
Lesson 1.4 Making the Case 19
Chapter 2 Setting Up for Success 23
Lesson 2.1 Life Is Meant to Be Lived Joyously 25
Lesson 2.2 Manifesting the Life You Want 28
Lesson 2.3 Death, the Greatest Impetus 30
Lesson 2.4 The Law of Practice 38
Lesson 2.5 Intention and Obedience 46
Lesson 2.6 The Power of Small 51
Part 2 The Ineffable Mind
Chapter 3 Understanding the Mind 59
Lesson 3.1 The World’s Most Powerful Tool 61
Lesson 3.2 The Mind’s Great Secret 66
Lesson 3.3 The Mind as a Mansion 74
Lesson 3.4 Awareness as a Traveler 78
Chapter 4 Where Awareness Goes, Energy Flows 83
Lesson 4.1 The Importance of Terminology 85
Lesson 4.2 Awareness in Daily Life 88
Lesson 4.3 Awareness the Dog 94
Lesson 4.4 The Story of Energy 98
Lesson 4.5 Emotion’s Magnetic Power 103
Lesson 4.6 The Mycelium of the Mind 109
Chapter 5 Mastering Awareness 115
Lesson 5.1 Defining the Purpose and Goal 117
Lesson 5.2 Moving Awareness in the Mind 121
Lesson 5.3 Bringing Awareness to Attention 127
Lesson 5.4 Detaching Awareness 130
Lesson 5.5 The Steward of Awareness 137
Part 3 Wings of the Mind
Chapter 6 Unwavering Focus 143
Lesson 6.1 Please Don’t Drug Me 145
Lesson 6.2 Defining Concentration 152
Lesson 6.3 Distraction-the Mental Plague 156
Lesson 6.4 Integrating Focus into Life 162
Lesson 6.5 Establishing Concentration Rituals 171
Chapter 7 Willpower-Life’s Greatest Force 181
Lesson 7.1 Defining and Understanding Willpower 183
Lesson 7.2 Three Ways to Develop Willpower 189
Lesson 7.3 Integrating Willpower into Life 195
Lesson 7.4 Establishing Willpower Rituals 201
Lesson 7.5 The Source of Willpower 207
Lesson 7.6 Doing the Deep Work 210
Chapter 8 Cogitations on Concentration 215
Lesson 8.1 Technology and Concentration 217
Lesson 8.2 The Wheels of the Mind 225
Lesson 8.3 Ruminations on Focus 231
Lesson 8.4 Offspring of Focus 237
Lesson 8.5 Demystifying Focus 245
Part 4 A Panacea for the Mind
Chapter 9 The Four Foes 255
Lesson 9.1 Being Present-the Remedy 257
Lesson 9.2 The Root Cause of Worry 264
Lesson 9.3 Conquering Fear 271
Lesson 9.4 Overcoming Anxiety and Stress 277
Chapter 10 Tools in Action 283
Lesson 10.1 Regrettable Reactions 285
Lesson 10.2 Mental Arguments 293
Lesson 10.3 A Game Changer 299
Lesson 10.4 At the Heart of Commerce 303
Lesson 10.5 Focus in Business 308
Conclusion 319
Acknowledgments 321
Index 323

Overview

The life you want is in reach, if only you can master the power of focus

Anxiety, stress, worry, and fear—these are the mental maladies that literally plague us, contributing not only to our growing unhappiness, but also to physical ailments such as heart disease and obesity when left unmanaged. As Hindu priest and renowned speaker Dandapani shows in this eye-opening and enriching new book, it is only through mastering one skill—the skill of focus—that we can permanently lay these mental roadblocks to rest.

Dandapani spent ten years in a cloistered monastery, learning invaluable lessons on the benefits of concentration. In THE POWER OF UNWAVERING FOCUS, Dandapani distills the wisdom he gained as a monk into a practical, step-by-step guide to understanding and harnessing the mind. With clear definitions and practicable exercises (such as making your bed every morning), Dandapani teaches readers how to move awareness within the mind with willpower, incrementally integrating the practice of focus into daily life, resulting in sustainable change.

Through his lectures and courses, Dandapani’s message of focus has already reached and helped millions overcome distraction. Now, THE POWER OF UNWAVERING FOCUS opens readers’ eyes to how practicing the skill of focus can drastically improve productivity, relationships, mental health, and happiness—ultimately gifting us the ability to direct awareness and energy toward achieving our life goals.

Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award

“In a world dominated by distraction, this book is a timely reminder of the value of focused attention.”
—ADAM GRANT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

“Concentration is one of the most important skills any leader can have. The Power of Unwavering Focus shows us not only that focus is a learnable skill but that anyone can master the practice of intense concentration.”
—INDRA NOOYI, former chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo

“Being able to concentrate in our distracted world is a superpower. In this conversational but profound book, Dandapani shows how to take practical steps to become better at this skill, so we can feel less busy and get more done.”
—LAURA VANDERKAM, author of Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters

“Dandapani offers a radical and timely call to cultivate the deep joys and resilience of the focused life. Highly recommended for anyone feeling adrift in a sea of distraction and mindlessness.”
—CAL NEWPORT, New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work

“If you struggle with distraction or stress—and of course you do—you need Dandapani’s wonderful new book. Both profound and practical, The Power of Unwavering Focus will lead you on a journey to reclaim your life and live it with joy and purpose.”
—ARTHUR C. BROOKS, professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School and #1 New York Times bestselling author

“The disciplined application of fundamental concepts is synonymous with elite performance. As a former Navy SEAL and combat leader, simplicity has always been a critical component to thriving in high-stress scenarios. Dandapani provides clear, concise, simple instruction for anyone to achieve elite focus in their life.”
—NICK NORRIS, entrepreneur and former Navy SEAL

Video and Podcast

Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Chapter 1: Foundations for a Concentrated Mind

Lesson 1.1: Living a Purpose-Focused Life

There is nothing more important than knowing who you are, the path that you are on, and its final end. —Gurudeva

It was a cold and windy winter evening in Munich as we hurriedly walked toward the restaurant we were heading to. As much as I love walking around in this old Bavarian city, my favorite place in Germany, I was eager to get out of the cold. It wasn’t long before we arrived at our destination, and the warmth of this quaint restaurant with its well-worn hardwood floors was a welcome embrace. We made our way to a table in the corner, draped the chairs with our layers of winter wear, ordered some wine, and continued the conversation we had been having on the walk here.

I was spending the evening with one of my dear friends, Moritz, a German entrepreneur whom I have known for a few years. He reached over to his glass of wine, took a sip, placed it back on the table, and asked me, “If you say that knowing one’s purpose in life is so important, critical, in fact, then why do you always talk about the mind and focus? Why do you not start with teaching people how to find one’s purpose in life?”

The wood chair creaked as I leaned forward and responded, “We discover our purpose in life with our mind. To do so, we need to have sufficient understanding and mastery of our mind, plus the ability to focus it. Only then can we maintain a state of self-reflection consistently over time to come to a clear and definitive conclusion of our life’s purpose. So, though it may appear that seeking one’s life purpose is where we should start, it is, in fact, not the case.”

I continued, “When I ask people what they want in life, most people respond with some version of ‘to be happy.’ You often hear parents saying to their kids, ‘We just want you to be happy.’ Happiness should never be pursued. Rather, one should pursue a lifestyle where the by-product of living that lifestyle is happiness. For example, I have a glass of wine with one of my dearest friends in my favorite city in Germany and I feel happy. So the key is then to have good wine with good friends in Germany.”

Moritz laughed and responded with, “I’ll toast to that!”

“Cheers!” I smiled as we clinked our wineglasses.

It was warm inside, but sitting next to the window I could feel the cold desperately trying to seep in through the glass. “It’s a sequential process,” I shared. “Having a good understanding of the inner workings of the mind and the ability to focus is the foundation of what is needed to discover our purpose in life. Our purpose defines our priorities, and our priorities define the lifestyle we should lead. The by-product of living a life that has been defined by our purpose is happiness.”

Moritz responded, “Well, when you put it that way, it all makes sense why you would want to start with understanding the mind and learning to focus.”

“When we can live a purpose-focused life we can live a rewarding life.”

This book will give you the foundational teachings and tools necessary to understand and leverage the mind and the power of unwavering focus. Understanding these two things-your mind and how to focus it-will allow you to begin the process of discovering your life’s purpose, and subsequently defining your priorities and focusing on them, thus enabling you to live a life of purpose and joy. In the upcoming chapters, we will learn, among other things, how to use these learnings to live in the present as well as to heal many of the ailments that plague our mind, such as worry, fear, anxiety, and stress.

I’ll share with you a step-by-step process of understanding how the mind works so that you can learn to control and direct it. You will also learn how to focus. In addition, I will share with you a range of simple, practical, but highly effective tools to help you become good at controlling the mind and focusing. You will learn ways to implement these tools easily and consistently in your daily life to sustain your progress toward the goals you want to achieve. Don’t expect to master any of these tools by the end of the book; rather, expect to get a good and solid understanding of how these tools work, and practical techniques for applying them in every aspect of your life. It’s your consistency in applying these tools in the coming weeks and months that will determine how much you actually benefit from them. Eventually, if you are consistent enough in your application, you will find that your mental patterns, your habit patterns, start to change, and you will create a different lifestyle for yourself.

The ability to focus is one of humanity’s greatest assets. It is at the core of all human success and endeavor, because the ability to concentrate is what helps a person manifest their goals in life. Most people want to experience some version of happiness, contentment, enlightenment, or other such uplifting feelings, but they do not know how to attain such states because they are never taught that the key to creating the life they want is concentration. Additionally, most people are never taught how to harness and direct the powers of concentration as a tool for manifestation.

Now, the question will be asked, “Do I need to live a focused life?” My answer is “No.” You absolutely do not need to live a focused life. Living a focused life is a choice, and we all have the choice of whether we want to or not. It’s your life, and you should decide how you want to live it. That said, living a focused life supports you in having a more rewarding life.

There is a reason you are reading this book, and I hope it’s because something inside you is telling you that leading a focused life or a purpose-focused life will improve the quality of your life and bring greater meaning to it.

What’s the difference between a focused life and a purpose-focused life? A focused life is one in which you are able to give whoever and whatever you are engaged with your undivided attention. You are fully present in all your experiences and thus creating a truly rewarding life, though your experiences are not driven by a greater overarching purpose. A purpose-focused life, on the other hand, is one in which your life’s purpose defines your priorities, and your priorities drive what you focus on. Your life is lived very intentionally. You make wise choices each day based on your life’s purpose: who you spend time with, what you spend your time on, what music you listen to, what books you read, what shows you watch, what foods you eat, and more. You give who and what you are engaged with your undivided attention, but the who and what are intentionally chosen.

Ultimately, the goal of this book is to help you live a focused life or a purpose-focused life and reap its boundless benefits.

Lesson 1.2: Taking Charge

We have the choice of what we focus on in life. This choice is not always easy. Sometimes, if not often, it is extremely difficult, but we do have the choice.

When I was a monk living in my guru’s monastery, I met a man from the island country of Mauritius who always smiled. He was, for lack of a better word, interning at the monastery for a few months, and during this time I got to know him. One day I asked him, “Why are you always smiling?”

He looked at me and said, “My father died when I was very young. My widowed mother had to raise me and my siblings all by herself, and we were quite poor. Every morning my mother would wake us up, get us to stand in a line, and then make us all laugh for five minutes. That was how we started our day.”

I cannot even begin to tell you how that story has impacted my life. This lady, faced with the loss of her husband and forced now to provide for her children and herself, made the choice of how she would start her day. She chose what she wanted her kids to focus on. She chose what to impress on their malleable subconscious first thing in the morning. Little did she know that her actions would ripple halfway across the world to Hawaii in the living example of her son and then be told in a book one day.

Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison only to be released, topple South Africa’s racist system of apartheid, and become president. This is a great lesson of a person who chose what he would focus on in his mind while in prison.

These are two examples of people who took charge of their mind and made the conscious choice of what to focus on in life. We cannot leave it up to our environment to determine what we focus on. The outcome would be disastrous. We must take charge of what it is we wish to focus on in life. We also cannot leave it to our mind, because the mind has no ability to discriminate between what is good for you and what is not good for you.

If my mind knew what was good for me, I would be perfect. Every time I picked up a bowl of French fries, my mind would say, “Have three fries and then have this bowl of salad, it’s healthier.” But my mind doesn’t say that. My mind says, “Yes, go for it. Have that bowl of fries, and put on extra ketchup, because it’s really, really good.” And then, “Have some of these onion rings, too.”

The mind has no idea what is good for you and what is not good for you until you have trained it to discriminate between the two. Once you have trained and programmed the mind to be able to determine wisely what is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually uplifting to you, then it can help you make better choices in life.

There was a time when people were sold the concept that smoking was good for you. They believed it, told their minds that smoking was good for them, and smoked themselves to death. Now, if the mind knew that smoking was bad for them, it would have said, “You idiot! Smoking kills. Stop doing it. You’re gonna kill us both.” But it didn’t say that because unless you give the mind the right information, it has no ability to guide you in the right direction.

That said, there is a part of the mind that does know what is good for you. It’s called the superconscious mind.

The Three States of Mind

To better understand the mind, you can view it in three states. This book does not dive deep into understanding the various states of mind, but I want to give you a brief, simplified insight, as it will support many of the points I bring up throughout the book.

You can view these three states of the mind as the conscious, the subconscious, and the superconscious mind. To better understand this, imagine the mind as a three-story building, with the superconscious mind on the top floor, the subconscious in the middle, and the conscious mind on the ground floor. Let’s look at the characteristics of each of these states of mind.

The conscious mind is the external mind, oriented to the world around us, and is tied to our five senses. It is the instinctive part of us, and I often refer to it as the instinctive mind. It governs, for example, our hunger and thirst, the basic faculties of perception and movement, procreation, impulsive thought processes, and more.

The subconscious mind is our intellectual mind. It is the seat of reason and logical thinking. You could also say that the subconscious mind is our “hard drive.” It records all the conscious mind’s experiences, whether those experiences are remembered or not. Additionally, it stores impressions and habit patterns, and also governs involuntary physiological processes.

The superconscious mind, as Gurudeva describes it, is “the mind of light, the all-knowing intelligence of the soul.” At its deepest level, the superconscious can be described as spiritual consciousness or nondual consciousness. The superconscious is the source of creativity, intuition, profound spiritual experiences, and more.

Viewing the three states of mind as a three-story building, we can make the following conclusions. To impress something upon the subconscious mind, we would need to go through the conscious mind (we would have to go through the first floor to get to the second floor). Intuition, which comes from the superconscious mind, must pass through the subconscious mind to get to the conscious mind for us to perceive it. A cluttered subconscious would make it difficult for intuition to get through.

Of these three states of mind, only the superconscious knows what is good for you. It is, after all, the all-knowing intelligence of the soul. This is a problem because people mostly function in the conscious and subconscious mind, with an occasional flash of intuitive wisdom coming through from the superconscious mind.

The subconscious mind basically doesn’t know what is good for you unless you have trained it to know. To train it, you must first have a good understanding and control of the mind in general. Then you have to gather the right information, digest it, form clear conclusions, and input these conclusions into the subconscious in an organized way, so the subconscious can use these conclusions to guide you. This is when the subconscious becomes an incredible asset. A clarified subconscious working in harmony with the superconscious is an unfathomable power you are entitled to.

In today’s world, the tsunami of information that barrages us daily devastates the very landscape of our subconscious mind. The subconscious dies a slow death of information indigestion, leading to the inability to make decisions (even simple ones), confusion, overthinking, anxiety, stress, and more. We consume information faster than a starving man would food, but do not give any time to the processing of that information and the critical stage of forming clear conclusions. This act debilitates the subconscious. More and more people are simply unable to make decisions or even to know what they want in life.

At any point in time during the day, your awareness is functioning in one of these states of mind (and we will learn about awareness in chapter 3). How you act and react to experiences in life is based on which of these states of mind your awareness is in. Ultimately, you should be in charge of where in your mind your awareness goes.