In a sense, this is the principle that makes slotras work. By repeating the slotra over and over, you allow your mind to focus, like the sun through a magnifying glass. The sun could shine all day without changing a piece of paper lying on the ground. But use a magnifying glass to focus a lot of light on one little spot, and you’ll start to see something happen.
It’s like reading a book. You read and get a lot of good ideas, and then get up and go on about your day, and the ideas never had a sharp enough focus onto a single point to make a difference. But take one of those ideas and repeat it and think about it and tell your friends about it, and you’ll start to see something happen. Repetition creates focus. Focus creates power.
In experiments on Yoga practitioners, researchers found that their intense focus during meditation created a specific power: the power to maintain an alpha brain rhythm even during annoying stimulation. During meditation, the yogis’ brain waves slowed down and became rhythmical. It is known as an alpha state, and the state cannot be achieved by force. You can’t make yourself, by any effort, create that state, because the state of forcing or “making yourself” puts your brain in a beta state, a normal waking state characterized by a faster and more chaotic electrical pulse.
Once the yogis got into that alpha state, the researchers tried to see what they could do that might pop them out of alpha and into beta. They tried strong light, a loud banging noise, touching them with something hot, ringing a tuning fork, and sticking their hands into ice-cold water for forty-five minutes.
Something they didn’t try was smacking them on the back of the head with a baseball bat. I think it would’ve worked, but I wasn’t there at the time and they didn’t ask me for my ideas. But anyway, the things they tried didn’t work at all. The yogis stayed in alpha, and their alpha rhythm didn’t respond at all to the annoying stimuli. By contrast, normal people sitting there who had relaxed enough to be in alpha would immediately come out of it from any of those stimuli.
What were the yogis doing? They were simply repeating some stimulus over and over. Either saying a word over and over to themselves (a mantra), or holding a picture in their mind’s eye, and when they drifted away into other thoughts, they brought their mind back to that picture or word.
Focus is what created the power.
The ability to stay with what you’re doing without getting your attention scattered by non-relevant stimuli is a vital component to your general effectiveness in life. Csikszentmihalyi wrote, “If the rock-climber were to worry about his job or his love life as he is hanging by his fingertips over the void, he would soon fall. The musician would hit a wrong note, the chess player would lose the game.”
If you can set a goal and stay with it through all the normal distractions of our modern world day after day until you reach your goal, you are in possession of a power to be reckoned with!
Focus creates power. Even my repetition of this principle here is creating a certain amount of focus.
But repetition is boring, isn’t it? Let’s look at that for a moment. Boredom means what? It’s an unpleasant state characterized by a wandering mind. Your mind wanders, which is the opposite of focus.
When you’re repeating your slotras, and your mind wanders, you can handle it in one of two ways. I don’t know which way is best. Either you can wait until you notice your mind has wandered, and then gently bring it back to repeating the slotra again. That’s the peaceful way. If you have too much stress in your life, that’s the one I recommend.
If you want more motivation and energy in your life, I recommend the other way: say your slotra fast enough and intensely enough that your mind doesn’t wander very much.
The repetition of the slotra focuses your mental powers on one idea and forms a well-worn path through your brain.
In Ben Franklin’s autobiography, he wrote about how he changed himself. He made a list of thirteen virtues he wanted to acquire. He said:
My Intention being to acquire the Habitude of all these Virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my Attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time, and when I should be Master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen...I determined to give a Week’s strict Attention to each of the Virtues successively.
His method of concentrating his attention on one at a time worked wonderfully, and through the practice of these virtues became one of the most useful men in America during his lifetime.
The most effective formula for success is: Pick one goal and think about it and work toward it all the time. Make it your Magnificent Obsession. There may be many things you want. As Earl Nightingale suggests, write them all down, but then choose one. Forget about the others for now. Choose one and make it your top priority, your most urgent daily obsession. Do this, and keep it up long enough, and success is practically guaranteed.
Albert Einstein and a colleague were once working on a scientific paper, and when they were done, they needed a paper clip. They looked around and found one, but it was bent out of shape. So they started looking around for a tool they could use to bend it back into a usable shape, when they came across a whole box of paper clips.
Einstein immediately took out a good paper clip and bent it into a tool that he then used to bend the original paper clip back into a usable shape.
His partner said, “What are you doing bending that paper clip into shape when we have a whole box of perfectly good ones!?”
Einstein’s reply was, “Once I’m set on a goal, it becomes difficult to deflect me.”
He said later in his life that this little incident characterized him more than any other. It’s a silly incident, and it was a foolish waste of time to bend the paper clip back, but the habit of staying on a chosen course is extremely powerful, and fully worth it even if the habit occasionally wastes time.
This world can easily be looked on as a trap designed to take you off course, whatever course you’re on. The world is full of enticing temptations, annoying circumstances and catastrophes, full of people who want your attention, your energies, and your money to go somewhere other than down your track. Staying on track is a tremendous test of will.
The chief obstacle is something inside your body, something built into your genetic makeup — a curiosity that makes the human species the most successful on Earth; a greed for what you don’t have, a desire to see, do, and hear new things. Combine that built-in desire to gain pleasant experiences with the free-enterprise system, and stir. What do you get? A dizzying land of temptations and distractions.
The world is literally screaming for your attention. Advertisers, salespeople, your friends, your enemies, and your own mother want your attention. They want you to take your attention off your goals for a moment and put your attention on their goals.
Distraction is the chief obstacle to achievement of any kind. It doesn’t seem like an obstacle, and that makes it all the more difficult to overcome.
In The Millionaire Mind page-a-day calendar, the author — who studied millionaires scientifically — tells about a school-bus driver who was able to send his children to medical school, private colleges, and graduate school, and then he retired with a net worth of three million dollars. What?! Wait a minute! Obviously you don’t make much money as a school-bus driver. But he was consistently frugal. That was important. He stayed focused on his goal.
One advantage of being a school-bus driver is lots of free time, and what he did consistently, staying on track year after year, was read about investments. He saved money by being frugal and then used what he learned in his reading to invest his money wisely. That’s how he did it. Not with a supreme exertion but with staying on purpose no matter what the temptations or distractions.
AN EXAMPLE OF FOCUS
Gail Borden thought condensed meat was the wave of the future. It was 1844 and people often died from eating tainted meat. Before refrigeration, people needed other alternatives. Borden experimented and found a way to boil 120 pounds of meat down to ten pounds, making it not only easier to carry, but less likely to spoil.
When the California Gold Rush began, he saw a ready market for his product, and he and his brother Tom built a meat-condensing plant and started cranking out the product.
But of course, the Gold Rush didn’t last very long. After it was over, his main source of customers dwindled down to nothing and his business went bankrupt.
“Don’t infer I’ve given up,” he told a friend. He knew the process of condensation was valuable, and he was determined to convince other people of it. After several more years of experimentation, he wrote in a letter to a friend, “Every piece of property I own is mortgaged. I labor fifteen hours a day.”
He was paying the price of accomplishment. Often it doesn’t come easy, especially when you want to make a difference. He wasn’t just trying to make a living. He could have just gotten a job. He had a vision, if you will: A big, shining vision a hundred feet tall of the Value of Condensation. He knew it was useful, and he was determined to bring his vision to fruition. He was obsessed. He said, “I mean to put a potato into a pill box, a pumpkin into a tablespoon, the biggest sort of watermelon into a saucer.”
Gail knew a lot about condensation, but apparently he was condensing the wrong thing. He was persistent, but he wasn’t a blind fool. He didn’t keep trying to give people what they didn’t want. What would they want? What could he condense that would serve humanity?
Pondering this question one day, he suddenly remembered an incident on a ship he had read about somewhere. Cows were on board to provide fresh milk (again, this was before refrigeration) for the babies on the voyage. But the cows took sick and four babies died from the tainted milk.
Maybe condensed milk would be useful. Gail started experimenting and found a way to condense milk without making it taste burnt, and opened a factory.
Dairy farmers saw this as a threat and started a campaign against this “unnatural” form of milk.
Keep this in mind: When you are doing something that needs to be done, even if it is all good, and even if your intentions are pure, there may be someone who finds your new thing a threat to an already-existing status quo. They may put up obstacles. What can you do to deal with it? Stay the course. You are not responsible for making everyone happy. You are responsible for accomplishing your goals.
Gail prevented himself from being distracted and continued toward his goal, and almost went belly up again. But then the Civil War broke out and the Union army thought Borden’s condensed milk was the perfect thing for a field ration. His business was saved. After the war, public perception had changed, and his business prospered. Condensed milk was indeed useful, and his company has been providing Borden’s condensed milk for more than 120 years now.
On his grave, the epitaph reads, “I tried and failed, I tried again and again, and succeeded.” He faced plenty of temptations to go off track, and plenty of distractions.
But you can accomplish tremendous things when you keep your eyes on the goal.
Read the next chapter: Unremitting Resolution Can Accomplish What Seemed Impossible
This article was excerpted from the book, Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.