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Using Resistance to Sharpen Your Focus

Using Resistance to Sharpen Your Focus

I was doing walking lunges a few days ago, starting with just my body weight, and it was smooth sailing for the first set. Then I grabbed some dumbbells for my working sets, and things quickly got uncomfortable. The additional weight transformed the experience, and in each set, the closer I got to failure, the more I had to focus just to keep my balance, much less push up away from the floor. 

If you bench press, you can almost certainly press 30 kg while simultaneously thinking about dinner, the weather, or some other irrelevant matter. It’s easy, leaving your mind with plenty of mental bandwidth to wander. But press a much heavier amount of weight, say 150 kg, and nothing else matters in that moment. It’s because heavier weight necessarily sharpens your focus. 

The caveat is that you must commit to it first. When you lie down on the bench and worry yourself to death about how heavy the lift will be, it only compromises your commitment. You psyche yourself out before you even start. That is why you must commit, whether it’s easy or hard, before you attempt the lift*. 

You can break a heavy lift into four phases: you commit, start lifting, overcome resistance, and follow through. Commitment itself requires some level of focus. Then, as you progress through the lift, and the heavier the resistance, the more intensely you fight to overcome it. You invariably find that the amount of resistance you face and your level of focus are positively correlated.

In life, focusing can be hard. Many times, you have to attend to mundane matters that deliver no sense of personal fulfillment. On any given day, there are countless opportunities for your mind to wander, not least because the world is full of distractions whose purpose is to keep you entertained and comfortable. And not just you. We all sometimes seek an escape from the real world. 

But your time is limited and invaluable, and comfort itself becomes a problem when it lulls you into being complacent. You cannot be complacent and focused at the same time, and if you want to sharpen your ability to focus on getting important things done, embracing discomfort is a powerful approach. 

Think of discomfort as a heavy weight. It’s any matter you must tackle that requires a degree of struggle. But discomfort does not necessarily come from the difficulty of doing something. Many times, it’s due to unfamiliarity with it. Changing your behavior or attempting to do something new, even when it’s objectively simple, can require a mental shift that feels unnatural. Overcoming your internal resistance is the real struggle. 

When it’s hard to focus on something that must get done, think back to your bench press. Committing to fighting through discomfort will be key to sharpening your focus on any endeavor. The fact is that not everything you must do to elevate yourself or impact other people will be pleasant or easy. Do what others don’t and won’t do. Commit first, and your focus will follow.

Sayonara until next time.


*In a real lifting situation, for your safety, have a spotter on hand to help if there’s a risk of dropping the weight on yourself.

*This message has not been authored in whole or in part by any artificial intelligence tools.

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