How to Stay Focused: Lessons from Japanese Zanshin Practice

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    In the book, Zen in the Art of Archery, German researcher Eugen Herrigel tells how his Japanese teacher hit the target with one arrow and then split the first arrow with the second one. Such accuracy, of course, requires a good eye, developed coordination of movements, and a lot of experience. But not only. In the Japanese tradition, the main secret of mastery is not the ideal technique, but the ability to work with consciousness. In the story described by Herrigel, the archer was so focused on the series of actions that led to the first accurate shot that he was able to reproduce them without aiming and achieve the same result. In Japanese, this absolute concentration on the process is called zanshin.

    How to Enter Zanshin

    Of course, this state is quite interesting for modern people because the huge amount of information we get every day is sometimes overwhelming. And at the same time, we often need to concentrate on important things like studying. If you need help with your assignments, you can simply buy college papers and devote the free time to learning how to concentrate.

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    Typically, recommendations range from advice to practice aikido, where the principle of zanshin is widely applied, to breathing practices. But the most interesting approach comes from zanshin expert, author, and entrepreneur Abrar Ahmed. In his book, The Art of Being in Focus, he writes that zanshin is actually a natural state of mind when freed from unnecessary burdens. To be healthy at a basic level, it is often enough to exclude the most obvious factors that destroy the body. In the case of zanshin, these are four main obstacles.

    1.  Give up Multitasking

    Studies show that only 2% of people are able to successfully cope with several tasks at the same time. When you take on one task and immediately start thinking about another, you are signaling to the brain that the first task is half completed and therefore requires less attention. The more tasks you solve at the same time, the less attention they get.

    2.  Don’t Get Carried Away With the Anticipation of Success

    One way to disrupt zanshin is to focus not on the process of moving towards a goal, but on fantasizing about what it will give you to achieve it. For example, you are just starting a training course or a diet, but you are already drawing a happy ending: a six-pack. Sometimes these visualizations are called motivating. In the concept of zanshin, this situation is described as follows: if you mentally already see yourself at the finish line, then you have no incentive to continue the process.

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    3.  Don’t Overstate Your Ambitions

    Only a few become stars of sports, but this does not mean that training is useless. Overestimated ambitions prevent us from seeing real current tasks and, more importantly, real achievements. But try to mentally break the most ambitious project into its component parts — each of them will not differ much from the most ordinary task. When you embark on a new project, try not to judge yourself according to criteria appropriate for someone who has already walked the path you just started.

    4.  Don’t Jump Over the Steps

    The easiest way to lose focus is when you think all problems have been solved. One study found that in a competitive environment, the person who loses their vigilance after a winning streak loses often. We tend to relax at the moment of approaching the goal. The ability not to rush things and pay equal attention to every moment is a skill that requires special training. For this, traditional oriental practices, which teach to slow down, are suitable.

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