Day #488:Ralph Waldo Emerson on Focus

The one prudence in life is concentration; the one evil is dissipation: and it makes no difference whether our dissipations are coarse or fine; property and its cares, friends, and a social habit, or politics, or music, or feasting. . . Friends, books, pictures, lower duties, talents, flatteries, hopes, – all are distractions which cause oscillations in our giddy balloon, and make a good poise and a straight course impossible. You must elect your work; you shall take what your brain can, and drop all the rest. Only so, can that amount of vital force accumulate, which can make the step from knowing to doing.

Emerson understood early on his career as a writer that if he was to succeed, complete focus had to be given to the task at hand. By eliminating distractions in his life, Emerson created an environment in which he could completely focus on his most important work. This is not to say that Emerson was a hermit who lived only for work. He loved to engage in pithy conversations with friends in his home and visit them at home and abroad. But he did not let such things take away from his passion for writing and lecturing.

How to apply Emerson’s lesson in your life
Emerson eliminated distractions by limiting the amount of books he read, streamlining “lower duties” like household chores, and avoiding relationships with people whose nervous temperaments upset his focus. While today there are many more distractions than in Emerson’s day, we too can reduce our information consumption.

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