Mental Strength: Let’s get Practical about Passion

By now you know that focus is key to mental performance in any challenging or creative role. In fact, we would go so far as to say that the ability to pay attention is the most valuable asset each of us possess as a human being. Without the ability to pay attention, any other skill or ability you have is operating in the dark.

We all know intuitively that enjoying, or we might even say “loving”, what we do has a powerful impact on our ability to focus and perform. For those of us interested in accessing our full mental performance potential, it is important to come up with a practical explanation of this well accepted fact. It helps if you think of the word love as a verb.

love = attention

We are not talking about the feeling love that sociologists, poets, and philosophers have studied and written so much about. We are talking about a practical way to assess how much we love what we do in the interest of harnessing the power of passion for the sake of performance.

For that purpose, it is important to develop a simple definition for the mental act of love. To that effect, we need to determine what is going on in the brain of a person who loves what they are doing in real time. Regardless of whether they were playing baseball, selling a home, designing a bridge, or playing with a child, you would be able to say that the something in question appears to readily absorb their attention. Now, not everyone who loves what they are doing is happy or positive at the instant they are doing it (think emergency room physicians, elite soldiers, even marathon runners). In some cases they may be deeply focused on a crisis or focused on people who are suffering. Can you serve a purpose with great passion even if the situation you find yourself in includes great danger or suffering? Can you focus deeply on a terrible situation if you care deeply about the consequences?

In the context of our new definition, it can be instructive to ask yourself the practical question “How much do I love what I do?”. If you really want to know much you, your coworker, or kids love anything, just get out the old stopwatch. It is very important not to be judgemental. You may discover that your children love the apps on their mobile devices more than each other! You may also discover that you love design a lot more than you love building, or that you love selling more that you love managing. You may also discover that you love some things, people, and ideas a lot more that you thought (and others a lot less).

So, practically speaking, if love is attention, then the ability to control focus is literally the ability to steer and place love, isn’t it?

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