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You will have to work to harness your energy and focus, because without focus, you can go off on an ineffective tangent and squander all of your other tools. In a business, you need to conserve all of your reserves and get the biggest return on your efforts. Focus allow you to do just that.

Focus pulls you into the present, and if you’re dealing with the regrets of the past that leads to depression or the fears of the future that populate anxiety, it probably feels like staying in the present is damn near impossible. You do have the ability to harness and channel your thoughts and your actions, but in order to do so you’ll have to train your mind.

Think of your mind as a big muscle, one that you can build and strengthen over time. If you’re a wiry little thing like me, you may think that muscle training is beyond your abilities, but anyone can strengthen their muscles, and the same thing applies to your mind.

If you’re moonlighting right now, you’re learning firsthand the benefit of focus. After working a full eight hour shift, you have to make the best use of the precious few hours you have for your business that aren’t designated for loved ones, eating, sleeping and relaxing. If, on the other hand, you’re just getting started and have only worked as an employee, you may have trouble staying in the present. Email notifications and ringing phones, coworkers “dropping in” on you, and a boss who can’t find a priority to save his life have trained you to feel overwhelmed and unable to control your work day. If that’s the case, it’s time to break that horrible habit, if only when you’re working on your business, on your time.

You probably guessed this was coming: I’m going to tell you to take up meditation. Yes, it’s true—the best way to teach your brain to stay in the present is to practice meditation. Get rid of the idea that you have to be perfect or good at it when you start—everyone is horrible at it the first time, and thoughts are going to go off like popcorn when you start. When that happens, be glad that you’re normal and you’re experiencing what every Zen Master before you conquered.

There are thousands of books on meditation, and the one I recommend is Turning the Mind Into an Ally. I have a paperback copy of this book, and I keep it loaded on my Kindle so I’ll always have it for reference. Sakyong Mipham explains the discipline of meditation much better than I ever could, but I’ll give you the cheapskate’s version until you can read his words.

Start with a “meditation moment” that can be 5 seconds, 30 seconds or just a minute. At first, you’re just going to tell your subconscious that you’ll be doing something new, which will freak it out and it will tell you that you’ll fail miserably. Close your eyes and turn off all distractions and just observe the thoughts you have in your mind. Don’t comment on them, don’t fuss at yourself for having them, and don’t waste your time getting upset when you’re instantly distracted. You are getting a baseline idea of what your mind is doing, sort of like the programs that run in the background of your computer.

When you experience a chain of thoughts that go from “I’m meditating…this feels weird…I’m doing it wrong..I’m hungry…this sucks…I can’t do this right…this is a waste of time,” just go “Huh, so that’s what I’m thinking” and don’t get upset about it. Just take not that that is how your thoughts are flowing.

As you progress, you’ll begin to ask yourself why you have those thoughts, and you’ll start to get insight into why you think and feel the way you think and feel. You’ll be shocked at the thoughts you have, but once you’ve ID’ed them, you can work with them. Focusing your thoughts is the first step in focusing yourself since all of your actions and experiences start with your thoughts.

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