Meditation as Willpower Training

I recently read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport and was thinking about why some people don’t have the capacity to focus for hours at a time despite years of schooling. According to books like The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, willpower should act like a muscle and so theoretically their willpower should have improved greatly. Yet, I notice people don’t necessarily improve their ability to focus too much after high school and it stays rather constant. Some people even get worse once they start living alone. I think that this is because no one approaches tasks such as this one with the purpose of improving the length of the focus. Their goal is usually just to accumulate knowledge, solve problems and get work done. I suggest using meditation to increase this length of time that can be spent working on any given task. Using meditation instead of a studying session is to clearly separate time spent training focus and time spent getting work done and not try to make studying a chore of both achieving the studying goal and training focusing ability.

There are many forms of meditation. For the purposes of this idea I am not really considering the type of meditation so long as there is a focusing aspect to it, which most meditation practices have. The goal is to progressively lengthen the period of time that you can stay focused. Most people spend about 10 to 30 minutes a day mediating if they do practice it. Some will even do around an hour a day. Rather such a small amount of time a day, I am going to only meditate every two days but will increase this time by about 20 minutes each time. Obviously if I can’t handle the new time I’ll increment the time by a smaller amount or repeat the previous amount of time. It is not feasible to meditate for 4 hours every day but once every few days is. To me, the sacrifice of not being able to meditate every single day because these sessions are too long is worth the benefit of practicing the ability to focus for progressively longer periods of time at a time.

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