As I’ve been thinking about heart, and how my heart shows up in my work, I picked up Cal Newport’s book: Deep Work.
What I love about this book is that Cal doesn’t simply tell us that we need to focus on the things that matter (a truth that is clear to most of us), but he also discusses what focus looks like, and practical ways to build our mental capacity for focus.
Cal defines deep work as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” Deep Work leads to a sense of joy and meaning in our lives because we learn to focus on what matters and let go of the more shallow concerns that otherwise might consume us.
Deep Work lives to an improved life. Cal says: “Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.”
He also points out that when we spend our time in our inboxes, we tend to focus on the irritating small issues of life. It isn’t that we shouldn’t pay attention to our community and the things they may need from us, more that we should make sure our best attention goes to those few projects that really tap into the most meaningful use of our unique capabilities.
Cal says, “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.” When we focus on work that challenges us to work at our highest intellectual capacity, we gain a sense of significance. He points out that most knowledge workers are engaged in vague tasks that yield vague and hard to measure results. No wonder we have a hard time knowing whether what we do matters. By determining what deep work is for us, and by building the mental discipline needed to engage in deep work, we not only are able to give more to the world around us, but are more satisfied, settled and joyful in our lives.
Results well worth working hard for, no?
If you’re exploring how to bring your heart into your work and looking for practical strategies, Deep Work will be a compelling read for you.