American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once made the observation that most men “lead lives of quiet desperation.” This is a pattern that every individual subtly falls into at some point.
Day-to-day life can cause us to get swept up in the currents of endless marketing messages, the cycle of paying bills, the stresses of modern life, the allure of social media, etc.
Plus, the instant gratification brought by easily accessible entertainment often comes at the expense of meaningful goals, and at the sacrifice of our life’s purpose.
Over time, you can get to a place you never intended to be at, only to look back on the months and years that led up to it, feeling regret at the loss of opportunity.
The three ancient warrior lessons below offer you the power to avoid this vicious cycle and experience your life on a higher level.
The Japanese samurai were part of an elite warrior class in ancient Japan whose traditions and teachings have inspired military thinking and business all the way into the 21st century.
Fierce warriors who were skilled in war, weapons, and martial arts, they were implacably resolute in battle, fearless, tenacious, highly focused, and supremely disciplined.
The samurai emphasized sharpening “the inner sword” as much as their personal weapon, the katana, because it was their inner strength that would allow them to overcome impossible situations.
These samurai warriors broke their training down into three areas of focus: Kime, Mushin, and Zanshin.
Kime – Honing Focus
Kime means “focus” or “to decide at the exclusion of everything else.”
The samurai deliberately trained their ability to focus on nothing but the task at hand. Their focus was so refined that they could block out pain, doubt, negative thinking, or even the risk of losing their life.
Today, focus is critical because society offers endless distractions like the latest Instagram fads, celebrity hookups, or political dramas. While there may be a time and place for all of that, it’s critical to understand that when you focus on those things, you’re not focusing on what’s truly meaningful to you.
Zooming in on critical tasks helps you stay on your path, not someone else’s, allowing you to go further, faster.
Go now and make a list of what’s important and meaningful to you and make another list of what’s not important to achieving your goals.
Then, commit to spending more time fully focusing on the important things, and getting rid of useless distractions that only slow your down.
As your focus becomes sharper you will experience…
Mushin – The Mind of No-Mind
When you train your focus to a high degree, you can enter in and out of a state of “mushin,” or no-mind.
In the West, we call this the “flow state” where you act with a combination of grace and power.
Actions seem more effortless, progress comes faster, and you can lose track of time as you find yourself more immersed in the meaningful work you choose instead of mindlessly wandering through daily life.
Over time, you become a force of nature accomplishing important work with the smooth, machine-like precision of a Swiss watch.
Even better, this state of being becomes more habitual and sets the stage for you to experience…
Zanshin – Relaxed Alertness, Fully Present
Samurai scholars have explained Zanshin as “standing powerfully, in the present as if your hair was on fire.”
It is the intense feeling of being fully present in the moment, unimpeded by worry, guilt of past mistakes, and detached from any outcome, only fully being fully immersed in the present.
This is a heightened sense of awareness of the present moment, where you reject everything except the task at hand. When you eat, you eat; when you write, you write; when you exercise, you exercise. But you do these things while putting every effort and resource available towards the present moment.
When you achieve this state, you enter a level of mindfulness that allows you squeeze every ounce of experience that each moment offers.
For the samurai, who faced death often, this not only made them more effective warriors but help them live life to the fullest and without regret.
Training for Life
These ancient concepts can help you avoid aimless wandering — no more wasting precious time on things that add little to no value to your life.
Kime, or focus, is the cornerstone concept to begin training for. Spend time alone and decide what you really want, and then take incremental steps training yourself to focus on just that. Then, direct your intention to keep improving, and you will begin to experience mushin and then zanshin.
At that point, the color and texture of your life will take on a new luster and, you’ll have unlocked greater meaning and success.