During my stint in the Indian Police Service I noticed something interesting — I felt most energized during crises, riots, and public order disturbances. And I assure you, I am not a violent person.

I used to assume that it was just an adrenaline rush.

But I now suspect that how we respond to danger or crisis holds the key to understanding extreme focus, productivity, and even flow.

When facing a crisis, we are forced to intensely focus and engage our mind with just that one thing. All else fades away. This quietens the network in our brain responsible for mind-wandering — the default mode network.

While mind-wandering may not seem like such a bad thing, it can be often problematic.

When our mind wanders, what do we think about? About ourselves.

Quite often, we tend to excessively ruminate and worry, making us unhappy. Intense focus makes mind-wandering impossible.

Furthermore, we are normally caught up in a ton of problems and annoyances, some real, some imagined. But in a crisis, we let go of them, e.g., that life-threatening pimple on your face!

Hence we become focused, stop switching between tasks, and for a short period, might even let go of our smartphone obsession.

The secret to focus and extreme productivity is to give up all competing thoughts and focus on just one goal — that is what a crisis forces us to do.

Here is the key to taking on the world — take on one problem at a time.

– Rajan


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