Why I Use Hunger For Focus

I am not alone in the usage of hunger for focus, that much I take for granted. But what I do not take for granted, what I in fact doubt, is how common the practice is. Most people, I imagine, eat breakfast before starting their day. They have toast, cereal, or eggs before leaving for work or school. Most people, I imagine, find the experience of hunger wholly unpleasant. And thus, most people, I imagine, do not understand how hunger can be harnessed for focus.

To better understand the connection between hunger and focus, and how I use hunger for focus, consider how similar the two states actually are in essence: each are very temporary states only to be reached through deliberate action.

We reach a deep focus by choosing to do so, we do not accidentally fall into a deep focus. When reading a book, it takes time and effort to become engulfed in the narrative; when performing physically, we must ignore outside distractions so as to ensure peak performance. It is not by chance, at least in most cases, that we stumble upon a state of focus.

Comparatively, hunger is something we avoid so intuitively that we must deliberately choose to be hungry. It is very natural for us that, when our stomach growls, we pick up a snack or meal to consume. We are, in many cases, instinctive eaters; and so deep states of hunger can only be achieved by deliberate choice, or external circumstances beyond our control.

Though hunger and focus are themselves similar in their temporariness, due to them only being maintained through deliberate choice, they are even more similar in their interactions with our psychology.

The ability to defer impulse is necessary for both states to be maintained. We cannot endure a state of deep hunger without the ability to defer from impulse, and as much is true for deep states of focus. When temptation from the outside world jumps to the forefront of consciousness via a lovely food-like aroma or via a noisy, action packed televised series, only impulse deferral can aid us. The primary means of defense against satiation or distraction is impulse control.

And since we are relying on deference so heavily in both focus and hunger, we likewise are required to be persistent. If our persistence, and thus, our willingness, to continue gives way, then both hunger and focus cannot be maintained. One singular impulse being deferred is not nearly sufficient to maintain a state of hunger or focus. Which brings us to yet another similarity.

Both hunger and focus make us tired, especially if we persist in both of these states. Without food, our bodies become weak; and with much focus, our bodies expend calories. To apply both simply amplifies the result. In other words, if we endure either for long enough, our biology begins to fail us.

Those, among  more, are some of the similarities between hunger and focus. And from there, we can see how hunger can be used to breed focus.

When we are hungry, we are deferring impulses, and the longer we are hungry the more impulses we will defer. That can not only teach us to defer impulses to begin with, but also to defer recurring impulses. Both of which are necessary skills to begin to enter a state of focus.

Persisting in our hunger can teach us to persist in a state of discomfort while likewise not entertaining immediate pleasures. That directly translates to the ability to persist in a deep state of focus, to continuously defer any impulse which arises and tempts us to distraction.

And just as important as being taught persistence and impulse deferral, assuredly, is strengthening our mental ability to fight off the failures of our biology. When we grow tired from no caloric intake, we experience a much more difficult time mustering energy to work and to avoid eating. When we grow tired from caloric expenditure due to deep focus, we experience a much more difficult time mustering energy to focus and avoid distraction. Becoming familiar with the states of deep hunger can lead to an easier time with the states of deep focus.

To summarize, hunger can train our ability to focus; only because focus and hunger are both states to which we must willfully enter. We are instinctive eaters and easily distracted, so we infrequently endure hunger or focus. If we so choose to enter a state of hunger, we can see it requires impulse control, persistence, and resistance; we must defer temptations for food and we must do so persistently, as well, we must not allow the inevitable tiredness brought on by caloric deficit to foil our choice to endure hunger. Each of those lessons directly carries over to focus, because focus is also a state which we must deliberately enter. Focus requires, as much as hunger does, the capacity for impulse deferral, persistence, and resistance.

Hunger, in other words, is arguably your greatest asset for learning how to focus. Hence, why I use hunger for focus.

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Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

One thought on “Why I Use Hunger For Focus

  1. Interesting read! Reminded me of a book I recently read – Inner Engineering by Sadhguru. In it, he often reiterated the fact that controlling hunger and even going hungry can help in instilling deep focus, can also help in beating lethargy.

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