As humans, we are always looking for ways to make some sense out of this temporary sequence of events called life. In fact, there is an entire industry (the self-help and personal development movement) dedicated to helping people improve their lives intellectually, emotionally, financially, as well as spiritually. A few years ago, determined to become the best person I could be, I delved head-first into this industry, voraciously reading everything I could on the topic, taking copious notes, watching videos of workshops, attending courses, and whatever else I could do to gain mastery of my own life.
And I did indeed learn a lot, improve my skills, and make valuable friends along the way. However, I later realized that there was one thing I was inadvertently doing, which increased my quality of life many times over and whose benefits far exceeded that which I gained through the aforementioned books, courses, and workshops.
That one thing is the topic of this article, and I must admit that up until recently, I myself was not aware of the fantastic power that lays within the grasp of nearly anyone who does this. No, I am not referring to anything supernatural, nor am I asking you to change your belief system. In fact, I am not asking you to do anything other than to dive as deeply as possible into everything you do. And that’s it. That’s the simplistic beauty of what I am about to tell you.
One of the first and best self-help books I ever read was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. One of the reasons it had such a huge impact on me was that it delivered its message succinctly and powerfully, through passages such as the following:
Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
The book’s consistent and relentless focus on improving the quality of one’s life by concentrating solely on the present moment was, to me, a huge change from what I had read previously. Many self-help books either focused entirely on delayed gratification (which does have its benefits, I must admit), rehashed clichés such as “Time is Money,” cajoled people into buying expensive courses, or required one to change their belief system (and in some cases, asked readers to adopt a new religion).
The Power of Now, on the other hand, asks nothing of the reader other than to focus on the present moment. And what I am asking of you is something similar: in whatever you do, with whoever you are, and wherever you are, focus on going as deeply as possible. What do I mean by this? Let me offer you some examples.
When enjoying a cup of coffee, before you start sipping away, take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe in the scent of the coffee beans wafting through the air. When you start drinking the coffee, take it in slowly, enjoying the exquisite bitterness of the coffee beans, one sip at a time. If this was your last cup of coffee, how would you like for it to taste?
When listening to your favorite music, before you start tapping your feet, nodding your head, or engaging in a full-throated sing-along, try to focus on one instrument at a time. Then, slowly start incorporating the other instruments, and eventually, you might end up having a much better understanding of what the musician or band intended to communicate. For instance, focus on the drummer pounding away furiously, and then incorporate the chugging bass line, followed by the smooth, beautiful guitar melodies, and then the soaring vocals. If this was the last song you heard, how would you like for it to sound?
When having a discussion with a friend on a topic of shared interest or importance, listen intently to what your friend is saying and try your best to understand his or her point of view, without interrupting and without trying to finish their sentences. Then, after having heard their point of view, take some time to consider a reply that will deliver a positive outcome for them, whether that outcome is a solution to a problem, an additional point to continue the discussion, or just an empathetic response. By peeling away layers of a subject and diving deeper into the topic, you will not only come to a better understanding of the topic, but also of your friend, as well as strengthen your friendship. If this was the last discussion with your friend, how would you like for it to unfold?
When spending time with your significant other, stop trying to plan out every minute of the evening in incredible detail. Stop trying to focus on a specific outcome. Rather, try to focus on specific moments and experiences, such as a comment in passing, the smell of her perfume, the way she moves her hair as she turns her head, a fleeting kiss, a tender embrace, and the sound she makes as you touch her skin. If this was the last time you saw her, how would you like for it to feel?
In everything that you do, try to go as deeply as possible into whatever activity that might be. This is what I call the art of going deep. And for the longest time, I could not figure out what made a specific experience more rewarding or enjoyable than other similar, or even identical experiences. Until recently, that is. I suppose what started all of this was an Organizational Behavior class I took while completing my MBA degree, during which the professor implored us to “go deeper” into why people did the things they did, said the things they said, and acted the way they did. With every paper we turned in and every comment we made, the professor urged us to go deeper. While that class was among my favorite courses that I took while completing my MBA studies, I thought nothing of it until later, when I realized that every moment that we decline the opportunity to delve deeper, we rob ourselves of a precious experience that can never be gained back.
And that was the impetus to write this article. But why go all the way? Why take the trouble to go deeply into things? Aren’t we opening ourselves to complexity, heartbreak, and introducing Pandora’s Box if we try to do this?
In my mind, there are at least three reasons why we should go as deeply as possible in everything that we do, and they are as follows: going deep helps increase our enjoyment of interactions and events while contributing greatly to our quality of life, helps us to not miss important details when making decisions, and ensures that we do not pass through life with regrets about things we should have done but didn’t.
It may seem obvious that putting more effort or attention into an activity, such as playing sports, painting, or singing, will tend to increase your enjoyment of that activity, but it bears mentioning here again. I can guarantee you that approaching any activity or task halfheartedly or on a surface level will prevent you from gaining full enjoyment of it. For instance, when playing a guitar solo, do you just go through the motions, plucking away at the notes, or do you throw yourself into making each note sing, as if the guitar is an extension of your emotions? When working on your next piece of art, do you sloppily start painting a mountain and then hope everything will fall into place later? Or do you envision a majestic landscape in your mind, and enthusiastically and meticulously start drawing every contour of an impressive, snow-covered mountain range and the sun peeking out of the clouds to shine a light on your glorious masterpiece? If you make it a habit of really delving deeply into the things you do, you will find that it leads to an increased quality of life, since stringing together events that are deeply satisfying will tend to add excitement, zest, and a whole host of other positive emotions to your daily life.
Additionally, this concept can even be applied to tasks, such as making an important purchase. This is because buying things is not just about money; it is also about the sort of experience you are hoping to gain as a result of that purchase. Going deep into such matters will help you take into consideration factors other than money. For instance, when shopping for a home, you may find that the price is within your range, but there are other factors that make it a deal breaker, such as street noise at certain times of the day or night, certain neighbors whom you would have a difficult time getting along with, or even just how it feels being in the house, doing things such as walking up and down the stairs, looking out the window to the view of the city, or enjoying a meal in the dining room. Of course, I am providing an obvious example here, since I would hope that most people buying a home would carefully consider such aspects. But since a big part of making such a purchase involves things that are not readily apparent, it behooves us to really go deeply into the matter to make sure we are making the correct decision.
Finally, there seems to be something deeply fulfilling about taking a scenario or situation to its logical conclusion, as opposed to prematurely giving up when deep down inside, you know you could have and should have done more. Whether this scenario involves conducting research on an investment that has a great promise for payoff, or a potential romantic relationship with someone you are interested in, you owe it to yourself to not give up before making an honest effort to go all the way. Why taste the pain and anguish of capitulation when you could taste the joy of victory instead? Asking just a few people around you about all the things they regretted not doing might result in a list much longer than you had thought. After all, who out there has not experienced pain and regret resulting from not going for it in a given scenario? Imagine walking out on a deal that could have landed you millions, but you were too lazy to conduct research on it. Imagine letting a woman walk away because you were too scared to put your ego on the line and risk rejection. What if this person would have been a great match for you? Are you willing to live the rest of your life knowing you could have had something you treasured, but you instead chose to throw it away?
As strong as my words may appear to be, I have written them out of a sense of duty and obligation to ensure that you derive as much value and enjoyment out of life as possible. In everything you do, go as deeply as possible. Because to do otherwise would be cheating yourself out of potentially amazing situations, as well as preventing others from being inspired by your infectious optimism and exuberance. If life does just turn out to be a sequence of events experienced either by yourself or with other people, and this is the only chance you get, wouldn’t you want to have lived deeply?