Book review: Less focus, more effect by Srini Pillay
In our western society there is an obsession with focus and result-oriented work. At the same time, many people suffer from stress or burn out. Not everyone knows what to do with the advice to learn to let go and it is easier said than done. The book ‘Less focus, more effect’, by neuroscientist, therapist and psychiatrist Srini Pillay may be able to help us further. He not only says what is good for us, but in most cases can also explain how and why it works.
- Title: Less focus more effect, for more creativity, success and fun in your life
- Author: Srini Pillay
- Publisher: Kosmos Publishers
- Year of publication: 2017
- ISBN: 978 90 215 6540 8
- price: ?? 18.99
It is known that when you focus too much on a problem, you often cannot find a solution. You get frustrated and tired. You throw in the towel, or if that is not possible and you need to hurry, you make the wrong decision. There is also another experience: you have been brooding on a solution, but you cannot resolve it and you have other things to do; you leave the problem for what it is. When you are ironing, waiting for your turn or in a traffic jam, (the beginning of) a solution suddenly comes to mind. How is that possible?
According to the author, our brains are programmed to make connections. Not only with what is right next to or in front of us, but also with things that we are not even aware of. If you only look forward or to the side, you will miss everything that can be found in between or beyond. Then you miss a lot. When you let go of your focus and start looking around you, the whistles start to make connections in your brain that do help you. Pillay calls this ‘defocusing’. “In the most fundamental sense, this is the process of relaxing your brain so that it is ready, charged, and coordinated when you need it. This is not wishful thinking but scientifically proven neurology.“
Focusing is good, but alternate with defocusing! “Those who learn to find a workable balance between focusing and defocusing become more effective, productive and resourceful, which can ultimately contribute to a general sense of happiness as well.??, said Pillay. Defocusing can be done in many ways, and the good thing is: you can learn it, and you certainly do it to some extent, even without being aware of it. The goal of Pillay is to make you more aware of the possibilities of defocusing, so that you make your world bigger.
How do you do that?
How do you ensure that your brain makes as many connections as possible that help you find a solution, instead of just staring blindly at one possible solution? A small selection of the many possibilities.
- spread your alternatives (because there are!); blood flows away from the conflict center and back to the areas of the brain that help you complete your daily tasks;
- do you have a relationship problem? Ask the other person to think along with you, start early on, and don’t try to solve everything yourself;
- do not use your imagination to escape an unpleasant situation, but to find solutions;
- talk to yourself in a positive way, “Come on Serena, you can do it!” or “What are other people doing in my situation?” (instead of, “Why does this always have to happen to me?” Or, “I’m worthless.”);
- Don’t overthink things. Alternate regularly with activities that distract you, such as gardening, dancing, singing, walking, doing puzzles.
The writer seems like someone, you might think, who has been very focused and has successfully mapped out his career. But also someone, it turns out, who, with numerous examples from his practice, supports his credo, the importance of focusing less. That makes you curious: despite, no, thanks to his motto, he managed to achieve something. You will get a lot of unknown information in front of you and some chapters may appeal to you. Above all, you get the great opportunity to take a look at a therapist’s practice. He also explains his approach and encourages you to try it for yourself.
His book is larded with stories about successful people, how they did it, against all advice and expectations. And with examples of people who tried with all their might (focus!) To tackle their problems in vain, tried to save their job or saw a divorce as inevitable. You read statements that make you wonder if they are true, how and if they are true. Like when the writer talks about making predictions (that come true!), Which he believes anyone can do. Or, when he recommends that you do certain exercises that seem completely pointless; such as looking for similarities that are not there at first sight, for example between an airplane and a fox. You will have to do it yourself to see if it really helps you and whether it works.
A better version of yourself
There are always traits that you think others have, but you don’t. Not according to Pillay! According to him you can change (and therefore improve) yourself. In this way he teaches you to tap into your creativity (which you did not know you had); you learn to multi-task without getting stressed; unblock yourself if you are stuck; converting a disillusionment into greatness, etc. In short: becoming a better, no, the best version of yourself. Wouldn’t you like that? Or does that sound like yet another American optimistic self-help book that makes everyone happy? Nope. The exercises are practical. Those who cannot or do not want to pay for therapy and would rather do it themselves, will find this book a great tool. A portion of self-discipline is of course involved.
A polyglot can easily claim that anyone can learn multiple languages and then challenge you to do so. But for whom does it make sense to spend so much time and effort learning so many languages? Pillay challenges you to get more out of your life; everything in it. That is a challenge that can be interesting for everyone. His tips and advice, and the substantiation thereof, are clear. And ?? if you take it step by step, choose what is most important to you, then it doesn’t have to be an intention.
Our obsession with focusing and result-oriented work may have had its day with this book. Pillay explains in a pleasant and legible way how we can convert our energy-consuming thoughts into effervescent insights. By defocusing: by changing perspective, staying true to yourself, daring to be spontaneous, exploring, visualizing, etc. And he explains how you approach that and what works. This makes it a valuable tool for our everyday life. How valuable depends on how seriously you take it.