We’re all striving for a goal. Whether it be making more money, finding a healthy relationship, losing weight, exercising more, or parenting our kids safety into young adulthood, we all have a goal of “success.”
In my travels and a parent, person and professional, I observe varying levels of people achieving the successes they desire.
Some people seemingly achieve one goal after the other with ease. Others can’t seem to get out of their own way.
The difference, it seems, isn’t in ability or access to information or resources.
The difference in almost all cases is focus.
Let’s consider someone who wants to climb a tree. She identifies the tree, it’s sturdy, she sees the branch she wants to reach and plans a strategy to get there. She grabs the tree trunk and begins her climb. As she goes up she is focused on where to put her hands and feet, pulling herself up carefully. This process continues until she reaches her destined branch and stand victoriously to see the world from up in the tree.
But what would happen if she kept shifting her focus from her hands, feet and tree to looking at the ground, clouds and birds? What if she let her mind wander to thoughts of falling or how she will brag to her friends about this amazing feat or bravery? If she lets go of her focus on that branch, chances are she won’t ever get there. She’ll fall or stall or second guess her next move. She’ll let doubt creep in, question her sanity, motives and talk herself down–literally and figuratively.
When we lose focus on our goal and the steps we need to get there, we lose all momentum and more often than not, miss our target.
How we Screw Up Focus
Just yesterday I read an article in the Boston Globe about research that found people would rather receive an electric shock than sit with their own thoughts for 15 minutes.
Let us pause and think about that for a minute (see what I did there?).
If you are a person who is constantly reaching for your phone, listening to music or otherwise avoiding your own thoughts, you will struggle mightily to reach any goal you desire.
Your brain needs time to formulate a plan, create a vision and focus on the steps to get there.
In fact, most inventors and creative thinkers take a great deal of time to sit with their own thoughts. Many are what would be considered introverted and find pleasure in working through ideas.
The answers we need to create something of value are not on our phone or in someone’s quickly written self-help book. The answers aren’t housed in a “secret” vault a business coach invented. Your partner, mom, kids don’t have the map or the code or the magical solution up their sleeve. The success we all desire comes from our ability to focus and move forward accordingly.
If you would rather shock yourself with electricity than focus on your own thoughts for 15 minutes, you are in trouble.
How to Focus
Sustaining focus is a cognitive skill like reading or doing math.
In today’s world, we can be distracted from our own thoughts 24/7.
In fact, it’s more work to get quiet thinking time,than it is to be 100% distracted, 100% of the time.
So the very first thing you need to do to better focus is to simply decide that you want to focus.
Intention dictates commitment, which leads to appropriate action. So set your intention to learn how to focus.
When working on focus, it’s probably best not to declare you will focus on how to change the world, but rather something less intense and easily achievable.
The second step is, decide on a clear, achievable focus goal.
[Right now, some people will get stuck. The act of deciding brings out all kinds of anxiety. Seriously, if you are feeling stuck get over yourself, do not distract yourself. Just pick a damn goal. Maybe your focus is on cleaning your kitchen, or finishing a book you started, taking a 15 minute walk/run without music or talking, or staring out the window with no distractions. Simple focus goal for now. Trust me, you can add on the complicated stuff later AND there will never be a shortage of things to think about.]
Step three is to go forth and do your thing without distractions.
Sounds simple, but for some of you, this won’t be easy. You’ll find yourself wanting to look at your phone, check in on Facebook, text a friend, check on your kids. In fact, you will probably be surprised just how distracted you are all day long when you try to actually focus for 15 minutes.
Once you focus on the task and get it done, you can go back to distractions. Go ahead. We’re not trying to torture your poor brain.
Your final step is to commit to this practice. Every day, do this exercise. If 15 minutes becomes easy breezy, increase the time to 30. Start to set goals of substance. If you want to blog, use Twitter, write a book, try new recipes, do these during your focused time.
The success thing…it isn’t rocket science. But you have to want it. And you need to prioritize it.
The difference between those who reach the top of the tree and those who don’t isn’t their climbing skills, it’s reaching up one step at a time to get to the goal without looking down.
On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below: