01 Aug FOCUS FOR SUCCESS
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
– Henry David Thoreau, poet
Let’s do an experiment. I want you, right now, to take a few minutes and look around you. Notice and focus on everything you see that is blue. Please do it now.
Now, I want you to close your eyes and bring to mind every thing you noticed that was green.
Do you get it? Does it throw you off a little? If you are like most people, you were expecting me to have you name everything you were focused on that was colored blue. Instead, I asked you to recall something you were not focused on – green.
If you followed directions, that which is green escaped your conscious awareness.
What if, instead of the color green, I asked you to focus on your problems, a drop in the stock market, people who are aggressive, what it takes to be poor or individuals who are negative? If you focused on those things, how would you feel?
I’m sure you know the answer to that question. You would feel lousy because wherever you focus on, your mind and your emotions will follow. So you want to focus and stay focused on that which is positive, nurturing and creates results. It’s your choice.
One of the first things I was taught when I went to race car driving school was where to focus if I lost control and went in to a spin. The natural tendency is to fight the spin and focus on what I was about to hit – the wall. If I followed my natural tendency, I would most certainly hit the wall. Focus on where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Again, it’s your choice.
Both of these examples highlight the incredible power of focus. You can have an extraordinary goal in your life. You can have commitment to reach that goal and even the resources to get there but, if you don’t know how to consciously focus, you can fail and not even know why. The fact is – the results you get in your life are always the result of your focus. Change your results – change your focus.
Believe it or not, you are already an expert at creating whatever you focus on and you couldn’t get any better at it. So to grow and achieve success in every area of your life you don’t have to learn the skill of focusing.
Isn’t that a relief?
You see, it’s not a matter of learning to focus that’s the challenge. It’s learning to do what needs to be done to make sure that you can spend your time focusing on what will move you forward in life successfully.
The main reason that most people struggle personally and professionally to achieve breakthrough success is that they have not learned to master the ability to stay focused. They unconsciously give in to distractions and retain old, useless habits that do not create positive results. This is self-sabotaging behavior.
I hear the excuses all the time. “I wake up with a clear plan of how I want the day to go but the day just seems to get away from me.” “I set my goals but I’m distracted by phone calls and my Blackberry.” “I have to wear too many hats.” “People are always demanding my time.”
You know what? This stuff doesn’t just happen to you and the world doesn’t conspire to keep you from holding your focus. It all about the choices YOU make. In order to create the habits you need and the results you want, you must make more empowering choices, take a couple of risks and, perhaps, be a bit uncomfortable.
Let’s look at a few ideas that can help you maintain more effective focus.
- Learn to let go.
If you are like most entrepreneurs you may find it extremely challenging to let go of the need to control everything and empower others to help you carry the load. I mean really, who can perform every task better than you, right? Maybe. Maybe not. But the truth is that if you want to really be successful and keep your sanity and maintain relationships, you had better start to train others, delegate the stuff that slows you up and let other people be as brilliant as you. So how do you begin? Take a piece of paper and write down tasks that you don’t really don’t like to do, things that take too much of your time and effort. Ask yourself whom you could hire to do those things and, for goodness sake, don’t let money be the determining factor. That’s not the issue. The issue is: how much time would it free up for you to FOCUS on what will move you forward by hiring someone part-time or full-time? You can’t afford not to delegate. Here’s a final thought on letting go. If you are a control freak who just can’t seem to let go, it’s time to get real and acknowledge that your need to control others is holding you back from achieving everything you are capable of achieving. When you do hire someone, you must take the risk to trust, train and let go. Let others grow. The time you save may be your own.
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
You may really believe that everything negative that comes your way is the big fire that is going to destroy you. That’s not only faulty thinking; it’s probably a self-limiting, unacknowledged habit. Change your thinking and take the time to prioritize. Think of this exercise as a 30-day experiment. Imagine your tasks must be put into one of three containers. The first container reads, “Tasks I choose not to do now.” The second: “Tasks I will delegate.” The third: “Task I will do now.” If you take the time to do this exercise, you will boost your ability to hold focus by doing only what absolutely, positively must be done – now. In the words of the 18th century U.S. statesman, writer and scientist, Benjamin Franklin, “Never confuse motion with action.”
- Just say “No!”
You can do it. Honestly you can. But first, you have to get out of your own way. In the past I wrote an article, “You teach people how to treat you.” You really do. In order to increase your focus and make quantum leaps towards achieving your goals, you are going to have to set some new boundaries. Other people are always going to want a chunk of your time, but only you can give it away. If you think you are incapable of saying “no” then you had better switch your perspective. Set specific times when you literally put up a “Do not disturb” sign. Let others know when they simply cannot bother you and the time when you will be available again. This way, if there is something very important, they know exactly when they can get in touch with you. Maybe it’s only one hour in a working day, maybe more. You will be very surprised how much you get done by focusing completely on a task without interruptions.
“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought in focus.”
– Alex Graham Bell, inventor
Say “no” to that little voice in your head, your self-talk that constantly prattles at you to avoid doing what you have committed to do. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to focus. We give in to “shoulds” and guilt. If you want to avoid sabotaging yourself, write down and post in a visible place your most important goal. When your attention strays, pull yourself back and remind yourself of the payoff for completing your goal – and get it done!
Sometimes that involves saying “no” to the interruptive phone call because, if you don’t, it could drive you to complete and utter distraction. The phone is going to ring. That’s the fact. Either have your assistant take a message or turn the ringer off and your answering machine on. Does that sound too simple? Perhaps saying “no” is just that simple.
Take responsibility and the necessary actions to sharpen your focus.
I’ll conclude with advice from successful journalist and commentator Diane Sawyer: “I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.”