Is There a Secret to Staying Focused?
I have trouble focusing. I’m not talking about short-term focus needed to complete tasks. I’m not talking about having difficulty focusing because my brain is fuzzy, aching for a shot of caffeine. I’m not even talking about the lack of focus I sometimes have while practicing piano where my mind starts to wander, causing my fingers to lose their rightful places. Keeping focus during those times isn’t too hard and gets me the short-term gains I want. I’m pretty good at those. Where I, and maybe you, need help is with long-term focus, which requires long-term commitment.
I’m not sure why the topic of focus is on my mind this week. It could be because I’ve been working with my business coaches who have brought it up a lot. That’s an alarm I need to pay attention to! It could also be because we are all focused short-term, on how we are handling Covid19, a pandemic that we’ve never experienced that’s diverting our intended focus. But it’s clear to me I should put some focus on being focused!
So let’s define focus in context for this discussion. In this case it means having the ability to put attention to and steadily move toward an objective; specifically, I’m talking about a long-term objective. A long-term goal. If you’re like me, that’s a struggle because it seems we’re in a culture that supports quick fixes and Band-aid solutions. Most of us have to swim against the current to have long-term focus. Long-term focus means sticking with something even though it may mean months or even years to accomplish. It’s impossible to have focus if there isn’t a plan to hold it. Picture training for an event like a triathlon. You need a training schedule. You need to adhere to the training schedule no matter what, which could mean training at times that you’d rather do anything, I mean anything else, or you’ll perform poorly or not at all. I’d venture to say that most of us have trouble with having focus that propels us in an unwavering path towards a long-term goal. I do. But there are ways that I fight against it and I’ll share some of what works for me. I share because I know if I share with you, it helps me focus too.
First, you got to have clarity. Any long-term goal has to be really clear. Not something fuzzy like, “I want to grow my business this year.” Clarity means you’d say, “I will grow my business by $X”. Not, “I want to grow my business.” Do you see the subtle difference? Will verses want? A specific dollar amount? With that type of clarity, it’s easier to lay out the plan to get there and that plan will likely require added investment of some type – financial, time, personal growth, technical learning. The good news is that focus brings clarity and clarity helps you stay focused. They complement each other and are intertwined setting you up for success. Clarity lets you put concerted effort into one specific goal over time, getting you the result(s) you identified. Once you’ve selected your clear goal, you have one job: hit that goal. That’s focus. Everything should drive towards it. When faced with options, you can quickly make decisions. I call it filtering through the goal needle – by asking myself which decision gets through the “eye of the needle” because it best moves me towards the chosen goal.
The plan to achieve the long-term goal is comprised of short-term goals. Accomplishing those, gives momentum and a sense of accomplishment – both absolutely necessary! Missing those, should sound alarm bells that you’re on a path to miss the goal. There’s no way to just “sprint” at the end. Anyone who has participated in in distance sports knows that. Anyone who has tried to learn an instrument or learn how to sing knows that. Frankly, anyone who has lived very long on this planet knows that, but for some reason we tend to have trouble doing something for long periods of time consistently and purposefully enough.
But just because you or I have a history of struggle with long-term goals doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set them. Quite the opposite. We must set them. We must set them and keep focused on them or people like me, people whose brains love stimulation and variation, will be distracted. Distracted by so many things we are interested in, that we fail to accomplish things that can only be attained with repeated behaviors over long periods of time – that’s called focus! That focus, that mindset, can drive us to do everything in our power to focus on our goal the next day, and the next, and the next, leading to successfully reaching the long-term goal. Concentrating on one goal will give us the guidance needed to know we’re on track and it feels good! And isn’t that feeling of accomplishment what we’re after?
We all get up in the morning, drop our feet to the floor and start our workday. Hopefully, we’re clear on our focus and ask ourselves…”What can I do today to move closer to a long-term goal, not just handle the tasks before me?” Are you with me? Can you commit? I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s the responses to this blog that give me the motivation to speak with you. I hope you’ll help me stay focused by adding to the conversation with a comment or sharing this with someone you care about!