‘If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.’ –
Lawrence J Peter
I’ll never try this but I just found out that a lion tamer holds a stool towards the face of the King of the Beasts in order to confuse its vision and blur its focus. The three legs of the stool face the giant animal placing it in the unenviable position to choose which leg to defend itself against. With the three legs moving about the lion simply can’t successfully select the correct leg to swat away.
The inability to focus creates confusion and gives the lion tamer the upper hand. When you try to do too many things at any given time very little gets done, focus is hard, and productivity declines. Too many activities, too many deadlines, too many commitments will leave you staring at a blank screen, a pile of papers or your third latte with no real product to show for it. Focus is choosing what to invest in right now in order to get the best possible outcome. This might be for your workplace and employer, your marriage and family or your personal health and goals.
Here are three ways focus can help you:
Focus decides early where to invest energy and resources. In an earlier post I discussed the importance of direction. When you know your direction you can begin to rally the resources to get you there. Imagine you are holidaying, you know where you are going and you prepare the resources not just to get there but to enjoy it when you are there. Zig Ziglar said “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” Focus shapes what to do and when to do it. Focus provides a framework for the type of investment we are willing to make. Focus gives us a realistic picture of what ‘counting the cost’ really looks like.
Focus clearly shows us what NOT TO DO. The ‘Not To Do’ list has been made famous by Jim Collins and I spoke about it in my previous post. It’s a powerful tool that forces us to prioritise and tighten the number of options we have. When we select our focus we can take a step back and look at what’s on the list and what’s NOT on the list. To move purposefully towards the next year and the next ten years will require you to consciously choose what not to do in order to be as effective as possible at your greatest contribution to the world. As time passes I’m increasingly recognising that the best contribution I make to the planet comes just as much from what I DON’T do as what I DO do. What must you stop in order to be great at the things you’ve started?
Focus will ultimately show up as progress. When you focus you make progress. What you focus on will show up in your life. This is as true for discipline as it is for neglect. What I move intentionally towards will be evidenced in my life. When the direction is clear, the focus is right and discipline is in place you will find over time the ‘fruit’ of your endeavours showing up. What started out as a goal becomes a part of your character that serves you and those around you. This is focus with skin on.
Let me share with you one of the most effective tools I have found to focus and evaluate your personal growth journey. In short, decide what to focus on. Give yourself a mark out of 10 (ten being the best) in each area, choose the number you want to be at at the end of next year and then describe in details who you are and what that means when you reach that goal. Simple right? Not really, but well worth the effort.
Use this simple “Wheel of Life” image to begin evaluating and planning your focus for the next 12 months.
And above all, keep dreaming about what COULD be. About what IS possible. As Mark Twain said You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”