Does life sometimes feel like you’re in a washing machine? Tumbling, moving, busy, constantly jumping from one thing to another throughout the day, without having much to show for your efforts? It is so easy to lose sight of the things that really matter in your life.
To achieve successful outcomes, whether in life or sport, you need to have an idea of what you are trying to achieve. In the previous article in our Destiny is a Choice series we spoke about how to identify what’s important to you, your core convictions and beliefs. Asking yourself what you are curious about? These insights provide the foundation for you to decide what your focus will be. You begin to understand what you should concentrate on, what’s really important, and where you can have a positive impact. It allows you to make a conscious choice of what you really want to do. No one else can make this choice for you.
Your resolve and focus is built by envisaging how you see yourself in your mind, imagining and visualising what could be possible, and what would get you excited. Think about this. What does it look like in your mind? Where are you? Who is around you? What are you doing and what are you known for? How does that feel to you? A vision board is one tool that can help. To understand why visualisation is so powerful, we need to look at the brain. Our brain is geared toward making us successful with every action we take. Our brain trains our bodies to prepare for action — when we imagine ourselves preparing for an activity, our brains actually run through the process and send signals to the rest of our body to complete the action.
Ask what is important to you and, getting specific, and what goals would you like to achieve a month, a year, three or ten years from now? Goals are important whether you are gearing up for a big endurance event, for example a multi-day paddling trip, or simply want to get over the next hill. Typical goal setting would have us write down our goals in specific, measurable details, including the date you want to reach your goal, how you will know when you reach your goal, as well as the specific steps you will take to reach it. Another, slightly less prescriptive way of thinking about goals is to be specific about your intentions. “I will have registered for this one-year course and saved up the fee by the end of February, as I intend to qualify”.
On a day-to-day basis, when life gets busy, and where you have many things in play, each vying for your attention, determining what is important can be difficult. In addition to shaping your priorities based on your core convictions, you get further clarity by identifying the things that will make the biggest difference for your efforts. This “biggest bang for your buck” approach is a good way to prioritise the things that are important.
Focusing for now on your big picture goals. They need to be achievable, in other words accessible and accomplishable. Apart from the dream goal of, say, “being the greatest swimmer ever” there are different goals with different degrees of controllability. If we set our focus on something which is not within our ability to control, we may end up in frustration and disappointed when we fail.
Knowing what we need to focus on and having the clarity of our priorities, provides us with comfort, and also makes those around us confident when we are purposeful. Having people on our side and aligned to where we are going is one of the surest ways of setting yourself up for success. People you know and trust are the biggest enablers, and building and connecting to others with a positive and generous attitude will have benefits all round. Starting with the clarity of purpose, and a strong sense of what is important, guides you when things become uncertain and life gets hectic. It also provides those around you with confidence and galvanises others to help you on your way.
Zuber Focus Pie
Imagine a (healthy, low sugar with perhaps a dash of spice) cake made of concentric rings. Then take your pie slicer and take a slice of the most important areas of your life. The ones that are closest to your core essence and purpose. We use this model to visualise the things that you should concentrate on. The slice is the focus segment that can be described as a narrowed area for your attention. Focus is concentration. It lets you aim your vision and define your view.
Influence and Control
The concentric rings go from the centre where things are fully under our control. These are things we can shape, change and develop, for example our dental hygiene. The outer rings represents the events and things where we have essentially no control, for example the weather, or the outcome of a footy game. Between the two ends of the spectrum are things we can influence. This could be helping a friend prepare for a test. We can contribute to the preparation directly, and also support them emotionally, but the outcome is not directly controlled by us. Our time and effort should be placed on things we have more control and influence over.
The highlighted segment of the “pie” are the important things, the things that matter, compared to everything else. There is nothing wrong with being interested in something that is not particularly important to you, but you should put the majority of your finite energy and focus on the things that do matter. You may choose a goal such as an event want to be in shape for, then commit to preparing for it. Staying focused on the goal and sustaining a strong mental image of the event will make it easier for you to put in the hard yards. Use imagery that draws on all senses. Picture yourself in the event and then ask do you feel like you can do that. Focus will help you get out the door for a training session that you may otherwise have skipped. Think of focus as the power of positive thinking taken to the next level.
Keeping an Eye
The outer part of the important segment of pie are events and things that have a bearing on what’s important to you. Keep a close eye “watching and monitoring” on these – you have no control over them and you cannot change them. If we are planning for an important outdoor event such as a birthday party for your wife or husband, for example, we collect data on the conditions, like the weather forecast. That way you are better equipped to make good decisions and prepare for possible events. As they say, plan for the worst but hope for the best. Everything else is noise.
This approach gives us the inside running to make our effort and energy more rewarding, because we are focusing on the things that matter, and our effort is built on the activities and areas where we have control or can influence.
Focus is energizing
Alignment to our core convictions, and focusing on the things where we can shift the needle – things that matter, revitalises us. It engages our mind and energizes our body. It unleashes the creativity in our souls and enables us to bridge the gap and connect more fundamentally with ourselves and with others. It inspires and invigorates. Anyone that’s been in a deep love relationship has felt this creative energy from the connection with their significant other. We feel strong, secure and purposeful. It can galvanise us to action and trigger decisive outcomes. There is a certainty about this state of presence that causes other people around you to not only feel it, but even more importantly, to acquiesce to it in some way. Therein lies its unbridled power.
In politics we have seen the phenomena with the likes of Nelson Mandela and how he used it to change a nation. Mandela, inspired not only because of who he was and how he demonstrated his magnanimity, but also because he focused on the things that mattered. He stated a vision that was attainable and through proclaiming this, he galvanised a common purpose. He focused his energy and efforts on things he could control and influence.
Focus on process
Goal setting helps to set the direction, but don’t think that “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone. The smaller steps toward your goal should be savoured and valued. Proper focus is putting blinders on, but not so tightly that you miss what’s right in front of you or serendipitous opportunity. Visualizing your goal and the process required to reach it, prepares you for the expected—and unexpected—turns in the road.
Focus on the process – the journey – instead. If you have a positive attitude and mindset you will find things in the journey that reinforce happiness. Positive thinking is crucial because it helps you focus on the quality of your experience, not just the outcome. In life, as in an endurance event, you can’t only think about the outcome or the results. There is so much that can go wrong that’s not in your control. So simply thinking about and focusing on only the result sabotages the experience. As Alex Bellini, the Italian extreme adventurer, said about his endurance trips, it is the journey that really counts. Sure, it is important that it starts with an end in mind – a goal. “This gives you a sense of direction that guides you through the darkness, but the further you go the less important the finish line becomes. What really changed me is the journey. It is the profundity.”
What really changed me is the journey. It is the profundity.
But focus on what matters.
This article is based on the Destiny is a Choice model which shows how your fundamental conviction translates into cycle of empowerment. As your conviction (who you are being) grows, you begin to know what could be, and start to exhibit what you will be in your chosen future (your destiny). It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, both good and bad. It is within each of us to recognise and unveil the positive potential latent in us and kickstart the virtuous circle of destiny by choice.
ZUBER HACK FOCUS ON THINGS THAT MATTER AND THOSE YOU CAN INFLUENCE
- Visualise the big picture
- If you’re having trouble seeing the big picture you might want to consider setting up a vision board to remind yourself of what really matters in your life. You can pull out the board whenever you need a reminder without being distracted by all of your regular day to day tasks.
- Prioritise what’s most important
- Things that are most important to you in your life
- Of these, consider the things where you will get the best – or quickest – return for your efforts
- Identify areas where you have control or influence
- Write down your focus areas, the high priority areas you have control and influence over. This is where you should be concentrating your efforts and energies. Keep this list handy – or update your vision board – so you can remind yourself of what really matters
- Identify your team – those trusted people who will help you move towards your goals- mand for whom you delight in giving back.
- Stay focused but be open to serendipity, and never forget – enjoy the journey.