Maintaining our focus, particularly in recent times, has become increasingly difficult for most people. With COVID-19 and the sudden shift away from enjoying family and friends in-person regularly, traveling at leisure and going into work every day to now limiting our activities, forgoing most travel plans, and working remotely has changed the lens through which we’ve looked for so long, pretty much forever.
Maintaining your focus during these times is critical when you aspire to live your life on purpose every single day. And just because things may seem nebulous at times doesn’t mean we have to spiral into a sea of haziness. There are some things you can do to unleash the powerful acuity and decisiveness that work together to propel you forward into a fruitful and fulfilling life.
Here are six (6) important things you can do to move forward starting today! Stay with me (focus):
No kidding. Don’t underestimate the value and the power of slowing the pace and taking a few deep breaths. Doing this crucial step first will set the tone for the succeeding steps. What happens when you remove all distractions, sit alone quietly for a few minutes, and begin to lengthen each breath? You begin to relax and calm down. The brain fog begins to lift and the tension associated with being “on” all the time begins to dissipate. Now you’re ready to think about moving forward.
Fear not, I’m not suggesting you should now have enough focus to finish the book you started, although you may. I am, however, suggesting that writing is a great tool to bring focus and clarity to almost any situation. Start with a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand. Write down every one of your present concerns or worries. Consider this your brain dump. All of the concerns that constantly swim around in your thoughts, put them down on paper, and release them. This exercise alone is a stress reliever, a way to reduce mental clutter, and a precursor to the clarity you will need for the next step.
What is it that you really want? What path do you want to take? Use your pen and paper to write the answer to these questions in one sentence. Try to limit the response to one sentence, because intentionality is sometimes lost when we use too many words. This will help you to be more succinct and is already helping you to focus on what’s important to you. Until you have answered those two questions with resolute firmness, the focus you so desperately want will be just beyond your reach. Say it aloud. Yep, right there in the room all alone, repeat the one sentence until you are a little less than comfortable saying it. A huge purpose or big goal should make us feel somewhat uncomfortable; we should feel like we’re about to be stretched. Just so you know, I had to answer the same two questions before I was able to move forward with focus and determination.
Now that you know what you want to do and the path you want to take, it’s time to decide your first step. What is necessary, right now? Is there someone you need to tell? Is there something(s) you need to give up to pursue your goal? Everything can’t be important or nothing is important. Therefore, you will need to decide what things to pull to the top of the list, what things to move downward, and what things to drop the list completely. Back to your first step. What is it? One tiny step may not seem like much, but it is a herald to the great things to come. Don’t try to determine the whole path or make a comprehensive plan in one sitting. This could be overwhelming and push you back into the dense fog from whence you’ve come. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Every piece will taste better than the last and soon you will see just how much progress you’ve made.
Tell somebody. We need accountability partners. In many settings accountability is close connected to punishment, but it need not be. One of the best definitions I’ve heard for holding someone accountable is helping someone to be successful. Think about it. If you share your purpose, plan or goal with an accountability partner, they can help you and encourage you to meet the goal you’ve set for yourself. I know some people think just being accountable to oneself is enough, but that is not the case of the vast majority. Besides, sharing your plan, purpose or goal with someone else draws upon your courage. You’ve said it to yourself aloud (and that takes some courage), and now you are verbalizing it to someone. Every time you do, it becomes more real and reachable.
Okay, now it’s time to put your feet on the floor and get moving! You’re calm (maybe a little nervous, and that’s a great thing) with clear thinking and a plan. This is where you see how well you have mastered your new focused identity. Take the first step, even if that step is to tell your spouse or to phone a friend. Revisit your one sentence often. Perhaps, post it where you will naturally see it every day. When you feel your world drifting into that same sea of haziness, start over again. Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate your progress when you complete each step. This will help to motivate you to continue the pursuit.
I wish I could tell you just how many times I have repeated this process when I’ve experienced the pains of obscurity. Countless.
Make this part of your plan, and add the things you already know to do as well. Even though so many opportunities and distractions are pulling at you, you can refuse to surrender to the mental chaos. It’s about choice, and you do have a choice. Take every occasion to get clear and remain focused.
Breath. Write. Determine. Decide. Partner. Move. Begin again.
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