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Posts Tagged ‘focus’

A few weeks ago I met with a new client who shared an immensely valuable distinction, especially for this time of year. The client has a $60 million business, wants to grow it to $100 million, and then consistently keep it performing at that level.

 

As you can imagine, this CEO is really busy. He is intensely focused on building and managing his business, not to mention the many additional commitments he has to his family, friends and other interests.

 

Not surprisingly, during one of our early conversations he talked about the challenge of managing all the demands on his time – the competing needs of the business, the infinite requests people make of him, etc.

 

He then shared a distinction that I thought was brilliant . . . and a bit painful to admit. He talked about being busy vs. having priorities.

 

He shared that all too often people say they didn’t get to something because they were busy. Not only did that sound reasonable, but I have to admit that I say that quite often myself. Then he pointed out that we really aren’t “busy,” but rather have other priorities, and YOU or your request isn’t one of them at the moment.

 

If you are like me, I imagine you just cringed. That is a very difficult message to hear. It is even harder to say to someone. It sounds quite harsh. Yet, after thinking about it, that is the truth of what we are really saying when we tell someone we are busy.

 

The words I often say to people echoes in my head – “Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I’ve been really busy.” In some ways, I wear that as a badge of honor, indicating that my business, or life, is going well. However, in thinking more honestly about the underlying truth here, what I really mean is, “Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, but I had other priorities I needed to tend to.”

 

I realize this truth has some sharp edges to it, but the reality is we simply just don’t have time for everything. We have to choose. This is particularly important at this time of year, when many of us are thinking about and setting our goals. We must choose which priorities we will focus on, and which must fall by the wayside, for we simply can’t get to all the things that place demands on our time.

 

If you wish to have a phenomenal 2016, one that is both satisfying and fulfilling, then be sure your focus is on the priorities that will have you achieve what you truly desire.

 
Your priorities aren’t what you SAY they are. They are revealed by how you LIVE.

– Unknown
 

Don’t let the excuse of being “busy” keep you from doing what you enjoy or achieving what you want most.

 

Of course, to do the above you must take some time to understand what you most want this year and get clarity on your priorities. Don’t let another week go by where you have not taken 20 minutes to think about this. That short 20 minute investment will pay dividends all year long!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.
 
 
Speaking of priorities, here is a fun little video with a test that I found pretty accurate in terms of determining your priorities in life.
 

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A few months ago a good friend was visiting, having just returned from a short adventure in China. I really admire how he is living his life. The trip to China was about taking a chance. Chasing an opportunity to see where it might lead. This friend is also someone who easily dances with life’s bigger, more philosophical questions, which is another reason I enjoy our friendship so much.

 

In our last conversation I asked him, “What is your philosophy of living?” We took a moment to get clarity about what I really meant by the question and finally settled on, the principle that guides your daily actions. He wrestled with the question for a bit as he thought out loud, but eventually declared an answer that seemed graceful, fitting and captured the essence of his life.

 

I, of course, knew I now needed to answer this question for myself. I pondered it for a while until this thought emerged – Leave everyone I touch with a greater sense of hope and possibility. At my core, I believe this is who I am, how I approach life and what guides my daily actions.

 

philosophy1If you do not have a sense of what your Philosophy of Living is, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to distinguish this for yourself. I do not believe many people take the time to understand this about themselves, and as a result, they may feel a bit rudderless in life, wondering what they are doing, why they are here or what the meaning of life is.

 

The irony of those questions is that they are not bigger questions about life itself, but rather questions about YOU as an individual and how you define your life. Many people avoid thinking about this because they feel it is hard. In reality, I think they avoid thinking about it because then they might have to actually begin living their life as they truly desire.

 

Don’t waste another year of your precious life avoiding this question. Seek the clarity your Philosophy of Living provides and set sail in 2015 with a stiff wind at your back and a strong rudder to guide you!

 

“What is it that I really want to do with the one wild, precious thing called my life? Don’t go back to sleep. The fires are always kindled. Don’t go back to sleep.”

– Anais Nin

 

The year is young! As arbitrary as time and our declaration of a new year is, it is an opportunity for all of us to begin anew!! If you feel you have been wandering aimlessly through your life or business, now is the perfect time to reset your direction and commitment.

 

As hard as that may sound at first, all it really requires is some quiet time away from your distractions so that you can focus on and reconnect to who you really are and what you are committed to. You may pretend you don’t know, but that is just another smokescreen keeping you from what you really desire.

 

Read how this applies to your business here.

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I want you the think of the busiest road in, or near, your town. I mean crazy busy. Think of a road where there is a tremendous amount of traffic, both sides of the road are littered with billboards, hundreds of businesses line the road with distracting signs, traffic lights interrupt your driving every few hundred yards and there are people crossing the street at busy intersections. Your eyes dart from one distracting stimulation to the next, not knowing what to focus on. It feels crowded, crazy and hectic.

 
road1

Got that picture, and hectic feeling, in your mind?

 

Good.

 

That is the typical mind these days. Between the multitudes of tasks we are responsible for each day, the multitude of interruptions our electronic devices provide, the overwhelming number of emails we receive, and the multitude of other thoughts and worries that fill our heads, that busy street is what our brain feels like. It is a crazy, hectic street where we are unable to focus on any one specific thing.

 

And that is only what our conscious mind registers and deals with! Our subconscious mind is processing many more times the information you consciously see. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that the conscious mind processes 2,000 bits of information per second, while the subconscious mind processes 400 billion!!

 

Essentially that means that you aren’t really aware of all the information and distractions flooding into your head.

 

BUT . . . what this also points to is the amazing volume of unused processing power many of us are wasting if we do not let our subconscious mind work on some of your daily challenges. If you are constantly running around, doing things and filling your day with activities or “to do” lists, there is no way you can perform at your optimal levels.

 

If you truly want to improve your performance, focus and success, you need to find a quiet, less busy street so that your subconscious mind has some time and space to go to work.

 

Here are 3 things you can do to create a quieter street for your brain.

 

  1. Turn off all email/text/Facebook/Twitter notifications when working on important tasks. Trust me, the world will not end if you do this. You must stop being at the beck and call of the world and start setting your own schedule in order to create your life and your success.
  2. Clear the clutter from your home, workspace and life. You won’t know the impact this has until you do it, but the subconscious mind is taking in all that clutter and trying to process it. And in doing so, it is clogging the neurons in your brain that you want to access and use to think about and create greater success and peak performance.
  3. If you have been stumped by a problem and just can’t seem to reach that breakthrough or solution, give it a rest and let your subconscious go to work. Take time to go for a run, meditate, go for a bike ride, sit quietly, take a nap, hike, take a bath or whatever it is that clears your mind and allows the subconscious to go to work on your challenges and problems. Doing so always produces a possibility or idea to move you closer to the success you want.

 

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

– Hans Hoffman

 

It seemingly goes against conventional wisdom to do less in order to do more. But out of that simplicity, clarity emerges. And from that clarity, direction emerges. And from that direction, focus emerges. And from that focus, achievement emerges. And from that achievement, success is found.

 

You can choose to stay on that busy road if you want, but if you do, consciously realize what you are risking by doing so.

 

There is no doubt that science has played a HUGE role in revealing the power of the subconscious mind. There is probably no greater experiment, or scientist, that has played a larger role in establishing the importance of this power than the one demonstrated in the video below. ūüôā
 
 

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This past fall I had a fascinating conversation with a friend while at the Farmer’s Market.¬† Among the many interesting topics we talked about, our conversation touched on the growing inequality in the United States and the SHOCKING distribution of wealth among its citizens.¬† This disparity was recently publicized by a video that went viral on YouTube. (You can view the video at the end of this post)

 

(Before you get your partisan knickers in a knot, to be clear, the point I want to make has nothing to do with privilege, politics, the right to make a living . . . let alone a fortune, or the opportunity this country affords anyone who wishes to set out on that path of wealth.   So keep reading if you want to mine the real gold here.)

 

dollars 2After pointing out the inequality, my friend and I started talking about what might drive such an imbalance.¬† I suggested that one reason might be the generally understood “game” in this country called, “The person with the most money, wins.”¬† We all seem to have unwittingly enlisted in this game to accumulate money and wealth over the course of our lives.

 

To this, my friend responded by saying something I found to be bold and beautiful.¬† She said,“Well, that is not the game I am playing. I am playing the game called ‘Be more kind.'”

 

She then shared with me that in looking at her life, she knew she was not always as kind as she could be and she was striving to be more kind to those around her.¬† She then followed this amazing statement with one equally as fantastic, saying, “I chose not to play the money game.¬† I could have played it.¬† I could have chosen to be a stockbroker when I got out of school in the go-go 1980’s when the focus in this country shifted to money, but I was too lazy and had no interest in that area.”

 

Wow!

 

Such a powerful and honest declaration required two important elements, both of which are key for anyone to possess happiness in life –

 

  1. Awareness (of who she is and what she wants).
  2. Personal responsibility (acknowledgment AND ownership of the choices she made in her life).

 

All of which leads to the BIG question YOU must answer in order to find that same happiness and fulfillment –

 

What game are you playing in your life?

 

If you can’t answer that question, then you will always chase the Ghost of Contentment . . . one you will surely never catch.

 

The only games worth playing are the ones that bring you happiness.
 

– R. Largman

 

2014 just started.   Do you know what game you are playing this year?

 

It may be the money game for you. If so, go for it. But it may not. Maybe you want to play the kindness game. Or the creativity game. Or the parenthood game. Or the peace of mind game. Or the grow my business game. Or the . . .

 

Don’t get caught up in someone else’s game if it is not the one you wish to play. If you want to play a different game, be sure to know and understand what YOUR game is. Choose it powerfully, commit to it, and play it FULL OUT!!

 

Doing so will ensure that happiness is just around the corner for you.

 
 

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Most afternoons when the weather is nice, I will either go for a walk or a bike ride. One day in early April, after a few days of abnormally warm temperatures, a cold front was moving through the area.
 
 
storm 12By the end of my walk that day, the cold front was only about a ¬Ĺ mile from my house. The sky was strikingly dark, with swirling greenish clouds mixed in for dramatic effect. I had never seen anything like it in all my years of weather-watching here in New Jersey, but it looked like the kind of sky people talk about before a tornado strikes. My thinking was proved right moments later by a neighbor from Texas (part of Tornado Alley) who confirmed that the sky does indeed look like this prior to a tornado.
 
 
The conditions were so threatening and foreign to me that I was a little concerned. I felt a pang of fear in my gut as I focused on the ever darkening skies approaching from the northwest that were filled with frequent flashes of lightning. I hurried my pace to get home before the storm hit.
 

As I walked up the last hill, I turned around and faced the southeast. There the skies were still bright, with patches of blue and white puffy clouds. Just looking in that direction calmed the nervousness and fear I felt in my gut and my whole body seemed to relax.
 

I still needed to get out of the impending storm, but the two drastically different views of the sky had me realize something much bigger about how we go through life.
 

What you focus on determines the reality of your day . . . and your life.

 

Do you focus on fear and the impending storm that might come your way, or do you focus on the bright skies that exist if you simply turn around and change your view? It is amazing how simply changing your focus can completely change the way life shows up for you.
 

If you go through life focusing on the storm, your life will more likely always be in turmoil. If you focus on the clear skies, you will more likely have a peaceful, lighter life.
 

So ask yourself, “What is your focus in life?” Do you like the circumstances that focus creates for you . . . or is it time to look in another direction and focus on brighter skies?
 

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.

– John Lubbock
 

The truth of the matter is that we get to decide what our life looks like and how it gets created. It is up to us and is our responsibility. Consciously or not, we choose what we focus on and create. Do you want that creation to be filled with the dark, swirling clouds of a storm, or do you want it to be filled with the bright light of the sun? The choice is yours .
 
 

And while you are bathing in the warm rays of the sun, why not listen to a fun, hopeful song from days gone by. At a minimum, ya just gotta dig this guy’s clothes! ūüôā

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A few years back some studies were conducted on how we work.  The studies found that every 11 minutes we are interrupted by a phone call, colleague, text message, instant message, email or any of the other numerous possible interruptions.  This is probably not news as you likely experience this everyday, whether you are a busy executive or a busy mom.

 

The challenge, however, is that the studies also found that it took the brain at least 11 minutes to refocus on the task at hand.  I think we can all see the problem here.  Just as we are about to refocus, we are interrupted again.  The concept of focused thought and attention has disappeared in our technology-driven society.

 

In other studies the fallacy of multi-tasking was further debunked.  Humans, in fact, cannot focus on many tasks at once.  Research shows that we can effectively focus on only 2 tasks.  After that our effectiveness is greatly diminished and focus disappears.  

 

This new “focus” was called continuous partial attention where we engage in switchtasking; the act of rapidly going back and forth from one task to another in microbursts of attention.

 

Most people wear their assumed ability to multi-task as a badge of honor and companies award jobs like prizes to those who can successfully demonstrate this lack of focus best.  The more things one can do at the same time, the better an employee they must be.

 

Yet, the research demonstrates that when someone multi-tasks work actually takes longer and the quality is inferior.  A 2005 study by Hewlett-Packard found that workers who were continually distracted by e-mail and phone calls showed an effective drop in IQ equal to twice that of those using marijuana.

 

In our world today, we seem to have confused being busy with being productive. ¬†Multi-tasking may allow you to get a lot of things done, but the real question is, “Are you doing them well?”

 

(To see a humorous example of the inability to multi-task that recently took the country by storm, click the video below.)

 

 

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

                                                 РRussian Proverb

 

 

5 Tips to Restore Your Focus, Sanity and Quality of Work

  1. Turn Off Notifications (Email, Facebook, Twitter, Text) – Today’s technology and social media serve as distracters and fragment our focus and deepening of thought. ¬†Turning off the bells and whistles of our technology will prevent the Pavlovian response to them.
  2. Schedule your day – Setting aside designated time to do specific tasks increases your focus and commitment to the completion of that task.
  3. Just Say “No” – Not every new technology is a must have. ¬†Critically consider what it offers and ask yourself, “How does this new technology best serve me and do I really need it?”
  4. Designate Quiet Hours – Establish a time in your day where you actually turn off all electronic devices so that you may focus on an important task that requires your thought and creativity.
  5. Purge РReview your current technology, social media and email newsletters and ask yourself if they benefit you.  If not, consider purging it to create space for more important tasks.

 

 

(Photo credit: Margo Conner)

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