“The successful warrior is the average man with laser focus.”
– Bruce Lee
In my essay entitled Becoming Purpose-Driven, I referred to purpose-driven as the desire to find your WHY and knowing what to do afterward. There I explained that it is a powerful driving force in our quest for a better self and a better life. Being purpose-driven is knowing your purpose and be driven by it.
To become purpose-driven, there’s one very important skill required – focus. Focus, like self-discipline, is a simple concept and easy to define. But like self-discipline, focus is also difficult to practice.
Focusing is the ability to give your undivided attention to something. And just like other skills, abilities, attitudes, and beliefs related to self-improvement, the ability to stay focused is easier said than done.
We live in a world littered with different kinds of distractions. There’s no shortage of things that could distract us in our everyday life and knock us off the path that we intend to take. But these distractions are not actually the problem. The problem is we allow ourselves to get distracted. It seemed so hard for us to stay focused.
And nowadays, what do we usually blame for our inability to give our full attention to whatever it is that we should be doing – technology. Right? We point our accusing fingers to our smartphones, to all these different social media platforms and applications for ruining our concentration, for tempting us to veer away from the tasks that we are supposed to be doing. But is it the fault of our innocent gadgets and the Internet if we could not focus?
Think about it.
Technology is not bad if we are in charge, if we make it our slave and not the master. It is a matter of knowing how to use our computer and information technology devices properly. We need to figure out how to leverage them to enhance the quality of our work and life in general and not to distract us from our personal and professional pursuits.
Don’t blame social networking and gaming sites and apps for making you lose your focus. No one is forcing you to use them. Computer programs are designed to tease you into using them, if you allow it. You probably have heard about the process of using learning algorithms to predict human behavior. We got figured out by the brains lurking in the techno-social systems. They know how to seduce us into getting drowned in cyberspace and consume (and be addicted by) whatever they are feeding us there. Now, it’s up to us to make a stand, to make a conscious effort on how we use the Internet to our advantage, of choosing which sites (and their corresponding contents) could help us in whatever personal and professional undertakings we have.
Thus, it is important that you don’t lose sight of your WHYs. Let your dreams and ambitions serve us your anchor. Use technology, not to distract, but to help you achieve your goals.
Another possible reason why we find it hard to stay focused is having too many things in our plate or us spinning too many plates at the same time. Whoever said that multitasking is a great thing is gravely mistaken. Cole (2019) explained that multitasking is a myth. He argued that concentrating on multiple tasks at once is not possible and that we pay a mental price each time we interrupt one task and jump to another. That mental price is called switching cost which is the disruption in performance that we experience when we switch our attention from one task to another. In short, multitasking reduces productivity.
Simple things like listening to music while doing household chores or working out would be fine. But in any activities that would require concentration to get better results, performing them while doing other things at the same time is a bad idea.
For me, multitasking applies not only to two simple activities we perform at a given time but also to long-term goals that we set to achieve. People fail sometimes not for lack of goals but having too many of them. It is but natural to want to accomplish a lot of things but we should learn to identify the most important ones and focus on achieving them one at a time. You need to prioritize your top goals.
This reminds me of Warren Buffet’s “2-List Strategy.” Let me explain it in the shortest way possible.
- Write down your top 25 goals.
- Check the top 5 on your list.
- Focus on those 5 goals and avoid at all cost the ones you did not check.
This probably is Warren Buffet’s recipe for success which made him the multi-billionaire that he is. He focused on his most important goals and avoided those that might just divide his attention and ruin his concentration.
Following this strategy will make you focus your efforts and energy into what matters most. Identifying your top 5 goals would allow you to put together all of your resources on the things that will move your needle of success. The other 20 goals may be important but those items are possibly distractions that would cause you to multitask. Thus, Mr. Buffet recommended that you avoid them at all cost.
Staying focused entails the elimination of all forms of distractions and only you know what are the other things or who are the people hindering you from achieving your goals. That distraction could be a vice or a relationship weighing you down preventing you from giving your best efforts to achieve what you want.
That vice could be an addiction to any substance (or any unproductive undertakings like gambling) that when it spirals out of control would ruin not just your focus but your future. That relationship could be with somebody who does not help at all in bringing out the best in you.
In the end, it’s a matter of choice. Are you willing to give up that vice or that relationship for the sake of your dreams? Decide.
It is hard to break free from a vice, from an addiction. It is even harder to walk away from a person (or people) whom you love. But you’ve got to do what you need to do. You cannot juggle with vices, toxic relationships, and your dreams and ambitions.
It’s also possible that what’s preventing us from staying focused is the state of our overall well-being.
Well-being embraces more than just physical health. It takes into account the entire person, both body and mind. It indicates not just the absence of illness but also the presence of positive mental states (Purcell, 2018).
There’s no doubt that when we have a healthy body, mind, and spirit (if like me you believe that there is such a thing), we are more productive. This is so because we have less destruction and could concentrate more in doing what we should be doing. Diseases can affect our concentration and attention and prevent us from performing optimally.
It will be difficult for somebody suffering from any kind of illness to focus on their personal and professional endeavors. Focusing is primarily a mental exercise. And doing so would be a mighty struggle if physically and emotionally something is wrong with a person. Thus, it is important that we take a holistic approach to life – that while we work hard in the attainment of our dreams and ambitions we should also pay attention to our overall wellbeing.
Cole, M. (2019). Marc Cole: The Multitasking Myth. Retrieved from https://www.johnmaxwell. com/ blog/mark-cole-the-multitasking-myth/
Purcell, J. (2018). The Difference Between Wellness and Wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.linked.com/pulse/ difference-between-wellness-wellbeing-jim-purcell.