Do you set yourself a whole pile of realistic and achievable goals and disappoint yourself over and over by not realising them? I do this all the time! Ooh, what a thing for a coach to confess to!! But let me hastily add that I don’t always fail to realise my goals. Sometimes I surprise and delight myself by achieving them far more easily than I had expected. And I’ve recently had an insight into the difference between achieving my goals with relative ease and failing to achieve them: Focus.
When I focus my attention on one or two things, and prioritise them over everything else that I could be doing, everything seems to fall into place relatively quickly and easily. When I set myself a number of goals to achieve, I am consistently distracted from one task by another on the list. I have too many options to pick and choose from, and so I end up doing little bits on this and little bits on that. The problem is that I have too many goals floating around in my head for me to be able to properly concentrate my attention on any one of them. The curse of multi-tasking!
That’s not to say that if you wanted to achieve something in particular that you couldn’t multi-task. Of course you could (especially if you’re a woman ;-) The idea behind focus is that you hold that one thing in your mind all the time, and even when you’re busy doing lots of other things, you’ll still find yourself taking some little steps towards that priority goal. But if you don’t prioritise one or two areas above all others, then chances are several important areas will be procrastinated upon while slow progress is made in a piecemeal fashion on other areas.
Let me give you an example. All year, I’ve been working on a number of different projects. And I’ve made quite a bit of progress on some and hardly any on others. But I haven’t made as much progress on any of them as I would have liked. Then, at the end of June I was challenged by Kammie to a 14 day kick in the booty exercise. I had to choose one thing that I wanted to focus on achieving and do something every single day for 14 days towards achieving this. I decided that I would do one hour of exercise every day because I want and need to lower my cholesterol score and I’m much poorer at the exercise end of that goal than I am at the healthy eating end.
However, the timing of this challenge coincided with me looking for a new place to live, and this was a major distraction. Also, it rained every single day in Dublin during the period (actually for the entire month), and various things cropped up on a nearly daily basis which got in the way of my good intentions.
The long and the short of it was that I didn’t exercise everyday. However, I never let go of my focus on doing all that I could to lower my cholesterol score, and without making any conscious decision on the eating front, I found myself nonetheless being a lot more well behaved on that side of the equation. And I did exercise several times a week (a lot more than previously) and since I’ve completed my house move I’m now exercising three to four times a week without even needing to really push myself to do it. I’ve lost weight too, and I’m confident that when I get my cholesterol retested next week the score will be well down.
The point I’m trying to make is that I was absolutely focussed on reducing my cholesterol and despite being very busy doing other things, I found myself almost unconsciously taking actions that would contribute to this important priority. I held the intention in my mind the entire time, and didn’t let it go even when I was unable some days to take the action I had meant to. And when I look back I find that, bit by bit, I was taking baby steps towards where I wanted to go, and overall I think I’ve taken quite a few strides (to be confirmed of course by the blood test
Coupled with all this cholesterol stuff, I was finding the house search to be much more of a struggle than I expected. But with the value of hindsight that is hardly surprising, as I was juggling it as one more task in my already long list. Until, that is, I decided to focus my attention on my house search over and above all else. I actually made it a higher priority than my work, and psychologically prepared myself to allow things to slip until I had this issue sorted. And lo and behold, the accommodation crisis was resolved very quickly – the power of focus!
So now, for the month of August, while I’m waiting for broadband to be installed and have to confine myself to limited time online each day, I have decided to focus my attention on two projects: Happiness at Work, and my book (of which more in the – hopefully not too distant – futures). That does not mean that I will not do other work during this period, but most of my work will be driven by these two projects and I expect to have made significant progress in both areas by the time September arrives.
Why don’t you experiment with this approach yourself? What one or two things would you like to achieve in your life that you’re making slow progress on? If you’d like some accountability on it, feel free to post your intention and progress here.