- Fran Christy - http://www.franchristy.com -

How to stay focused

There’s a lot of things to be said about focus. The first is that the ability to remain focused on your goals is probably the most important element of success. Whatever you set yourself to do, if you work on it long enough, you’re going to succeed. However, it’s also important to mention that you can’t be focused without a crystal clear goal. You can’t be focused in a vacuum. We also need to talk about discipline, persistence, and procrastination.

So taking you have goals and are determined to reach them, but lack focus to keep going strong, the question becomes: why you can’t be focused?

This diagnostic is the first thing you need to sort out. Do you procrastinate? Do you have a hard time with discipline? Do you give up too easily? Why? If you can’t answer that, you need to stop, take some time and reflect on these questions. Always write down your findings. Search your feelings and the thoughts that occur when you choose to do something else instead of what you were supposed to be doing.

Once you draft your perceptions on the reasons behind your difficulty with focus, you must find out why it is happening. Reading about it helps because it will give you relatable examples. When you read about a problem you have, you find the right words you need to express your feelings and thoughts. The more you can elaborate on it the more you’ll comprehend your reality. If you understand what’s going on with you and the reasons behind it, it will be much easier to find the solutions.

Focus is the ability to persist with discipline towards a definite goal. A few personality and behavior flaws may keep us from realizing our full potential. We may be afraid of something we expect to encounter along the way. We can be scared that we won’t be able to live up to others expectations if we reach the goal. Maybe we don’t feel confident that we are good enough to conquer what we want. What if we don’t know exactly how to proceed to get things done? When we feel confused, we allow ourselves to get distracted and choose to do “other” things instead of what we need to do. Some of us are perfectionists and panic just thinking about the possibility that the results we’re trying to produce won’t be impeccable.

These are some of the causes that may help with the diagnostic. Nevertheless, there’s always a reason for all behavior and personality weaknesses, and it’s important that you get to the root of the matter. Think about it profoundly.

While persistence is mostly a matter of optimism, discipline is a habit. You can learn both.

To be persistent, you need to ponder over the reasons you may have to give up, which often come from losing hope. This pessimistic behavior could have roots in the same problems you have previously identified. It’s also important to note that sometimes, giving up is a blessing. We are not omniscient; we set goals that later on we realize we don’t want, or we didn’t have a clear picture of what would take to reach them. As we lose interest, we may be tempted to give up, which in some cases may not be a bad idea. We can’t do it all. We only have so much time and stamina. If we waste time chasing rabbits we don’t care for, we end up with fewer resources to go after what we really want. So that’s something to think about. Giving up isn’t always that bad.

On the other hand, if we give up things that we really want, we must find out why we’re having a hard time being persistent. Some people can’t handle the difficulty, they expect everything to be easy, when things get tough, they move on to a different goal. Others are so excited by adversity that they lose interest if things get too easy. There’s also the possibility that we’re facing fears of things we don’t want to deal with or personal insecurities when we reach challenging levels. Lack of persistence can also be a sign of shortsightedness. People that expect to see immediate results from their efforts usually give up too soon.

Discipline, being a habit, requires method and predisposition. Methods are the techniques we use to structure action. It’s hard to support discipline in the long term without it. Predisposition is our willingness to do what has to be done. There’s no secret to making us do something we don’t want to and most of the time, our problems with focus rely on this very silly reason: we just don’t feel like doing it…

If you have a hard time with discipline because you don’t have methods to optimize work, that’s an easy fix. You can learn rules, recipes, plans and best practices to program and structure your actions easily. There’s plenty of productivity methods and techniques in books and all over the internet.

Predisposition is whole new ball game. No one can force you to do things you don’t want to do. You won’t find self-help books, techniques, secrets or strategies that will fix your lack of willingness to do what needs done in order for you to make progress. After all, you are free to do whatever you please. You may have all the steps laid out in front of you, methods to work systematically, time, resources, tools and still choose to do something else instead of what you should be doing.

If you’re a serial procrastinator, you should carefully analyze what’s at the root of this behavior, but, above all, fix the first part of the equation, the methods, and then force yourself to act, even if you’re not motivated. Sometimes people don’t have a really good excuse or an underlying problem behind procrastination, they just deliberately choose to do other things instead. If that’s your case, I have nothing to say other than get your act together and just do it…