Continuua abound around us — distance, time, pain, wealth, success, achievement, good/bad, beautiful/ugly, like/dislike, kind/unkind, strong/weak, patient/impatient and so on. We are at different places on many continuua at any given time. We are happy where we are on some but are not happy about others. Much of life is about taking actions that move us one way or the other on a particular continuum.
For many, the focus continuum is a struggle. Remaining focused on what is really important right now seems almost impossible at times. The interruptions, distractions, our own poor time management, our lack of real commitment or understanding of how to remain focused, our lack of discipline, our not standing up for ourselves, our failure to prioritize well, our yielding to the temptation of picking up the phone and becoming trapped in the closed loop of insignificant information, and, of course, our own Personal Noise all contribute to taking our eye off the ball.
Few would argue that a more focused approach to what is happening increases the odds for success. We make better decisions with better results and fewer mental errors (think the shortstop that lets the grounder roll between his legs to left field). We are designed and built to focus on one thing at a time. Study after study makes clear that there is no such thing as an effective multitasker. While we are all called upon to do this, we must be aware that we are being less effective than we would otherwise be. This may be good enough given the circumstances, but never forget that multitasking is far from ideal.
Taking as much control as possible of this moment, of what is important to focus on now, is critical. This means knowing and listening to our voice — not the Noise. Life is best lived moment to moment. For this moment is where we are, and life is — where else could we be? Where else could life be? This is where our focus needs to be — on what we think is most important now. Listen to our voice. It is our best response to this moment for this is the only moment it responds to. It may not bring a win, but it is us at our best, and that is enough.
Learning to navigate the interruptions, the worry, the fear, the anxiety of what’s next (our personal Noise) and just focusing on what we really think is best right now takes commitment, effort and perseverance. Tuning out what is really not important and tuning into what is really important is not easy. However, it must happen if we are to remain focused and so maximize this moment’s potential.
Identifying triggers that take us away from what we really need to be doing demands awareness, self-honesty, practice and patience. Distractions blur what would otherwise be moments of clarity. It is OK to be aware of what is happening around us, but it needs to take a back seat to what we have prioritized. How far back depends on the situation.
Time to answer honestly where we are on the focus continuum. Are we able to control our response to the distractions that inevitably come our way? Are we able to let the distractions come, then let them go? Do we know how to bring ourselves back to this moment when we lose focus, and then stay here? If not, then map out a path to become more focused and make the most of each moment. Pay attention to what pulls you off course and learn how to change that behavior. Learn to tune out what isn’t really important now. Learn to resist the pull of outside forces that clutter the mind.
Remember that this is the only moment that matters, the only one that exists. It is up to us to make the most of it. Remaining focused is foundational to making this happen and to being our best.
More to come.
Eric Easter is CEO of Indianapolis-based HNN 125 Retailer Kittle’s Furniture.