Why you must focus to achieve success!

The ability to stay focused and control your mind from wandering regularly throughout the day can be both incredibly frustrating and exhausting if you are working on specific activities in pursuit of your goals. Whilst there certainly appears to be evidence to support ‘deliberate’ day dreaming that can in fact benefit you from embracing your creative part of the brain in a variety of different ways. The simple need to concentrate without distraction can be challenging when deadlines are fast approaching. It’s the ability to assume control of your mind, unhook the current thought and reset your focus on the task in hand. This takes practice, like and habit, but the benefits are significant as you will become a productive machine!

There are a number of different techniques to consider to train your mind to become better at focusing on your specific priorities and the benefits are certainly there to be seen. There is no doubt that by channeling your energies into a single activity will ensure you are consistent and the overall quality of your efforts will increase (check out the previous post on ‘The One Thing’). You will also find that you feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed as your mind isn’t trying to juggle a handful of different things at once – all you have to deal with is one task at a time. Additionally your specific objective will be achieved rather than a sub optimal version of the perceived outcome. Finally you will simply get more done in a shorter time period, rather than endlessly distracted and losing energy as your mind tries to process different requests, thoughts and activities.

The working day is essentially a series of individual blocks that you should focus all energies on for a specific period of time, then rest and go again – one analogy is like a boxer and having a series of rounds to fight in – 3 mins of focus, strategic effort with a single clear goal in mind, then rest, recover then go again…with the ability to last 10 – 12 rounds. We will explore the structure of the day in much greater detail in future posts but for now you should ensure your focus is maintained for the current window or round. To achieve your goals, you need a plan and the focus to deliver on the specific parts of the plan. To really achieve success you must have your primary goals in mind before you go to bed and when you wake in the morning – writing them down, reading and repeating them to yourself, front and centre – this creates the unwavering purpose you need to have any chance of being successful. Your goals will evolve over time, new ones replacing the old but you need to ensure you look ahead rather than backwards – your attention focused on what’s ahead of you to be achieved.

Below are a list of suggested techniques to think about that will help you focus:

  • – Our willpower and decision making lose energy throughout the day therefore it can be valuable to work on the more creative or activities that require concentration first whilst our minds are fresh, focusing on the hard tasks up front in those 2 or 3 hours in the morning, the more mundane, repetitive, mindless tasks can be done later in the day – it’s all about planning out your day effectively to optimise your energies – understanding when you are at your best should align with when you focus on different types of activities.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – every time you find your mind getting distracted, recognise it and reset your attention on the task in hand – no matter how insignificant or small, keep working on this as you will get better at it and eventually it will become natural and you’ll pick up on when you day dream far faster – like anything its a habit than can be learned and improved upon.
  • During your breaks use this time to day dream and encourage your mind to wander – actively embrace this time and see where things go – essentially allowing your mind to problem-solve and relax – there are benefits to improving your focus by simply giving your mind a break from the intensity and deliberate control of staying in the moment.
  • Reinforce your commitment by keeping your promises (no matter how big or small) – follow through on commitments you’ve made ensures you’ll see things through till the end – this develops a habit of consistency and there are parallels to the way your mind will approach focus and self control.
  • Treat or reward yourself after completing a task with supreme focus. The promise of some kind of reward can drive you to see through a specific task. Remember these blocks or rounds should be small and therefore it won’t be that long until your first break – setting an initial reward as you start practicing can get you over the first few hours and gradually the rewards can become less frequent but perhaps larger as you complete more significant goals.
  • Take time to completely switch off – no work, no phones, time with the family, completely distract yourself with enjoyable activities, lose yourself in a different part of your life to re-energise yourself before coming back to your goals – avoiding burn out is key to relentlessly drive forward – it’s all in the planning but taking time away will enable you to refocus and push on.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours per day – don’t take this lightly – yes you may think you can work through the night (sometimes required) or you can live on 5 hours per day but over time I believe this catches up with you – you’ll be fresh and you’ll mind will be clear – critical in those first few hours of each day. Find ways to optimise your sleep so you sleep deeply and wake full of energy – it’s all about how effective you truly are whilst working rather than simply turning up – we want to maximise each hour and squeeze every last ounce of value from our working day if we want to achieve great things – so fresh, focused and energised requires quality sleep.

The power of saying NO!

Learning when and how to say ‘NO’ is a critical factor in your pursuit of success. Whilst saying ‘yes’ can be a wonderful thing, opening you up to new possibilities and opportunities it’s the power and strength to say ‘no’ that will ensure you remain clearly on your path to greatness. It can be extremely challenging and sometimes even stressful for those of us who don’t like to let people down, create disappointment or simply prefer pleasing others when we know deep down ‘yes’ is the wrong answer.

Our intuition can be a powerfully ally in this case when faced with a dilemma such as this. It’s important to understand and set your personal boundaries and limits when your inner voice attempts to hijack your preferred decision. It’s important to understand why you feel a certain way and what is driving you to succumb to this decision – understanding your thoughts and feelings is something to reflect on each time you realise this has happened to you.

Many people will simply not understand your decision at first when you listen to your own thoughts as their agenda or plan is not always aligned to your own – why live out someone else’s life or business plan if it doesn’t fit your own. By answering ‘yes’ when you know deep down ‘no’ was the better response you potentially can get sidelined and lose valuable time pursuing your strategic objectives. It’s therefore critical that when you reach these signposts you ensure your path to success is clearly mapped out and that when faced with a decision you stick to the correct path to reach your destination.

Again this takes practice. Saying ‘no’ can be incredibly brave depending on the circumstances. In fact the very prospect of saying that tiny word can fill you with anxiety in the days, weeks even months before you have to respond. The good news is, you have the control, no one can make you say ‘yes’ – in fact sometimes its admirable to stand your ground – not lease because its your time others are happy to waste. Additionally you may say ‘yes’ but despite this you may not give your all and as we know to become unstoppable you have to leave nothing on the table if you want to achieve extraordinary success in your career and in life.

The right to assert yourself in line with what you desire is yours and yours alone. You don’t have to conform to what everyone else is doing if it’s not in line with your goals or core values. You are unique and therefore hold the power to choose how you act and respond. When the lights go out and you judge yourself you should feel comforted in the knowledge that you chose wisely and not regret those decisions you made.

The two little letters are incredibly powerful when used at the right time, yes you may miss some opportunities however if you truly understand your purpose then saying NO will get increasingly easier.

Tom Hanks mused over this dilemma reflecting to Business Insider saying ‘I realised that I had to start saying a very, very difficult word to people, which was ‘no’. By saying no means you made the choice of the type of story you wanted to tell and the type of character you want to play.’ If you research many successful business leaders and other individuals in different careers many will tell you that saying NO is a powerful tool contributing to their success – in fact the ability to say no ensured Steve Jobs would become one of the most focused individuals in a generation.

Whatever the decision or choice you are faced with on a daily basis, pause for a moment and consider the answer before you give it, is it really aligned to the things you really want to accomplish, reflect how you feel each time (regardless of the answer you gave) and then consider the implications. This comes back to self awareness and how you choose to respond in different situations therefore like everything, start small, practice with easier choices and remember how you feel when you proudly make a decision you really wanted to make rather than pleasing someone else and incrementally build on this day by day until you build the strength to face down those big tough life choices – you’ll amaze yourself, build strength and character and remain firmly on the path to success.

Why affirmations work!

As we consider how to optimise our focus, execute our goals and take control of the working day there are many small techniques and tools that can be easily deployed to assist in setting us up for rip roaring success – positive affirmations happen to be one of those elements.

They are clear specific statements that when used repeatedly help you change your focus and mindset in an extremely positive way.  They can be thought of as an injection of motivation into the mind, focused thought leading to taking massive action.

It’s important to ensure that the statements used are in the present, powerfully constructed to be clear on intent even if the outcome or goal is still yet to achieved.
For example ‘I am financially independent’ or ‘I am passionate about my job’ or ‘I am respected by my peer group’.

The key is that you consider first what you want to achieve and then follow this by reminding and repeating to yourself the outcome that you desire. By repeating over and over, both by writing these down, reflecting on them daily and by saying them to yourself you will let your subconscious go to work to help you achieve them whilst constantly reminding you to take positives steps aligned with your goals.

I like the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ however this could be reworded as ‘you are what you repeat‘, at least it will ensure you stay in a positive mental state and drive you forward.

Now of course your affirmations have to be achievable and realistic much like your goals but go big – don’t make them easy – dream hard and push yourself, you want to be the best you can be? so stretch yourself – you are in control of your thoughts and attitude so why not make that visualisation as big and as bright as possible and then keep it front of mind at all times.

Your brain is incredible and it deals with everything in the moment.  When you think of something your brain gets to work to consider what appropriate action will follow.  Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that feeding it positive statements will result in meaningful actions.  If you don’t take control your brain will look for other influences to make sense of the immediate environment and then lead you down a different path, more often not the one aligned to your goals.

Like anything practice makes perfect – and repetition is the key to success with affirmations. Try writing down four or five affirmations and saying them to yourself when you first wake up and regularly during the day – success doesn’t happen overnight (I liked a quote I saw yesterday that said ‘it’s amazing how many late nights it takes to be an overnight success’!  I can’t remember who to attribute this to but it’s certainly true).

Build into your day a sprinkling of positive affirmations and repeatedly say them to yourself and let the magic of your mind assist you in achieving them.

Are you really working at fulfilling your true potential?

Highly successful individuals continuously contemplate which techniques will drive them to achieve greater success.  The journey to a better job, more money and responsibility is often the motivation.  However many still struggle with a feeling that they could and probably should have achieved much more.  It may be that from afar these professionals are exceeding in many aspects of their lives however the truth is that we all can squeeze more out of ourselves.  The vast majority of us if being truly honest with ourselves that we could do more, push more, achieve more, try harder in whichever aspect of life we feel important.

Now I’m not suggesting that many people don’t work hard, in some cases burning the candle at both ends, however we still know whether we were ‘all in’ and really giving everything when it mattered most – and most importantly aligned with our primary life goals.

Love him or hate him (and he does have his haters!) Tai Lopez believes ‘The Good Life’ to maximise the four pillars of success, Health, Wealth, Love and Happiness.  I do agree with this view and actually a really great way of thinking about what really is required to feel satisfied with life.  I think if we were to audit our lives in each of these four categories we would probably agree more could be done.  Now clearly achieving a balance in each isn’t necessarily a good thing but when we think of Wealth (and working relentlessly as an intrepreneur) we should be challenging ourselves to feel we have pushed to the limit – if of course we want to reach the top.

Remember this is not for everyone – some people are simply happy with their situation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that however most leaders in organisations value those who take responsibility and are accountable for their actions and have the best interests of the company to heart.  Equally you must understand the critical tasks of your organisation, those handful of important activities that lead to success.  You should be operating at an extremely high level in your current role but also understand clearly what is expected of your boss and be working to develop those skills and competencies such that you are ready to assume the role when called upon.

There are only two things you can really control, your attitude and how you react to things therefore stepping out of your comfort zone and really pushing hard to fulfil your potential is one of the ways you will progress.  Recognise when you feel like you could do more and reflect on each occurrence at the end of the day – what can you learn, how would you act if faced with a similar opportunity in the future?

‘A temperate fire never boils the water’ (Alvin Conway)

Take the time to reflect on where you should push and end the day having giving it everything you got – you’ll feel and see the difference almost immediately as you start living up to your potential.