First a confession: As a high achiever, I am one of those individuals who has had significant periods of focus in my life. It has helped me achieve large and specific goals. We often hear about the necessity of focus to achieve our goals and how it is the key to success. Or is it?
Focus is an attentiveness or concentration on a specific task, goal, effort, problem, or achievement. It requires an attention to detail with limited distraction. We need to have periods of focus each day, week, and month in order to attain our desired output. This is a standard belief for most.
Beware of over focus: Whenever we do something to an extreme, we lose something else. As a leader or business owner, if you are over focused on any one area, project, task or goal, you will potentially miss important shifts occurring in your market, on your team, in your industry, etc. You may have your blinders on and are not allowing the presence of awareness first, followed by intentional times of focus.
As a high achiever, if you are over focused on earning the next promotion or other accolades, you have the potential to sacrifice other areas of your life that may be critical to long term, holistic success. By focusing too much on the future, you may miss enjoying the present and the lessons the journey offers.
An alternative perspective: Focus, although critical, has greater power when combined with awareness and flexibility. When you are in your car driving down the highway, you are focused on the road in front of you – keeping your distance (hopefully) to avoid an accident. Perhaps, you are also looking at the other lanes occasionally through your peripheral vision. Sometimes you are checking your right, left and rear-view mirrors. You are probably also scanning the distance ahead and checking for accidents, congestion, or an open road.
What you are doing is developing a greater awareness of the surroundings to avoid potential pitfalls that you may not otherwise see. You are still moving forward and will arrive at your expected destination, but you are not only focused on the lanes directly in front of you. You may need to take an alternate route, or you may need to change your expected destination time. In other words, your blinders are off through greater awareness, combined with flexibility.
How do I implement this “greater awareness”? The key is to first develop the greater awareness of your overall “surroundings” as your perspective. Gaining clarity around a few insightful questions will help you. The deeper you dig, the more awareness you will develop that will serve you well. What areas of your life and business are you currently overlooking? What do you continually need to check and pay attention to, so focus does not become an extreme in certain areas of your life or business? What are your blind spots? What needs to shift? Once you develop clarity around what you need for a higher level of attainment, flow in and out of intentional times of focus and productivity. This allows flexibility. Continue to check back in – is it still relevant? What has shifted? What are other possibilities? How can we improve?
Most importantly, the need for awareness and focus is even more critical as an individual. Our culture recognizes value based on achievements. But achievement often requires tremendous sacrifices: health, family, relationships, well-being, etc. Therefore, develop greater awareness of what you need in your life first and then have intentional times of focus, followed by those necessary down times to enjoy life.
This will help you achieve sustainable and enjoyable success not just in work, but in life.