Laser focused: How to stop chasing the shiny and stay focused on what matters?
Focus on your path. Stay focused on your goals. You probably heard it more than once and wondered what to do with it, especially if you have no clue where your path leads or what your goals are. I get it. It can be quite daunting. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to question your focus-oriented mindset.
When we are babies or toddlers, our attention span is quite limited. It is natural that you do not have any memory of it, but if you have kids you surely remember when they were little and used to swap toys or games every five or ten minutes. Moving quickly to the next interesting game or shiny object was the norm. Grabbing, testing, exploring for a bit and let go.
It is undeniably a crucial developmental phase where new stimuli are being introduced and tested at a high speed. Significant moments for every child’s development and growth, yet not what prevails while we keep growing and after we reach adulthood. At least, not for most of us.
If you are wondering why, it is nonetheless a valid question showing your curious being. Imagine that you would keep this pattern of jumping from object to object, or from topic to topic every ten minutes. What would that mean for your mind? How do you think that would work while performing your tasks and responsibilities, both in your personal and professional life? Would you be able to keep track of your own thoughts? How would it impact your actions and decisions, including achieving your goals?
Having the mental plasticity to shift perspectives and discuss different subjects in a short time span is to some extent an advantage. Does it benefit you long-term though? If you were to let your focus wander freely and keep following the next shiny object your eyes catch, where would this lead you? It could mean an amazing opportunity or – in most cases, I believe – something flashy and temporary.
During our transition to adulthood, we take decisions – sometimes non-decisions – that lead to certain paths. Our focus starts to narrow down to what at the end represents our circle of influence and daily routines. Because shooting in every direction would reduce our chances to get anything working…and we would not consider it ‘being focused’ after all.
However, being focused is not per se a formula for success. The next big question is: Are you focusing on what matters the most to you? If what you are focusing on does not really matter or it is not in alignment with your purpose, then the outcome will likely not be what you expect.
Whatever situation or scenario you may encounter, below are 3 guiding questions to help you clarify the answer to the above-mentioned query and become laser focused. In other words, to stop chasing the shiny and stay focused on what adds value and benefits you in the long run.
1. Does it align with my values? Remember the innumerous times we talked about values. Those core principles by which you govern your life. Your non-negotiables. If the situation or opportunity is not in alignment with your values, then it is a clear no. No need to waste your focus trying to make your values match that scenario, otherwise chances are you will lose yourself in the processing of doing so. Imagine that honesty is one of your core values and the new task at end involves selling a product or service you do not believe in. Or it is all about fairness to you and you are asked to do something that clearly disfavors one of the parties. These would be examples of obvious misalignment. In case the opposite is true, thus living by your principles while tackling this new challenge, the following question takes its turn.
2. Does it fit my goals? Your goals guide you toward your next action or decision, hence setting them is crucial. Otherwise, your next steps are just a set of random behaviors that could lead to some big opportunity, if you are lucky. Why let luck define your path when you can define it yourself? Yes, it does not mean that everything will go according to that plan. Also, it involves effort, time, determination, compromise. But at the end, you will be living life on your own terms and not on anyone else’s. Don’t let yourself feel intimated by its meaning. We are not necessarily referring to an ultimate goal that will bring you everything you always dreamt of. Perhaps you can think of smaller goals and incremental actions you can take in the short-term while you keep working on your long-term vision. Nonetheless, when faced with that novel situation or challenge, make sure to ask yourself if it fits your goals before embarking on a journey that will most likely derail you from what really matters.
3. Does it benefit me and/ or others? When something is both in alignment with your core values and fits your goals, it should mean it benefits you. However, it may happen that by benefiting yourself, someone else is getting hurt or sidelined. This is the moment to stop and ask yourself what the price is you and whoever is involved must pay so that you get what you want. You live in society, in communion with other people, meaning you should remember that your actions have consequences, not only impacting yourself but often others as well. The least you can do when a new opportunity arises is to evaluate its impact on your life and on the ones surrounding you. A situation that simultaneously benefits you and others is the best-case scenario, undeniably a win-win. It may not always be black and white, but you owe it to yourself and to others.
In case the answer is yes to all the above, it means that your laser is working to its fullest potential identifying an opportunity you should not miss out. You know where you are headed, and even when not entirely sure of the full picture, you are taking a step that takes you closer to your purpose. On the other hand, if the answer is no (to all), it is up to you what to do next. You can still decide to grab that opportunity and take your chances. It is at your own risk and no one can tell you if it is going to work or not. Sometimes it is worth the risk, often it is not. Being laser focused means you are accountable for where you place your attention, hence make sure you are aiming in a purposeful direction.