What You Focus On Will Flourish
Goals don’t reach themselves. You not only need to know where you want to go and what you want to achieve, but you need to put in the work to make it happen.
The key to making progress is keeping your eye on the prize—in other words, pay attention. Challenges, such as completing a difficult assignment at work, losing weight, or saving money are often so daunting that we shy away from them, perhaps giving in too quickly to the frustration or fear that arises when we really begin to take them on.
To make these big projects more approachable, it helps to distill the process into three stages:
We’ve all heard that acknowledging a problem is the first step towards fixing it. Sounds simple, but getting started is often the hardest part of any plan. Why? Completing tasks is not the issue; you do tasks every day. You don’t need to coax yourself to brush your teeth, buy food, or put gas in the car. But larger challenges can be harder to confront, perhaps because you don’t want to acknowledge that you’re having difficulty with them, you’re scared to ask for help, or you’re dreading what’s involved (especially when the task isn’t clear). Acknowledge the powerlessness you feel. When you recognize that you’re struggling, you’ve taken the first and hardest step towards resolution.
Once you’ve recognized that you want to make a big change, it’s time to set measurable goals for yourself and be honest about what it will take to accomplish them. It’s difficult to solve a problem when the solutions are too hard to imagine or define. This is the moment to determine what the final outcome will look like and to define a practical, attainable way to get there.
Once you define the solution in a more concrete way, it’s easier to focus your energies, and you’ll have something to think about as you’re reaching for that cookie, procrastinating with a less important project, or spending money on something frivolous. Once you have a concrete goal to focus on, you can be honest with yourself about when you’re working towards your goal and when you’re not.
This is where your aspirations and reality meet. Now that you’ve identified a plan to reach your goal in no uncertain terms, it’s time to commit to it and check in with your progress. Sometimes this phase requires tough love, so remember that there’s no room for inertia here: You’re either moving things forward, or you’re not. For instance, with the example of saving money, if you can get to a point where you’re no longer spending more than you make, that’s good—but it’s not helpful until you actually save something.
Set up regular checkpoints to measure your progress. It allows you to be honest with yourself about the extent to which you are serving your goals. Remember that if everything’s a priority, nothing is. Focus, by definition, means that some things are left out of scope. If it’s not important or it doesn’t move you forward, it may be time to let it go so you can focus on the stuff that yields greater rewards.
Together, these three steps are a pragmatic way to take on some of the more overwhelming challenges you face. It’s easier said than done, but the more you practice, the stronger your resolve will be.
Jan Bruce is the CEO and Co-founder of meQuilibrium. A widely recognized authority on balanced, healthy lifestyles and sustainable living, Jan has a passion for building strong business strategies and cohesive management teams that deliver results. Find her on Twitter @janbruce