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How to Focus + My Goals

Photo by Andrea D'Aquino. Follow him on facebook and flickr.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of things you want to focus on? Yet, you find it hard to make real progress forward? Perhaps, it’s time to slim down your list and focus on just one or two larger goals. I too didn’t know how to focus until an unexpected conversation with my husband exposed my problem. This is that story.

For New Year’s Eve last year, Jeremy and I were looking for something to do—a traditional party with an actual countdown, mingling with strangers, getting dressed up in swanky outfits, holding champagne, kissing at midnight, etc.

I felt so relieved when we were invited to such a party. “Finally, we’re not going to be orphans this year,” I thought. However, the Universe had other plans for us; something sweeter, something better.

The plan was to put Ryan to bed, have dinner, and then go to the party. As we were having dinner, one conversation after another, we ended up on the topic “What do you want in the New Year? What are your goals? What do you want to focus on?

What started as a simple ten minute conversation over dinner grew into a two hour long, delicious sharing of our hopes and dreams for the future. It was one of the most honest conversations we’ve had. It was beautiful and worth savoring every breath.

One thing that became apparent was how scattered I was in what I wanted. My husband Jeremy had to stop me with “Oh wait, that’s too many things to focus on at once” as I listed all the things I wanted to focus on this year.

Despite my best efforts at simplifying my goals and my understanding that the more we focus on, the more diluted each goal becomes in its realization, I had too many “wants” and sometimes they conflicted with one another.

Using his supreme focus and sharpened managerial skills, Jeremy gently guided me in reorganizing my goals such that they were sorted in a hierarchical structure—with one big goal at the top to focus on, and lots of little goals that went underneath the big goal.

For my business, I had two big goals that were the most important which I will be focusing on. After examining all the loose goals, we determined that any career related goal had to fit under one of the two big goals. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be working on them.

Too many loose goals become a distraction, taking energy away from what matters most. If you don’t have a definite goal, you won’t know what you should be focused on and will end up drifting wherever the wind takes you.

It makes sense: We only have a limited amount of time each day. If we give attention to one thing, that means we now have less attention to give to another thing. Real results are produced as a product of focused attention. Scattered attention, attention focused on too many things can never produce real results.

I often violate this rule, especially last year, when I didn’t have any definite focus. I was floating around. Whenever something came along that sounded attractive, I would dive in and try it out. In the end, they were all distracters. As a result, I didn’t produce much. My heart wasn’t in it and my attention was being split into too many parts for any one part to become potent.

In the year 2010, I dabbled in wedding photography, internet marketing, consulting business, and the good mood blogging contest—all things which were nice to-haves, but took me away from what I wanted most: to create products that can help people, and to grow this happiness blog.

In chapter 1 of Napoleon Hill’s 1925 classic “The Law of Success”, he talks about the vital importance of having a definite purpose —the thing you want to focus on. The thing you want most to become realized.

Here’s a related quote from that chapter,

“Until a man selects a definite purpose in life, he dissipates his energies and spreads his thoughts over so many subjects and in so many different directions that they lead not to power, but to indecision and weakness.

With the aid of a small reading glass, you can teach yourself a great lesson on the value of organized effort. Through the use of such a glass, you can focus the sun’s rays on a definite spot so strongly that they will burn a hole through a plank. Remove the glass (which represents the definite purpose), and the same rays of sun may shine on that same plank for a million years without burning it.

Wow.

Thinking back to the times when I succeeded in producing concrete results, whether it was my first online business selling apparel, or graduating from university, or starting my blog, or even winning the good mood gig contest, I was completely focused, completely fixated, unwavering, razor sharp, focused on the end result (and on nothing else).

Ah, that’s the key I’ve been searching for, ‘focus’, and having a ‘definite purpose’,” I thought to myself.

I sat back, and watched as Jeremy excitedly helped organize my goals, and to simplify them, so that I can actually focus on just one or two things instead of fifty.

At an hour to midnight, Jeremy said, “You know, we can either go to the party and mingle with a bunch of people we don’t really know orwhile the topic is freshwe can go grab our laptops and organize our goals in a share doc, so we can keep each other accountable. And afterwards we can watch a movie and open a bottle of wine. What do you think?

It was so delicious an idea that there was only one possible answer: Of course, I would rather spend the night doing something personal and meaningful with my life partner.

Since, I had already gotten ready—all dressed up with my hair done and makeup already applied—which I pointed out to Jeremy long enough for him to say “Oooh, ahhh, pretty”, I ran upstairs like a little kid to change into warm comfy house clothes.

I then marched into my office, sat down at my desk, opened a Google doc and started typing. A few minutes later, Jeremy came in with two glasses of freshly opened red wine and his laptop. He sat at the reading chair—where I could see him in the dim shades of the reading lamp.

I had my goals organized in three major categories: professional, personal wellness and couple goals—as per Jeremy’s clever suggestion.

If you are curious, my two professional goals were: product creation and increase site traffic. From that moment on, I made a commitment to myself that everything I work on will fit into one of these categories. If not, I will not do it unless I choose to.

For my personal wellness goals, I had several loose goals. But the number one goal is to live consciously to the best of my ability by redirecting negative thoughts so that I am not stuck in a painful place caused by dwelling on the past or a nervous place caused by worrying about the future.

For couple goals, I wrote down the first thing that came to mind, “alone dates once a month”. I am so silly, I was in complete logical mode and was thinking about the actions to do, instead of the end goal those actions provided.

When Jeremy added his goals to the shared Google doc and it refreshed on my screen, I quickly scrolled to the bottom to his Couple Goals section. He wrote, “End 2011 with a closer relationship than 2010” and under that, he had “2 date nights per month” and “listen instead of argue.

I almost died when I read that- died in a land of happiness, a land of roses and rainbows. Jeremy is just so sweet. He’s always been so much more genuine about our relationship than I and so much more thoughtful. I have a lot to learn from him.

I looked over at him, there beyond my open laptop screen, under the warm lights of that reading lamp, with a kind of fondness that is indescribable. Tears welled up in my eyes. Those simple words on the screen meant and conveyed so much to me.

I jumped up from my desk , skipped like a bunny over to the reading chair in utter joy, and landed promptly in his lap. I pushed his laptop aside, snuggled up real close and said, “I love you babes. Thank you.

In the end, we didn’t do countdowns, or have champagne(we don’t even like champagne). Instead, we had the gift of a night, beyond anything I could have planned—a focused roadmap for this year, wonderful wine, delicious popcorn, priceless moments of connection, and a phenomenal documentary called “The Cove”(which I highly, highly recommend. Beautifully written, moving, uplifting and heart-warming).

Now that is a beautiful start to a new year.

What are your goals for this year? What do you want to focus on?

Consider, going through your list and pick just one or two things to focus on. Give it your whole attention and I am sure your focused attention and dedicated action will cause it to come into reality. I am reminded of a saying, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” It’s all a matter of deciding where to put our focus, and then allocating our time towards action for the fruition of that which we are focused on.

The same formula can be applied towards parenting or to improve a relationship. Focus, focus, focus is the key.

Remember, it is not possible to focus on many things. Pick just one and focus with all your attention to make it a reality, before moving on to the next thing.

Which one to focus on? That’s up to you. What does your heart tell you? What inspires you the most and gives you the most reward? Which goal gets you most excited about your future? Pick that one.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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26 thoughts on How to Focus + My Goals

  1. I get distract easily, especially when I’m online (most of the time, I’m online o.0).
    So I would keep question myself what am I doing, is that worth the time, am I get distract again?
    Stay focus on one thing, for the front part, it’s hard, but once focus, things can be done very fast. :D

  2. Neapolitan hill does define it in his advise to stay focused on your goals. Like you, last year heart wasn’t in it and my attention was being scattered in too many directions. This will help me get 2011 off to a great start. Thank for your great post and inspiration.

  3. My new year’s resolution was simple: ski. I got cross-country skis for Christmas and began (once again) to enjoy something that I had not done in years. Of course there’s only 1 month or so left of skiing until the end of the year when it snows again. Picking up an old hobby was so refreshing. Remembering that it’s something that I do well and it gets me out of my house during such a crazy winter.

    Beyond that though there’s other goals for this year. For now, I’m just taking one at a time. And ‘ski’ is just as simple as that. :)

  4. A scientist marveled at how a seemingly harmless magnifying glass could create such intense heat, when the sun’s rays passed through its glassy surface.

    He asked the magnifying glass, ‘How can you do what you do? You have this incredible ability of tapping into the rays of the sun. You then take those vast rays and bring them to a powerful point that burns holes in leaves and sheets of paper.’

    The magnifying glass replied to the scientist by saying, ‘Well sir, I have learnt this one thing throughout the years. The hotter it gets, the more focused I become.’

  5. Rachel

    Wow Tina, I felt like this one was written for me. This exact topic has been on my mind for a while now — feeling scattered and overwhelmed by my goals, rather than inspired and fired up to achieve them. I have an amazing partner who is the calm to my chaos…. he too loves having things to work towards but when I ask him every year what he’d like to focus on, his answer is simple: Being happy. I’ll be taking a leaf out of his book and yours for 2011…. refining and clarifiying my end result so I can nip “achievement fatigue” in the bud! Thank you for your words, as always, your authenticity is inspiring.

  6. Marie

    Beautiful story, Tina! :)

  7. This is a great article! So many of our clients while laying on the massage table have the same things rolling thru their minds – how do I get all this stuff done… when really it’s just about getting focused on what the goal is they want to reach. I love this article! Going to post it for our clients to see on our fb page – thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Great article Tina.

    It’s interesting how you made a brief point about having conflicting goals. I think that this in a good reason why so many people don’t accomplish what they set out for themselves.

    If you set a goal to grow your business tenfold but you also want to have more time to dedicate to other hobbies then they will certainly conflict each other. Increasing your business requires a lot of time and dedication no matter how you look at it.

    All of your goals, wants and desires need to be congruent.

    And yes, definiteness of purpose is the starting point for all realization. You will never hit the bulls-eye if you are not completely focused and have dead aim on it.

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Anthony

  9. Mohan Kumar

    Hi Tina mam, Great article, Inspired me to organize my tasks to face the upcoming challenge which is coming in next month in my professional life. Really helping me a lot. I’m really thankful to you.. Take care.

  10. Sadaf

    Great article. I always get proper articles from you what I am in need of. To many scattered goals and nothing workout well. Will sure focus on one or two to get it done. Thanks Tina.

  11. Tina,

    Thank you for openly sharing your experience I have learned a lot from it. Similar to you when I started to reflect on my goals for this year I was overwhelmed with a long list of items that I probably never would have accomplished. Frustrated with the sheer magnitude of my list, that was reminiscent of a never ending scroll, I narrowed my focus on two particular areas. Those two areas were organization, which I clearly lacked, and serving. I want to help people!

    So my goals for 2011 are simple. I want to take control of my calendar and maximize my time to use it efficiently. I also want to improve my community by proactively attacking the issues it faces like unemployment.

    I am doing well so far and reading this just made me re-gain my focus and stay on track. I am so glad I found this site and I will be back again real soon.

  12. Sorry I put your name as mine in my last comment!

  13. Inspiring Article! I find if I have too many things I am focusing on the more distracted I get.

  14. Three times this week, different friends have told me that I’m too scattered, that I’d achieve more and be happier if I focused on less things. I think I currently focus (or try to focus!) on about 6 things in my life.

    Reading your post though, I realise that not only have I got two many things to focus on, my goals in each area are not measurable enough. I have a goal that is just “Friends and family” for example, meaning that I want to make sure that I don’t neglect my friends and family because I’m so busy concentrating on other things. But perhaps I should have a more definite goal in each area and set aside a certain amount of time for each thing.

    Knowing how to leave some things aside i.e. what to abandon is really hard though …. I’m not sure I can whittle it down to less than six things!

  15. Great story. Good luck for 2011 ;-)

  16. Joanna

    This, and your latest post (Stop Chasing, Start Living) are SO relevant to my life right now. I’m a young art student with no idea of what i want to do with my life yet. I’m being pulled in all directions by all the things I wanna do. Thanks to your articles, I realize where all my lack of motivation comes from and I can work to fix it. :D Thank you so much!!

  17. Manoli

    Great article, great feelings, great love, great inspiration… Thanx for this!

  18. Wow, thats one of the sweetest stories I’ve read in a long time.

    I found your site by searching for “How to focus” and I’m glad I did. I’ve been reading all sorts of things telling me about how multi-tasking is bad and how if I multi-task I won’t be able to focus on the subject at hand. However none of those sites mentioned anything about the larger concept of not multitasking on too many projects at once. It was always about not having the tv on, while working, while eating all at once.

    Brilliant article ,and I love the personal touch!

  19. james

    but did not steve job say to follow your passion which kind of conflict with staying focus ?

    So maybe bruse lee got it right when he say stay with the flow like water

  20. Sup

    Wonderful article. Just the one I have been searching for. Its true we can not focus on more than one thing at a time. I want to share one thing here that I have a habit of opening several pages on web and reading simultaneously. But while reading this one, trust me, I consciously did not open other page and it really work wonder. That is the power of focus.
    Keeping sharing such beautiful things :)

  21. Jackie Bean

    Great article!

    Thanks for creating this blog! It’s helped me so much, in only a few days.

  22. My brother recommended I might like this website. He was totally
    right. This post actually made my day. You can’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

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