Thursday, March 08, 2007

Choose Your Focus carefully

We have all heard that we should focus on the positive... have a positive mental attitude... keep our eyes on the prize. So, what does all that stuff really mean?

Today I want to talk about moving forward. Many times in life we get stuck in a certain spot. I propose that it's because we are not focused on thoughts that will keep us moving forward.

  • How often do you spend time focusing on past failures?
  • How often do you focus on the problems?
  • Do you think about the drama of your daily situations?
  • Do you ever get stuck in the details?

Let's take a look at the 5 "floors" or levels of our focus:

1st floor: Drama

This is the floor that we usually walk in on (if we don't consciously choose to go to the stairs or the elevator). Drama is the place where we talk about the peripheral stories and occurrences in life. We'll hear stories about blunders, mishaps, and other 'tragedies'. These discussions usually contain a great deal of negative emotion including disgust, despair and possibly even grieving about missed opportunities or failed attempts.

2nd floor: Dilemmas

As we take the stairs to the next level, we find dilemmas. Here the focus is on the issues, challenges and problems that impede progress. Emotions associated with this area are usually disempowering, frustration and disappointment. We are focused more on what is wrong with the situation than with what is right.

3rd floor: Details

As we ascend to the Details 'floor', we notice that the focus is now on doing the activities that must take place on our journey. Most people are very comfortable here because its a practical place. You get to focus on your specific tasks. There is usually low emotion at this level because we're usually doing something that is familiar to us.

4th floor: Design

Up one more level is the Design floor. This is where the planning takes place. This is where we craft the path to get to our dreams, aspirations, and goals. This is the 'thinking' before the 'doing' of the details. There may be some heated discussions at this stage, but it is good to get all the ideas out on the table so that the best path forward is selected. Emotions attached to this phase can be excitement and anticipation.

5th floor: Dream

Finally we get to the top floor where the focus is on the Dream... the "big" picture, the collective vision. From this vantage point we can see possibility and purpose. Our focus is on our aspirations and our goals usually accompanied with the positive emotions of motivation and inspiration.

As leaders, let's ask ourselves a couple of questions?

  • On which floor does most of my thinking take place?
  • On which floor does most of my conversations occur?

Statistics have shown that over 85% of the conversations take place on the 1st through 3rd floors. These are conversations that deal with the minutia, the challenges, and the anecdotal parts of life. While these conversations are interesting, they are not all that useful to moving forward.

I mean, many people can't resist the gossip of the entertainment world. (Is Brittany Spears still in rehab? Has her hair grown back yet?) While that is interesting, it really isn't all that useful to your life.

Take a look at the last conversation you had with your spouse, your co-worker, your child, your friend, your boss. On which 'floor' were you focusing?

  • Were you taking the high road and focusing on your shared dreams or designs?
  • Were you focused on the lower roads of the details, the dilemmas and the drama?

Most of the focus on the lower floors is actually focus on things that you DON'T want. Focusing on what you don't want actually reinforces those thought processes and takes you closer to what you don't want.

Look at it this way... have you ever noticed that when you decide to buy a new car that you see that make and model of car everywhere on the road? Is it just because everyone else had your idea as well? No. It's because your mind has a filter. It can't possibly process every single thing that you see every single day. It would quickly be overloaded. When you decide to get a new car, your brain removes the filter for that car and you are then able to notice it everywhere you look. Your brain works that same way with all of the other things you focus on.

What you choose to focus on, you will see!

DREAMS DESIGN Details Dilemmas Drama

(I'm trying to practice what I preach and not say "Don't focus on the DILEMMAS and DRAMA." Because that would be focusing you on what I don't want you to focus on, which actually makes you focus on it.) ;)

Let me conclude by offering you this advice...

If you're a leader - project manager, parent, pastor, executive, business owner, trainer, educator, etc.:

  • Be conscious of your focus!!
  • Look closely at your focus when talking with your team.
  • Choose to keep most of your conversations at the DREAMS and DESIGN levels. Your team will naturally take care of the DETAILS.

All the best!!

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