How to Stay Fiercely Focused on What Matters
Distractions always present themselves throughout the day. But as a trained athlete knows, focus is an acquired skill: keep your mind in the game and your eye on the prize. How we respond to distractions will separate those who stay focused on their goals from those who don’t.
Friends and fellow creatives have shared with me that they can sometimes get pulled into other people’s problems or requests, and find themselves giving short shrift to their own work. I have experienced this challenge myself.
We must consciously choose how to spend our time and where to place our energy. Life is full of surprises and moment-to-moment teachings. As such, it is also important to assess whether an event that seems like a distraction truly is one.
Here is an example to illustrate what I mean. A while back, I was in a focused creative flow in my studio, working on new musical material. I felt as though I was in heaven. The project was time-sensitive and was due for submission the following day. I was totally committed to that success.
While I was in the thick of the creative process, my doorbell rang. It was a friend who had spontaneously dropped by unannounced with someone he really wanted me to meet. At first, I felt happy to see my friend, and open to meeting his pal, but then quickly realized that this meant that I was not in my studio creating. I did not know what to do.
My old habits kicked in, and the overly “nice” girl, who is afraid to say how she really feels and wants to make everyone happy, came out with a smile. Rather than making the visit short and saying it was not an ideal time for me, I offered them tea, then dinner and even a long visit in my studio. The new friend is an electronic music producer, so I was even further tempted and sidetracked by shop talk and the exchange of technical tips.
One could argue that the visit was useful in terms of keeping me on path, because we did share information that could have helped my project. But why then, once they left, did I feel so depleted?
STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR HIGHEST GOOD
When we follow our path and do what is in alignment with our highest good, we feel rooted, vital and expansive, no matter what our mind may think or our emotional self may feel. Truth is always clear like a sharp sword. If I had a true commitment to the success of my goals and my deepest joy, I would have been more honest with my needs and kept the visit short. In hindsight, I see that would have been completely fine. True friends would understand.
I got confused in thinking that perhaps the spontaneous appearance was grace, helping me to fulfil my goals. As I have said before, all that happens is grace. But here, the grace was not in saying yes to the visit. Rather, it was an opportunity to learn to say no.
If we look at a basketball game, for example, when the player takes a shot, it is clear that he is to keep his eye on his target and should not get distracted by the scene in the stands. Could you imagine if the athlete stopped the game, closed his eyes, muscle tested or pulled a divination card, and asked himself if the waving pool noodles or funny mascot were a sign from God that he was supposed to miss his shot and instead pull out a dinner spread? We see that the idea is clearly ridiculous. But that is what we may be doing to ourselves, many times each day.
Sometimes it seems we want life to be uni-dimensional, easy to predict and singular. But it is not. Every moment is filled with possibility, which is part of the magnificence and divine beauty of being alive. On our path, we must learn to clearly see the difference between an opportunity that moves us towards our desired goals and a distraction that pulls us away from our true joy.
We each have our own way to remain focused on our goals. Some will meditate. Others will journal, visualize or engage in self-talk. Others may do a combination of these. Whatever works for you, put that first in your day, every day. Make sure your goals are right up front and central in your life. Every day, give your life to yourself fully and completely, so you may serve the world. A closed hand cannot receive and an empty heart cannot give.
Take a moment every morning to review your goals for your life, your goals for this year and your goals for this day. Know what brings you joy. Imagine the day fully supporting your heart’s desire.
You will be tested, but that is part of life. The distractions will show up in the most unsuspected ways, like spontaneous knocks at your door that pull you away from your truest joy. Be your own world-class athlete and focus on shooting to score, in whatever way fills you with inspired grace.
EXERCISE TO STAY FOCUSED
Every moment in every day counts. See each moment as a valuable and powerful asset that you can use to build your dreams or squander your joy. Today, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What in my life drains my energy?
2) Why do I feel I am attached to it?
3) What do I feel my ego gains from being attached to it?
4) What would my life look like and how would I feel without it?
5) Am I totally open, ready and willing to get it go?
6) What do I need to realign within myself to let it go?
7) What practical steps do I need to take in order to do so?
Now, get going to make those changes. When you say yes to your highest purpose, everyone wins. The person with whom you get entangled on the phone for hours, pulling you away from what you love, could perhaps be better helped by someone else, or perhaps by reading the book you really want to write. Getting entangled in situations that make you less than you are and pull you off path is a lose-lose dynamic. It is like jumping into the water to save a drowning person. When you stay on path and stand your solid ground, you can be of far greater service to yourself and therefore to others. From that solid footing, you can extend a helping hand to those in need without losing yourself.
If you are feeling a constant pull to shelve your own needs to assist with or manage someone else’s problems, be mindful of whether you are engaging in codependency. You may wish to contact a personal therapist, Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous and address these tendencies with the amazingly grace-filled twelve-step process.
When it comes to living your joy, I have come to see that if you want it, you’ve got it. But do you really want it? Regularly ask yourself this sobering question.
We often stay stuck playing small because it feels easier and safer to let life slip by. But at what cost? The cost of your deepest joy and true heart desire? Are you really willing to let that go in exchange for fear and temporary comforts? Think long and hard about that. What is the cost of not following your dreams? When you bring your full self into what you are doing and free yourself from limiting beliefs and hindering habits, you find the life you had been hoping to find.
Wishing you fierce focus, clarity and joy on your path.
Thank you for reading! All my music, yoga and words are dedicated to MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. MAPS is an urgently needed global intervention to protect the polar ice that keeps our planet cool and weather stable. The ice caps ensure we have the food and water we all need to survive. Please support MAPS at Parvati.org for the sake of all life on Earth. From my heart to yours, it literally means the world.