Focus on Firsts
Focus is like holding a magnifying glass in place until there is fire. There was a day a year or so ago, where I experienced feeling like I was being pulled in many different directions, with no clear outcome in mind. There were activities I was subtly being drawn into because I was not practicing mindfulness at the moment. In this particular situation, I was interacting with loved ones, and I thought I was doing relationship when it then turned into unplanned tasks. Unplanned activity is what happens when you have slipped into autopilot unknowingly. I love my family and friends immensely and want to spend a significant amount of time with them. However, I have learned the importance of allotting time for loved ones and setting aside time for the work that will get me to my purpose. Family, friends, and work represent “firsts” on my wheel of life. Along with these, is God, service, health, and finances. When I discuss “firsts,” I am referencing the people and things that are important to my existence and my “why.”
What is Focus?
Focus is a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity. The world we live in today is full of distractions. When I was growing up, there was a limited amount of channels to watch on television. There were no personal computers and no cell phones. The lack of technology meant more personal interaction and increased critical thinking. I remember as a child having to read and do research by mining information in a book. Is the Dewey Decimal System even still taught in elementary schools? (Thinking) I digress. Today we can access shows and movies through smart televisions, with many applications. We can also purchase gadgets that give us access to TV and film, eliminating the need for cable services. Our smartphones are so smart that we can use them to watch shows, do research, and talk to people all at the same time. Many happenings are competing for our time and attention. So how does one focus?
Focus is about intentional effort. For example: If allowed, I can be sucked into spending all my waking hours reading a good book. I am a major bookworm, and I have to discipline myself not to purchase a book before I finish the four books I am already reading. It is that bad. (Chuckle) One of the reasons I enjoy reading so much is because I see it as a way to accumulate knowledge. Wisdom is applied knowledge, and you cannot apply the knowledge you do not possess. The problem with collecting anything is, you need to find a use for it, or it will just amount to clutter. Yes, even mental clutter. In a moment of stillness, God spoke to me and said, “It is time for you to use, what you know and what you have learned.” I think you would agree with me that reading is a good thing, right. Reading is fundamental. (Smile) The challenge here is that distractions are usually well-disguised “good things.” I am not trying to develop my reading skills, I am trying to empower people, and empowerment requires work. The central point of your activity is what helps you to complete your action steps and ultimately, meet your goals. Focus is an intentional, strategic, continuous effort so that you can make use of your gifts!
What are "Firsts"?
At the beginning of my adult life, my focus was on my children since I had them at a young age. The needs of my minor children were my “firsts.” Now that they are adults living their own lives, although they represent my relationship “firsts,” their needs are no longer my “firsts.” I need to spend time with my adult children, but when allotting my time, I do not have to hold the same space as I did when they were minors: even though they may want me to. (Ha, ha) I say all of this to say you must get clear about who and what your “firsts” are and secondly understand that “firsts” are subject to change as life goes on. Quiet, prayerful, reflective time is what creates space and opportunity to become clear about your “firsts.” Allowing others to dictate to you your “firsts,” no matter how good their intentions are, limits your outcomes to other people’s plans. I have learned to stop and check for my own plan, which considers all my “firsts” mentioned above and engage accordingly. This strategy doesn’t make me selfish; this makes me intentional concerning my time, energy, and gifts. I am trying to please God with the stewardship of my life, not man.
“The immature mind hops from one thing to another; the mature mind seeks to follow through.” (Harry A. Overstreet) Your ability to manifest the life you want will very heavily depend on your ability to focus and follow-through. When you have many things you want to accomplish, it is easy to slip into doing too many things at the same time. Recent research has shown that multitasking is not as productive as giving intentional focus to one task at a time. It doesn’t mean you have to stop all your projects to be effective. You do, however, need to decide which projects represent your “firsts” during this time. When working on my business plan, I had to pare down my service offerings for effectiveness. I did not want to be known as a jack-of-all-trades, but masterful, at what I say I do. Hence, the three modules of my business that I focus on rolls up into my purpose of “empowering the practical and possible in people.”
If you want to start to see traction in what you are trying to accomplish, start with making “first things firsts.” “Focused thinking removes distraction and mental clutter so that you can concentrate on an issue and think with clarity.” (John Maxwell) As you go through your week, work on getting clear about your “firsts.” Then consider how you can eliminate the unnecessary, and upgrade the necessary to the category of “firsts” in your life. In doing so, you will find the precision to paint a clear mental picture of your future, and experience the life you are meant to live. Until next time... Be empowered!