Focus as an action results in clarity.
If you actually want to make progress, start small. You’ll be surprised how quickly those small successes start to build into a snowball of momentum.
Something that I keep coming back to is that focus is an action.
But we often think that focus is only something that we have. I’d like to suggest that focus is something that we do.
It’s actively directing our attention on what’s most important.
You’ve probably heard us say “Action Brings Clarity.” So let’s think about focus as an action. When we focus or direct our attention on the most important things in life, then we begin to see clarity as a result. We’ve talked about this a lot in Academy.
So, focus is an action.
Never has there been a moment when the skill of focus has been more valuable.
As I think about my day and how much my attention is splintered, there’s a constant pull from distractions like inboxes, Slack messages, or emails. There’s always an opportunity to shift my attention away from the important work that I’m doing.
In Essentialism Greg McKeown says, “People tend to think of focus as a thing. Yes, focus is something we have. But focus is also something we do.”
In other words. Focus is an action and action brings clarity.
Where we get stuck
Looking at the decision flywheel below, we often feel stuck “waiting for clarity.”
But even just the process of making decisions brings about a newfound clarity.
If we’re waiting for clarity but not making a decision or taking any action, then we’re going to just perpetually be stuck.
If we don’t take action or focus, clarity will never come.
Make a decision. Motivation follows. Motivation moves us to action, taking action results in clarity. Then, newfound clarity leads us back to making another decision to begin the cycle again.
We decide. Then motivation follows that decision. When you’ve made a movement towards a desired outcome, this then motivates you, which moves you into action and results in clarity.
Unfortunately, we’re often stuck between clarity and deciding. We don’t have clarity, but we also haven’t made a decision yet. So, we’re just stuck and waiting — waiting for clarity.
Well, if you don’t decide you won’t get any clarity.
When we focus on what’s important, or take action on what’s important, then that cycle starts to embody this flywheel where we are constantly moving through all four stages of the flywheel. You could even replace the word motivation with momentum.
So motivation and momentum lead us to action and we gain clarity. We keep making laps around the flywheel as we take action and build momentum, and as we have a little bit of success, that leads to more clarity. With that clarity we are then able to iterate on and improve how strategic or how high leverage some of this activities can be.
Narrow Your Focus
Choose one area to zero in on. That way you can start making those iterations and closing those feedback loops as much as possible. So you’re “not missing a day.”
James Clear talks about never missing twice. Even if you miss one day with your lifestyle practice, pick it up and do it the next day. Just jump right back in.
How much of your focus is directed on the most important things in life? When our focus is spread over a wide array of commitments or activities, we see little if any progress. But when you narrow your focus down to one thing (a lifestyle practice or new routine), we begin to experience success that quickly builds momentum.
How much of your focus is being splintered by distractions and relatively unimportant things in life?
When you have a small action that you have absolute clarity on, it’s easy to measure either I did it today, or I didn’t do it today. You want to be able to look at a glance and say did I do it or did I not.
The first step is to direct your focus on the area where you may be feeling stuck and just make a decision. So when we’re feeling stuck instead of just trying to stay in the place of “waiting for clarity,” make a decision.
I think we often ask ourselves, “Am I making the right decision?” or “Do I have enough information to make the right decision?” At the end of the day we need to just make a decision and follow the flywheel around to get a little bit more clear.
Kind of clear results in confusion, ambiguity, and guesswork. Kind of clear results in wondering what success looks like. Kind of clear results in a lot of varied efforts scattered in a multitude of directions. Kind of clear results in analysis paralysis.
Maximum clarity results in knowing exactly where to direct my focus. Maximum clarity leads to taking action and making discoveries. Maximum clarity results in momentum. Maximum clarity results in making my highest level of contribution.
We’re making that feedback loop and we’re learning how we can continue to make improvements, and ultimately it all comes back to take action and will lead to more clarity. So this goes to our original concept about focus being an action.
So what is one thing today that I can do to help move forward? What’s my lifestyle practice, for say fitness, that’s small and approachable?
As we keep doing it, we keep learning how we can improve upon it.