The Focus Course

Mindsets For a Focused Life

Mindsets are the lenses through which we process reality.

Some we’ve adopted by choice, other’s we’ve picked up along the way — possibly unknowingly.

It can be difficult to identify existing mindsets, but it’s possible to recognize patterns of thinking through self reflection.

Here are a few mindsets that have been immensely helpful in my pursuit of living a focused life.

Less is More

I love the way Greg McKeown says this in Essentialism. “The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.”

More does not equate better. We’re being sold to at every turn. If we’re not careful, the undercurrent of our society will lead us to believe more is better.

More is more, not better.

More responsibility. More debt. More clutter. More to think about. More to fix. More of your time. More to move. More decisions.

Simplicity results in clarity. A mindset of less results in greater usefulness and depth in everyday life.

Abundance Over Scarcity

An abundance mindset says, I have what I need now, and will have what I need in the future. Therefore, I don’t have to live in fear of what I don’t have.

A scarcity mindset says, I don’t know if I will have what I need tomorrow, so I must cling to everything I have now to make sure I am provided for.

When we live in scarcity, we don’t know how to risk. Generosity in our time, money, or possessions is difficult because we are gripped by fear of the unknown. Scarcity causes us to perpetually play out the worse case scenario in our mind.

When we live in abundance, we’re able to share what we have with a generous heart. We know there will be more. There will always be another opportunity or a next time. While the unknowns can be frightful, we have confidence that we’ll have what we need when the day comes.

Embrace Process

While the destination may inspire (or intimidate), process is where transformation takes place. Process is a real time, in the moment reality check.

A mindset of process embraces the rigors and delights of the dailies.

Process means being okay with where you currently are and being determined to inch toward where you want to be.

Process is a safe place for mistakes and learning. Process is a way of living — pursugin excellence in the little things.

Replace fear with the process. Depend on it. Lean on it. Trust in it. — Ryan Holiday

Trade-offs Are Inevitable

Every opportunity or decision comes with a trade-off. That is a reality of life.

A mindset that embraces trade-offs is very different from a mindset that ignores trade-offs. When we view trade-offs as inevitable, and embrace that reality, we are able to ask, “Which outcome would I rather have?” Or, “Which problem would I rather solve?”

Ignoring trade-offs is living in the delusion that you can have both. Embracing trade-offs is intentionally choosing which outcome you’re comfortable living with.

When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people—our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families—will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important. We can either make our choice deliberately or allow other people’s agendas to control our lives. — Greg McKeown

Embrace Boredom

Boredom used to be a common experience before smartphones filled every transitional moment of daily life.

What used to be normal and unavoidable has now become novel and optional.

It turns out those transitional moments were key to giving our mind space to process the large amounts of information taken in throughout our day. Boredom isn’t something to be avoided, rather something we need to learn how to embrace.

In our 24/7 day and age, our mind (and body) have finite limitations. Boredom gives the necessary space to subconsciously make sense of our reality. We are living in the rare 1% of human history in which boredom is now a choice. For all the benefits of technology advancement, eradicating boredom and offering perpetual connectedness may not be such a good thing.

Optimize for Good Enough

There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to optimizing. The key is optimizing for good enough rather than perpetually optimizing.

Over-optimizing is a never-ending cycle of fiddling and experimentation in trivial areas of life for marginal gains. Over-optimizing is a killjoy — especially for the other people involved. Over-optimizing creates blind spots and makes it difficult to be fully present and in the moment.

Good enough says the current system is getting the job done with minimal drawbacks. Good enough isn’t perfect. Good enough lets you have fun in the process. Good enough is open to innovation or outside input.

When an area of responsibility is functioning at good enough levels, make a conscious decision to stop thinking about how to optimize until it stops performing at an acceptable level.

Embrace Adventure

We live in a world of instant comparison and perpetual upgrade, making it a challenge to settle in right where we are. So much so that any sort of adventure is compared to the adrenaline junkie YouTuber.

There is plenty of adventure to be found in everyday life. But, it’s easily missed if you’re not looking for it.

Adventure can be working outdoors at a park instead of at your home office. Adventure can be a short walk around your yard or neighborhood. Adventure can be making breakfast with three kids running around the kitchen.

Adventure is a mindset, not a destination. Some adventures require different tools or locations, but adventure can be found on your living room floor just as much as the canyons of Utah.

Margin is Normal

Over the last few decades, margin has gone from a rare commodity to an extinct artifact. Who has time for margin?

But the truth is, the concept of margin has been central to human existence for thousands of years. It was so normal, it didn’t even have a name.

What would it be like to live in a world in which your attention was not being sold to the highest bidder? The latest generation will not know life without smartphones, and thus never know a life without the possibility of boredom.

Margin isn’t a nice to have or luxury. Embracing a mindset of margin is crucial to living a focused life. Margin restores breathing room. It enables an intentional life verses merely reacting.

The value of margin has been lost, but its relevance to the human experience still holds true. Margin is an essential ingredient for living a life of purpose.

* * *

Mindsets are often the limiting or liberating factor when it comes to making lasting change in our lives. And while identifying a limiting mindset may take work to identify and shed, it will be energy well spent. The dividends of adopting a liberating mindset will pay off for years and even decades to come.

The way that you think is the single most important thing about you.


Hero image by Eberhard Grossgasteiger via Unsplash.

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