The word “focus” has several definitions. Generally speaking, focus is about two important factors – clarity and concentration. Both of these are immensely important in the process of achieving our goals and making our dreams come true.
Clarity, in this sense, means knowing exactly what you want to achieve. You have to be able to articulate to your mind as clearly and concisely as possible what it is that is important to you, why it is so important, and how you will begin to pursue this objective. This activates a portion of your brain called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS for short. The RAS is the part of your brain that is responsible for attention among other things. By clearly articulating to your RAS what is important to you, it will look for ways, both consciously and unconsciously, to make that your reality. Enlisting the RAS in the pursuit of your goals really increases your chance of successful attainment.
Knowing exactly what you want is not enough. You also have to know what you don’t want. You can achieve a goal and get everything you want, but if you get some things along with it that you really don’t want, you’re going to have some issues.
Concentration, in this sense, means focusing your attention and actions one important goal at a time. Of course you can have more than one goal at a time and most people do have multiple goals – personal, professional, relational, spiritual, financial, health and fitness, etc. But when you are working on one of your goals you should try to focus all of your attention and energy on that specific goal in that moment.
Developing your ability to focus, like anything, simply requires practice. Schedule a time to work on your goals and stick to your schedule. Don’t be so easy to let yourself off the hook. Resolve that you are going to work on your goal for the entire scheduled time. You can set an alert on your phone to alarm when the time is up, that way you will be able to totally immerse yourself in focusing on the NOW. Find a quiet place where you can work uninterrupted. Remove as many distractions as possible – shut of your phones; don’t check your email, Facebook, or Twitter accounts; ask people to leave you alone for the scheduled amount of time.
Now that you know what focus is and how important it is in helping us achieve our goals, it’s time to set some POWER goals. I use the word POWER as an acronym for my goal setting system.
- P – Goals should be Purposefully and Autonomously Designed. Each one you develop should directly support your overall life plan and be congruent with your life’s purpose in order to move you in the direction of your chosen destiny. For example, part of your life plan should include living a healthy and vigorous life. If it doesn’t already, I encourage you to add this to your plan. Health and fitness should be a top priority for anyone. Part of living a healthy and vigorous life is maintaining an ideal body weight. So, one of your goals should address achieving and maintaining your ideal body weight and composition.
Another important concept directly related to your chances of successfully achieving your goal is autonomy. Autonomy, as it is used here, means that the goal you set is in line with your personal desires and values as opposed to a goal that you set because of social pressures or expectations of what someone else thinks you should do. Studies have shown that the role of autonomy in goal setting is an important factor and impacts greatly on an individual’s ability and desire to achieve their goals. Goals that are set with a high degree of autonomy have a greater success rate. Koestner (2008) points out that recent research indicates that setting goals autonomously leads to individuals exerting more effort, experiencing less conflict, and a greater sense of readiness to change their behavior in an effort to achieve their goals. For example, if you want to achieve your ideal weight because you feel it will make you more attractive, healthier, and more energetic, you are much more likely to achieve your goal. Conversely, if you set a goal to lose weight primarily because of some external force (i.e. your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other wants you to lose weight) you are much more likely to fail because you were pressured into setting the goal.
- O – Goals should be Objectively Assessed for attainability and risk. You should evaluate your goals as dispassionately as you can in order to accurately assess its attainability and to identify and consider the risks involved. There is a level of risk involved in everything we do. The task here is not to eliminate risk but to identify and control it. Remember the old adage, the greater the risk the greater the potential reward? That is true but consider the converse of that, the greater the risk the greater the potential loss. If the level of risk seems to be unacceptable but you are still determined to pursue that goal, try reframing it or breaking it down into smaller goals with more manageable risks. Continuing with my previous example, can you attain your ideal body weight and composition? Absolutely! If Jared of Subway fame could do it then so can you. Are there risks involved? Sure, but there are no risks that cannot be identified, assessed, and controlled by you. If necessary get advice from your physician or a nutritional specialist.
- W – Goals must be Well Defined and Measurable. It is important that you have a clear picture of your goal to include what it is, why it is important, and how you will achieve it. Clarity allows you to articulate to your mind exactly what it is that is important to you. The more clearly you define your goals, the greater your chances of success are. This principle is based on the fact that it’s more difficult to know when you’ve succeeded if you don’t clearly know what you want.
The ability to measure your progress while pursuing a goal is important. This can easily be accomplished by including ways to quantify your progress. I already mentioned achieving your ideal weight. I can add the ability to measure this goal by setting a total pound target. By adding the dimension of time I can divide pounds by months to come up with intermediate targets, which represent reasonable progress that I can readily track. Here’s an example “I will achieve my ideal body weight of 170 pounds by reducing my current body weight by 24 pounds in one year; reducing my weight 2 pounds per month through daily exercise and healthy eating choices.” Now I have a more accurate means to measure my progress, I have set intermediate goals of 2-pounds per month. This extra dimension allows me to accurately track my progress on more frequent terms. It also provides me with an indicator of my progress, which allows me to quickly identify short falls and take corrective action in a timely fashion.
- E – It is necessary for your goals to be Emotionally Anchored. This is the fuel that drives you to accomplish your goals. What is your motivation to achieve this goal? Why is this so important to you? You must have compelling reasons for achieving your goals. Making your dreams come true takes effort and it will be difficult at times. You will run into barriers, some seemingly insurmountable. People close to you may not believe in your ability to achieve your dreams and goals. How will you overcome these obstacles? The answer to this lies in emotionally anchoring your goals by associating them with strong reasons why you want to achieve them. You must identify existing reasons or create reasons compelling enough to carry you through the toughest times. The stronger your reasons are the more likely you are to stay the course and follow through on your goals. With strong enough reasons you can accomplish almost anything set your mind to. We will discuss this in depth in the next chapter and follow it up with a practical exercise.
- R – It is crucial that goals be Realistically Time-bound. You must develop a timeline for achieving your goals. Developing a realistic timeline is one more way to add measurability to your goals. By setting a suspense date for completing a task you are really articulating to your mind a level of importance that is assigned to that task by you. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook by telling yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow.” Well, like the old saying goes, “Tomorrow never comes.” The time for action is now! By creating a timeline for the achievement of your goals you create pressure and by sticking to your timeline and taking small incremental steps towards the achievement of your goals you create momentum. Sustained momentum replicates the power of compounding interest in that you have daily successes building upon the previous day’s successes. Now that’s power! You have to realistically evaluate your chances of success in the timeframe you have allotted yourself. By utilizing the previous example again, I can say, “My goal of achieving my ideal body weight of 170 pounds by reducing my current body weight by 24 pounds in one year at a rate of 2-pounds per month,” is certainly attainable. Conversely, it would not be reasonable, or as attainable, to set a goal of losing 24 pounds in 1-week or 1-month and being able to keep it off.
So, the next time you want to go after a goal just apply these simple rules and make your goals YOUR REALITY!!