How Can You Shift Your Focus?
Have you ever noticed that when you’re truly focused on something and you’re giving it your full attention, that everything else seems to melt away? It’s like it’s not even there.
Both my boys (husband and kid) have the ability to hyper-focus, which is both an incredible gift and sometimes terribly annoying. If they’re focused on something and I’m talking to them, while they may appear to be nodding, and will even insert something that sounds a bit like language, there is no communication going on. Twenty minutes later when I ask one of them why they’re not doing what they agreed to do, or if they ask me about something that we had just had a “conversation” about, it becomes apparent quite quickly that I had been talking to myself. “You never said that,” I hear time and time again. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy to drive me crazy, I think they were focused.
Being able to focus your attention is a skill you can hone – and when you do, it can make all the difference in your ability to get powerful results. Actors have been using this tool since the 1930’s to overcome their own vulnerability on stage and create powerful performances. That is what gives them a sense of presence. And at work, you’re always on stage – as people are always watching, always paying attention. Paying attention to what you do, what you don’t do. To what you say, and what you don’t say. To perform powerfully, focus is key. The question is, what to focus on?
For it to work, we can’t focus on ourselves.
Not on how well you are doing. Not what people are thinking about you. Not on what’s in it for you. Not on how you feel. Not on what might happen. Not on what you want to say. If we focus on ourselves, it doesn’t work.
And that’s what makes it hard, because we’re wired to think about ourselves – not in a narcissistic, it’s all-about-me-so-what-do-you-think-about-me kind of way, but in a survival kind of way. We want to survive, so we pay attention to what people think about us because “belonging” is a core survival need. When we present we pay attention to our sweaty palms, and our awkward hands, and our heart that’s beating a million-miles-an-hour because our body is giving us clear signals that if we want to survive we either need put up a fight or get the heck out of dodge. Our foundational survival needs will always trump.
So in order to perform powerfully, we’ve got to shift our focus off of ourselves and on to something outside ourselves. On something bigger than ourselves. Some people call this “your why”, some people call it “purpose“, some people call it “mission”. In OnStage we call it your “Super Objective” because it’s purpose/your why/your mission-in-action – it’s designed to be active, not something that lives inside your head or on a plaque – it lives in action. Your actions to make an impact. What is the impact you want to have outside yourself? What is the impact you want to have on your team, on your colleagues, on your clients, on your organization, on your community? What actions can you take to have the impact you want to make?
To get out of your own way and get something really cool accomplished; or to be your most powerful self and not worried what people think, or on how stressed or scared you are – the place to put your focus is on your actions for impact.
One of the great things about having a nine-year-old is that I have a great excuse to watch all the most recent kid-movies and, as all of you who have young kids know, The Lego Movie was recently released. The main character in The Lego Movie is a guy named Emmett. Emmett is just your normal guy, nothing extraordinary about him, just going through the routines of life like he’s told he should. But through the course of the movie Emmett finds himself in some crazy situations that require him to step up his game. But you see, Emmett was scared. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go back to what was familiar – to the safe, ordinary, life of routine that he’d always known. The problem was, that ordinary life was gone – the world of Legos required something more from him. So Emmett had a choice, he could focus on his fear – or he could could focus on something bigger than his fear – something outside himself. [SPOILER ALERT] In the end, Emmett decided to focus on saving his friends. He put his focus outside himself, and in doing so became pretty darn extraordinary.
Our world today, like Emmett’s, has changed. The days of routine, of mindlessly going through the motions to get to the end of the day, are gone. Today’s business environment demands that we bring our most extraordinary selves to work. To do that we have to find a way to shift our focus off of ourselves, off of our discomfort, and stress, and fear, in order to make the impact we need to make.
To perform powerfully.
Focus is a powerful tool. Today, how can you shift your focus so you can have the impact you want to have? The world needs your most extraordinary self.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014
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