Add Focus and Discipline to Your Day


Do you want to increase your ability to focus and gain discipline consistently?  In this post I want to provide a practical exercise to increase your daily focus, and increase discipline over a period of time. If you do this exercise consistently over a week, you will notice a significant improvement.  I am not by any means completely effective, but this exercise has definitely been a game changer for me.  

Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time. This is a scientific fact. We like to think we are effective multi-taskers.  The truth is that we can become better at task switching, but it is not the most efficient way to get things done.  It takes time to task switch, and dilutes focus.

One common piece of advice from the most successful people, is to only focus on one goal at a time if possible.  If you are focused on growing your business, do your best to just stay focused on that.  This is not an easy discipline to develop, especially when so many of life’s demands are coming at us. 

On a micro level, we also need to limit the items we focus on the same way. This will keep us from diluting our focus, and make each minute of effort more effective. It will also make us more aware of our environment, which will keep us more alert overall.  Your unconscious mind is really good at alerting you of change in your environment.  If you are intentionally focused on fewer things at time, you have more capacity for overall awareness 

The first step in getting more focus and discipline in your day is to be completely aware of what you are up to.  Our minds get really busy, and sometimes we aren’t conscious of just how busy our minds are.  I recommend taking  five or ten minutes twice per day to do the following two-part exercise.

  • First find a quiet place first thing in the morning, and some other time later in the day.  Sit or stand someplace comfortable.  Take a deep breath, and then continue to focus on your breath in and out for the next few minutes.  If you notice any thoughts coming up, just acknowledge them but don’t react to them.  Go back to focusing on your breath.  Do this for around five minutes.  You will find your mind a little calmer and clearer. It is normal when you are getting started to  have a hard time staying focused.  The fact that you notice it, just means you are making progress. 
  • Next just think specifically about what you want to get done for the rest of your day. You may want to write them down as well.  As you do this, you may find your mind jump to other things.  You will notice this because of the first exercise.  This is a good thing.  When your mind begins to generate thoughts, just go back and focus on what you want to accomplish for the rest of the day.

If you have tried this, let me know how it has helped you.

Once you have done the exercise just go back to your day and execute on what you want to get done.  Throughout the day try to keep this awareness.  I will often take a minute or so, several times a day to just take a deep breath, and just focus on my breath in and out. 

Moving Towards


I heard a story about a tour guide who led risky white water rafting tours down perilous rapids.  He was said to have one of the best records for not getting his rafters injured.  One of the ways he accomplished this, had to do with one sage piece of advice.  The trick when you see a dangerous obstacle is to look where you want to go, not where you don’t. 

This same advice holds true in life.  For example if you want to get out of your nine to five job, you might try saying something like this instead. I want to create income producing assets, sufficient to more than take care of my monthly expenses.

Don’t picture a purple elephant in your mind right now. Please don’t picture a purple elephant.   Did you picture a purple elephant?  I pictured it as I was writing it.  In the same way you can’t help picturing that elephant, you won’t be able to avoid thinking negatively about what you don’t want.  This focus will occupy our thinking resources on the wrong thing.

In past posts, I have talked about the importance of accepting our circumstances, and moving forward towards what we want.  When we accept our current circumstances, it doesn’t mean we can’t go in another direction.  It just means we are not going to give our circumstances the power to make us unhappy.  It is the same thing with stating our goals in the positive.

If you have goals written down somewhere, check them for moving away from language, and replace it with moving towards language.  When you are moving towards something it paints a positive picture, when you are eagerly moving away from something it creates a negative picture.

If you ever go white water rafting or car racing, remember to look where you want to go not where you don’t.

Small Stuff ?


Small changes over time can turn your life around. These small changes build on each other. Sometimes we think that success happens because of the massive action we take, but we never think about the small things that let us build up to those massive actions.

Last week i got off track and started focusing on making changes to things that were currently out of my control. I let the actions of others get me worked up through the process.

Once I realized what was going on, I asked myself what I could do to get out of that state of mind. I realized was that I hadn’t been taking time to clear my mind, and exercise in the morning. I also hadn’t taken the time to be mindful throughout the day.

These were small habits that made a big difference in my effectiveness and happiness. I really didn’t think they would help that much, but I had to start somewhere. They were exactly the things that helped me to get perspective on what was going on. In a few hours, I was back on track moving forward.

When we want to make changes in our lives we often look for big things we can do to get on track, but the things that really make a difference are the little things. It occurred to me to write this post because I was surprised that getting back on track with just those two small daily habits, would make that much difference.

What are some small positive habits you can start this week?

Is Your Life Full of Stress ?


Have you ever stopped to think about the things in our lives that cause unnecessary stress? In this post I am going to list a few of those stress inducers and some tips to reduce stress in your life.

Mobile Phones

In a prior blog post I talked about dysfunctional alarms. We often associate alarms with things like our alarm clocks, and fire alarms that were meant to startle us to action.

The term alarm can mean anything that creates urgency for us to perform some action. The device that we carry everywhere with us is constantly calling us to pay attention to notifications that are often unimportant. Of course having an unanswered notification causes us to switch the screen on, and check it. Your unconscious has no means of determining the importance of those notifications. It just reacts by breaking your focus.

The constant breaking of focus throughout the day breaks down our ability to focus our attention where we want it. It keeps our brains in a constant state of alarm, but we often don’t realize it.

Do an experiment this week. Keep your mobile device in silent mode for a whole week, and make a special effort to focus a hundred percent of your attention on what you are doing. Doing routine tasks that are second nature to you and purposely and fully focusing on them may bring more enjoyment to them. It will definitely make them more tolerable.

Social Media

Facebook and other social media platforms know what kinds of content you are attracted to by monitoring the kinds of content you browse. They have algorithms that put content in your feeds based on your likes and reading habits. These algorithms know what you believe, and can be pretty accurate. They also know the kind of content that is most likely to get you to respond. This causes you to add more content, and this is what they want.

Advertisers also make their money by knowing what will cause you to respond to ads. If you have particular political leanings, it is almost certain that Facebook will place things in your news feed that cause your mind to overact to something. Something that may be happening a thousand miles away, or not really happening at all. Have you ever read a post on social media and it gave you a sense of dread almost immediately? Was it something that would lead you to believe the world is coming unglued? The algorithms are designed to do this, to get you to respond.

This week I asked you to set your phone to silent, and check it periodically. Maybe next week you can start a social media diet. If you are an active social media user, maybe look at your social media feeds once or twice per day, and stay on for no more than ten or fifteen minutes. This will pay dividends

Unconscious Thoughts

Your mind is constantly working to protect you. All the things that have caused you pain in the past, cause your mind to stay vigilant to alert you to future dangers. This can be useful sometimes, but in our modern world a lot of these thoughts just hold us back.

This week schedule five or ten minutes a few times per day. Consciously stop thinking, and just pay attention to the thoughts that come up without judging them. Another thing I mentioned in the mobile phone section is deliberately focusing your attention on every detail of what you are currently doing. This will also go a long way in helping you to quieting those rogue thoughts.

In summary, the more time you can keep your mind in the present moment and eliminate distractions the better your quality of life. If you would like to quiet your thoughts, and can’t seem to get there, feel free to reach out.

A Mirage In the Desert


This post is meant to expand on and provide a “how to” for my last post.  Most of us who are working towards our life’s goals are thinking about a destination where life will be easy.  This is a place where we will have plenty of abundance to keep us happy and content.  Many successful people have traveled the road to their ultimate destination, only to find a new set of challenges, and another goal.  If we really pay attention, this is the story we tell ourselves.  We keep this destination in mind and we move forward.   Standard Oil billionaire John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?”  He answered, “Just a little bit more.”  He was teasing the fact that it will never be enough.  Someone who has achieved so much, realizes that the destination doesn’t exist, only a continued journey. 

That feeling of having given it everything you have, and getting to your goal is a great feeling.  If you talk to most people who have achieved a big goal like reaching a billion dollars in business, they report that initial deep satisfaction of having reached their destination.  Then they often report a huge let down once they settle into their new reality.  In their minds they had imagined a long term sense of satisfaction, only to be disappointed that it quickly faded.  If you want to achieve great things and avoid being fooled by a mirage in the desert read on.    

Goal Setting

The first step in a better way forward begins the same.  Write down your goals and visualize what your goals might mean for your life.  Only a small percentage of people write down their goals, and only a small percentage of people have great success.  That doesn’t mean that if you write out your goals, you will achieve great things.  What it does mean is that the chances of success without specific goals is thin.  It is important that you visualize what those goals will mean for your life as well as write them down. Once you have your goals written down, list the first ten or so things that you will need to do to achieve them. This is where your new path forward diverges from the traditional way of achieving goals. 

Shifting Your Focus

Take that list of ten next steps that you will need to take, and pick the one you are going to work on first.  You have already determined that this is something that you will need to do to reach your goal, so put everything else out of your mind, and just focus on the doing.  Most of the time when we are doing things, our mind is busy trying to distract us.  As I discussed in my last post it is distracting us with pictures of our goal, or by telling us we can’t achieve it.  As soon as you catch your focus going anywhere else, other than on what you are doing, gently push your focus back to what you are doing.  The purpose here is to derive your satisfaction from the doing.  Perform each task with equal parts trying to discover something interesting, and getting the task done.  Look at the task like it has something to tell you.  If you have never done this before, it might feel a little odd, but trust me it works.  

The Reason for Shifting Your Focus

Shifting your focus away from the destination does two things for you.  First it keeps the distractions that your mind will feed you at bay.  Just as important, it will add flexibility to your destination.  If you talk to someone who has grown a large company from scratch, more often than not, the business they created is much different that the business they set out to create. One you have the full picture of that original goal, that should become a second priority.  Your first priority should be on what you are doing right now.

Review

At the end of each week set aside a couple of hours to review what you have achieved.  Review the list of ten steps, and see what you have accomplished.  Then add anything new that needs to be done in the coming week.  Just like any other task along the way, focus on the doing and don’t let your focus move away from the task at hand.  This is a particularly good time to discover new things to guide you forward.  When you are done go back to the big goal, and see how certain parts of it may have changed or stayed the same.  This process of adjusting your goals as you go keeps your reality aligned with your goal.  It causes your goal to become the journey.  It will keep your expectations aligned with the process.

Continuous Improvement

As you perform each task, keeping yourself laser focused on just that task, and performing it as if it is the task itself that is the goal will greatly increase the quality of the work.  You will also start to notice inspiration coming from the doing rather than the achieving.  Continuous improvement will come naturally.  

If you have any questions about this post or are interested in life coaching you can drop me a note at www.brentpinkston.com/contact .  I also keep four fifteen minute spaces open on my calendar each month for free discussions about what you want to achieve via Google Meet.  These can be one on one, or group calls.

A Cord of Three Strands is Not Quickly Broken


Any big challenge in your life will become exponentially easier with help. Individuals who want to do everything themselves are rarely high achievers. Working with or leading others does not come naturally to me. For most of my life I have been that person who would rather do things myself. Not because I am a perfectionist. Not because want to do extra work, but because I had a hard time asking for and receiving help. Once I would ask for help, I often had a hard time getting on the same page as those who were there to help. I have a faster than normal ADHD brain, which made it difficult for me to stop the racing thoughts and really pay attention to others. I have made large strides in this area, which has opened up my ability to ask for, accept, and reap the benefits from working with others. Early on after finishing my life coaching certification, I had one of those Aha moments. It was something I had learned during my courses, but the weight of the concept hadn’t really hit me. I had a young man who came to me with a career related goal he wanted to achieve. It had to do with making a step up in his career. He was really excited about the opportunity this would provide him, but he would have to spend an extra year on top of his formal education to get the certification he needed. He had told me how important this goal was to him, but he also told me “I am not spending that extra year for the certification.” To that statement I asked a question. “Did you tell me this goal was really important to you?” He responded, “Yes”. So I asked, “are you telling me that the pain of this extra year of classes is bigger than this goal?” He stopped in his tracks, his jaw dropped, and slowly a smile came across his face. Then he said “Yes, but I guess I really didn’t realize what I was saying”. A few lines up, you probably knew exactly where this was going, and you may have rhetorically asked the same question I did, before I did. The thing was that he had a blind spot in his thinking that he didn’t see. We all have them, and yes they are as obvious as his was. Clarifying your thinking is one of the reasons to work with others. If you take the time to listen to others and assume they know something you don’t, it will benefit you greatly. The second reason to work with others has to do with math. Have you ever seen the video of the power lifter pulling a commercial truck? An amazing feat. I have no idea what kind of force it takes to pull one of those trucks, but lets say it takes three thousand pounds for the sake of this story. Now imagine if you spread the work over three people. Then it only takes a thousand pounds per person right? Not exactly. Without going into the details of Kinetic Friction, having three people pulling creates additional synergy that allows them to pull approximately three times more weight per person. Synergy not only works for pulling heavy wheeled objects, it also works for intellectual and business problems. Benjamin Franklin’s idea of mastermind groups became very popular in the success literature of the seventies. Franklin would meet with several of his friends and associates and they would work on solving the problems of the day. Famous success teacher Napoleon Hill said, “I don’t know anyone who has become extraordinarily successful who has not utilized the principle of the mastermind group.”

None of us are so talented and smart on our own that we wouldn’t benefit from the assistance of others. This is well known wisdom, but in today’s independence minded world employing the help of others is severely under utilized. If you have a list of goals you want to achieve, I would encourage you to review them and ask yourself who the right person is to help you achieve each of them. If you don’t have goals written down, I would encourage you to take a few hours, decide what you want in your life, and then go back and see who might be able to help.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”