Focus Is Crucial. But Can We Be Too Focused?

Image out of focus

 

 

 

 

I’ve been looking at the theme of focus this month, as it’s a crucial part of personal development. But can we be too focused?

If so, what does ‘too focused’ look like.  And why does it matter?

If I asked you to think about someone who is focussed, what images come to mind?

I bet that you are thinking of someone with their head down, getting on with something really important.  Stern faced.  Determined.

Having the right focus is so important, if we want to achieve outcomes.  But it’s possible that being too focussed can have a negative effect too.

What happens if we become too focused?

We become blinkered when we focus too much on one task, or when we become so attached to the outcome.  And we’ve all been there…When you’re working on something that’s really important, it matters.  We want to do well.  We want to be successful.

But how often have you kept pursuing something that isn’t working.  Chasing success that just seems to be getting further away.

Being overly focussed can lead to us becoming rigid and inflexible.  If we are not open to other possibilities, we lose our creativity and our ingenuity.

Some of the best problem solving solutions have come about because of trial and error.  We have to be able to try again if things aren’t working out…but try again in a different way, based on what we’ve learned through failing.

But also, most of the time, we don’t get there alone.  Being hyper-focussed can also mean we block out help and support, or input from others.  If we’re not open to collaboration and sharing, we could be missing a little nugget of advice that might make all the difference.

 

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

9 Questions To Ask When You Find It Difficult To Focus

A jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, representing loss of focus

How long do you spend thinking about a problem?  And how long do you spend thinking about the solution?  There are some questions we can ask ourselves when it’s difficult to focus.

When we have a problem or issue that we need to resolve, it’s so easy to get caught up in a spiral of negative thinking.  We go round and round, stewing on what’s gone wrong, and we become focussed on what we’re not happy about.

Solutions focussed therapy approaches problems by looking at the desired end result, and works backwards.  It can be helpful if you find that the same issues keep coming up, or you have cycles of negative thoughts or habits.

Taking some time to think through our issues, or journaling our thoughts can help to work through what’s going on, and helps us discover possible solutions.

Here are some prompts that you could use:

  • Where are you now on a scale of 0-10?
  • Where would you like to be – what’s possible right now?
  • What would need to happen for this score to improve?
  • Which elements can I control in this situation?
  • What can I change?
  • When or how could I do this?
  • How would things look in one week/one month’s time if I took this action?
  • How committed am I to taking this action?
  • What’s stopping me?

When we have recurring issues or problems, we tend to catastrophise, and we think that everything is failing.

We lose sight of the good things or our successes.  And we can underestimate our strengths and skills because our focus is all about the problem.

By being more aware of where our focus is, we become more open to solutions and ideas.  If we can imagine things being different and more positive, rather than focussing on what’s wrong, we can move forward.

So, if you’re finding it difficult to focus, I hope these questions will help.

 

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

How Focussed Are You?

An image of the dictionary definition of focus

This month, I’m going to be looking at the theme of focus.  This is a really interesting and important topic and focus is a key element of positive psychology.   When we are focussed in the right way, we can be at our most productive and fulfilled.   When we are focussed in the wrong way, or we focus on the wrong things, that’s when we can become demotivated and stuck.

The quality of all of our experiences depends on our focus.

If we are constantly thinking about what we lack, or where we feel we’re not good enough, or we fall into a comparison trap, then nothing we ever do or have will be good enough.

And we miss out on the best experiences of all…because our focus has us looking in the wrong direction.   We don’t notice what else is going on around us.

Often, when we think about focus, we probably have an image in our head about someone being very driven and determined and working towards a goal.  And they are very fixed about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

But this isn’t what focus should be about.  Yes, we need to have a clear direction.  Yes, we need to have drive.   But being too fixed and too rigid, and working with blinkers on, means that we can miss out on some of the most important experiences and the learning opportunities that come from trying to achieve something.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking more specifically at how we can assess whether we focus in the right way.  I will also share some ideas of how you can switch your focus to something that is more productive and pleasurable.   And I’ll also look at how focus can work against us – and what happens when we become hyper focussed and things start to veer off track.

Photo credit:  Romain Vignes on Unsplash.com

In Search Of Purpose

 

Purpose written on a wooden sign

The search for purpose is something that has been around for a very long time, and it exists in all cultures.

The Japanese have a practice known as ‘ikigai’, which roughly translates as ‘waking up to joy’.

The French call it ‘raison d’etre’, or reason for being.

The Ancient Greeks called it eudaimonia – the condition of “human flourishing”, or a life well lived.

These ideas suggest that to live a full and happy life, we must intentionally look for practices that create purpose.

Purpose, and the attainment of it, remains a central theme of positive psychology, because of how important it is in our overall wellbeing.  So, it’s not surprising that we hear a lot about it.

Having awareness of things which bring us enjoyment or a sense of mastery, and taking action to overcome things which stand in the way of our happiness, is central to most cognitive interventions.

Often, when we think about purpose, we think of it in terms of the work we do. We assume that if we find the right career, we’ll discover our passion.

But work can be where we feel a lack of passion, or joy, most strongly.  Especially if we worked hard to get there, only to find that the job isn’t all we’d hoped.  Or perhaps we have neglected other areas in achieving our successes.

If we put all our effort into cultivating our careers, we may find that other important areas of our life start to miss out.  Our relationships suffer, or we lose interest in hobbies or favourite activities.

And then we wonder why we feel so disconnected.

In order to find our true purpose, we have to look at our lives as a whole-rounded, interweaving, intermeshing thing.

How to find purpose

The most common diagram used to explain this, is used in the cultivation of ikigai.

Diagram to illustrate ikigai

 

 

 

 

 

(source:  Positive Psychology.com)

This process looks at different aspects of our lives and asks us to consider where these overlap.  It identifies things that we both enjoy doing, and which we are good at or have a certain level of skill or mastery over.

Some practices also ask what is useful to the wider community and what could we be paid for, by way of helping us to find a particular career path.

Often we put a lot of focus on only one area, e.g. in terms of work, we look at ‘what am I good at’, or ‘what do I enjoy’.  We don’t often put a lot of thought into examining how these things correlate.

If we feel unsatisfied, it’s usually because we are in a cycle of doing something purely because we’re good at it.  But we may not necessarily enjoy it as much any more.  Or we really enjoy something, but we aren’t able to progress any further than our current skill level allows.

If you’re struggling with your search for purpose, using a framework like this can be really helpful.  Especially if you have become used to doing things out of habit, as it may identify areas where you need a new challenge.

Or it could show you where you have an imbalance.  For example, if you’re putting a lot of work and energy into one area, which other bits are missing out?  And what effect is this having?

Our lives are not meant to be static and it’s easy to become over-comfortable, and we risk drifting.  As the world around us changes, we need to adapt too, otherwise it jars and we resist change.  And this can lead to feeling fearful, or frustrated and irritable, as we don’t see where we fit in any more.

To find out more about living with purpose, I’ve created a free mini guide with this months newsletter.  Sign up here to receive your free copy.

What Is It Costing You To Remain Where You Are?

Woman sat in contemplation what is it costing you to remain where you are

Do you need to consider what it’s costing you to remain where you are?

I’ve been looking at the theme of living with purpose this month, and for the May newsletter I’ve created a mini guide with hints and tips of how you can live life with more purpose (click on the link here if you haven’t signed up yet!)

This week, I’m looking at what it is costing us to remain where we are.

It’s very easy to get lost in the ‘day to day’, especially with everything that’s been going on during the past year, and we can drift or lose focus.

And as the weeks roll into months, and roll into years, the time always passes quicker when we are head down, getting on with it.

Perhaps after months of lockdown, you’ve had lots of time for reflection and questions – I know I certainly have. And I don’t want to go back to how life was before.

If you recognise that you are feeling unmotivated, or lack confidence or inspiration, you may well be feeling stuck.   And it’s likely that you may have lost, or outgrown, your purpose.

By not having a purpose to work towards, we can lose focus. But it doesn’t matter how big or small that purpose is.  Purpose doesn’t need to be this huge achievement or ambition…it can mean being better than we were yesterday, or last week, or last year.

It’s recognising that we want different.  We want better.  We deserve better.

Often we don’t notice until we hit that wall, asking ‘Is this it?’.

The very act of recognising means that we are intentionally noticing what’s going on. Maybe you haven’t done that for a while either?

The first step in getting unstuck is noticing that you are stuck.  Because then you can create the vision of where you want to be instead.

Photo credit: by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

 

Do You Live Life On Purpose?

A man holding a compass indicating living with purpose

Often we float throughout days without ever asking ourselves this question – do you live life on purpose?

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I asked myself that question.  I have certain goals and ambitions that I’m working towards, which gives me a framework of activity and tasks that I choose to do.

And then there’s the day to day mundane stuff that we ‘have to do’.

But what if we actively chose to live more purposefully.  Said yes to more of the things that we truly desire. And said no to the things that zap our energy.

Living with purpose is something you hear a lot about right now, and sometimes it can be framed as though having a ‘purpose’ is this elusive thing that we must strive for.  But what if it just meant living with a bit more clarity and direction?

To what extent can we really live with purpose?

And ultimately, how much freedom do we actually have in choosing how we spend our time, in reality.

Do we have total control over how we spend our time, or are there other factors, such as responsibility and duties, that other people rely on us for?

But there are lots of ways in which we can bring purpose, both in what we do and how we choose to do it.

Free resources

I’ll be exploring the theme of purpose this month, so stay tuned to the blog and podcast for more.

And for this month’s newsletter, I’ve created a free mini guide on ‘How To Live Life With Purpose’, if this is an area you’d like to explore more.  Sign up to the newsletter here to receive your copy by email.

 

Photo credit:  Jamie Street on Unsplash

How You Can Get Unstuck

Car stuck in the mud representing inaction

 

 

 

 

Feeling stuck and unmotivated can be the worst, right?  Why does it happen, and what can we do about it?  Here are some tips on how you can get unstuck.  

Find your focus.

Often, the most difficult part of taking action is knowing where to start – if you recognise this, get clear on the end result that you’re seeking.

When we dream of winning the lottery, we don’t dream about piles of bank notes.  We dream of the home we’d live in, the holidays we’d have surrounded by friends and family having a great time, we imagine ourselves driving our dream car.

The same goes for any kind of success.  We envisage what the end product will be once we’ve achieved it.

Remembering what it is we want to gain, and how our lives could be improved, can help to keep us focused.

Accept that it might get uncomfortable.

Taking action means we want to change, and change can be hard.  When we want to move out of our comfort zone, we have to let go of what we know, and that means taking risks on the unknown or the uncertainty.

We come up against our subconscious barriers and fears.  Maybe we dread failure, or we compare ourselves to others and think we’re not doing, or being, ‘enough’.

When you feel stuck, recognise what it is exactly you feel stuck about.  Identifying what’s wrong will help you to get unstuck.  Is it the practicality of not knowing what to do, or is it more about your internal thoughts?

Be honest, and get unstuck quicker.

Inaction teaches us what we don’t want.  And maybe it’s telling us our heart isn’t really in it.

If you struggle to get going, or to keep going, ask yourself if you still want this.  Go back to your ‘why’.  Is this goal still important to you, or have your priorities changed?  Are you no longer sure that it’s worth the effort it will take, and do you need to realign or modify your goal, to fit where you are right now?

There is no shame in dropping something that no longer serves you, or changing your mind.  In fact, ploughing on with something when your heart is no longer in it, can be more harmful.  It can affect your self esteem if you’re continuing to put effort in, when you know you’re not getting the results you want.  This is a sure sign, something needs to change.

So, if you’re struggling with a particular goal and you’re feeling unmotivated, try some of these tips to get unstuck.  It will help to improve your confidence, and longer term chances of success when you deal with issues quickly, and will give you the momentum to keep going.

For more tips on self development, stay up to date with the monthly newsletter, which also contains a free downloadable resource every month.  Sign up here to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox.

Photo credit:  Aubrey Odom on Unsplash

5 Ways To Help You Take Action

Take a leap and take action

 

 

 

 

 

Getting started and keeping going are often the hardest things to master when we’re trying to achieve something.  Here are 5 ways to help you take action towards your goals.

  1. Be realistic about how far away you are now, from where you want to be. If you need a lot of work, it’s going to take a while to get there and it won’t happen overnight. And you may well encounter problems or disappointment on the way. Prepare yourself that this will take effort but recognise that it’s worth it.
  2. Write a short, achievable to do list and work through things one at a time.   It might help  to get the most niggly one out of the way first for a bigger sense of achievement afterwards.  Reward yourself positively with time off, your favourite leisure activity or some self care.
  3. Allocate non negotiable time slots into your calendar – even if it’s just 10-15 mins a day.  It’s much easier to stay committed to smaller chunks of time rather than a one off longer session.  Make sure it’s time that you will use to focus only on this task and nothing else.
  4. Act when you feel inspired to.  And notice when you feel most inspired to act, or when you come up with ideas. If you struggle to get motivated sat at your desk, get up and do something else, go for a walk, take a shower. Ideas are more likely to come when our brains are at rest and we’re switched off.  Notice when things work for you, so when you have an important task to do, you know what you need to do first, to get in the right mood.
  5. Check in regularly to make sure that your actions are taking you in the right direction, and make any changes quickly.  Also, remember to recognise the progress you’ve made, and give yourself credit for what you have done.

Making any change is an ongoing process.

Acting on tips like this can keep you on track, and will help you to take more consistent  action.

It’s really easy to talk ourselves out of something,  or beat ourselves up if we don’t feel we’re doing enough.  If you’re doing something regularly,  then you’re doing enough.  Have faith in yourself and keep accountable, and you will get there.

Next steps

And if you’re looking to make some big changes, check out my new digital guide ‘How To Find Your Spark – The Weekend Project’ – details available here.

Photo credit:  @kidcircus via Unsplash.com

Spring – the ideal time to take action

Green traffic light means time to take action

Spring always seems like the ideal time to take action.  With the start of a new season and the promise of warmer days on the horizon, we can start looking ahead to new ventures.

So this month’s blog theme will be ‘Spring into Action’.

Taking action seems like an obvious theme of self development and personal growth, and of course, it is. But it can also the one that causes the most difficulty.

Dreaming big, goal setting and visualising is all well and good. But without the crucial steps to take action and get started, our ambitions are futile.  And even worse, they turn into regrets of the things we valued, but didn’t pursue.

It might be the ideal time, but why is taking action so hard?

Taking action means change, and even when we know that it will be a positive or necessary change, it can still be difficult.

We get used to our comfort zone, and fear or insecurity of the unknown scares us.  And rightly so.  Fear warns us of potential danger and making a complete fool of ourselves (well, sometimes!).   So it’s good to make sure that when it’s time to take action, that it’s well planned and considered, to give it the best chance of working.

So this month, I’ll be looking at how we can take the most effective action, and how to address the things that hold us back. The questions such as ‘Am I doing enough?’, or ‘Where do I start?’ are among the most common, and can cause us to become so paralysed that we end up doing nothing.  So stayed tuned to the blog and podcast this month, if you recognise any of these blocks.

And if you’re all ready to make some big changes, make sure you’re signed up for this month’s newsletter too.  It contains a handy guide to goal planning, with a framework for setting yourself steps to achieving your goals.  Sign up to the newsletter here.

Photo credit: @eliobedsuarez via Unsplash.com

How To Find Your Spark – digital guide out now!

An image of a person with a sparkler representing inner spark

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to ‘How To Find Your Spark – The Weekend Project’.

Discover how to get unstuck and find your spark, without spending weeks (or £££s) in a coaching programme.

What is ‘How to Find Your Spark’?

This downloadable pdf guide contains inspiration for creating a life that you love – with advice, exercises, worksheets and visualisations.

Using techniques based in cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness, you can work through the project at your own pace, and developing tools to create more spark in your life.

If you want to set aside a weekend to work through it in one go, then great!  This will give you a real kickstart into taking positive action.

However, you can also work through the individual sections at a speed you are comfortable with, to go a bit deeper on some of the questions and solutions that you want to build.

Exercises include:

  • ’Wheel of Life’ coaching tool to identify which areas of your life and are working well, and which need some TLC
  • Creating your list of ‘joy resources’ – a little first aid kit of happy, for when you need a boost
  • How to reframe your negative self talk and replace it with more positive affirmations
  • Visualising Success – a visualisation exercise to help to see how success could feel to you
  • Top tips for taking action

Plus journal prompts to collate your ideas and thoughts.

This is for you, if you recognise any of the following:

  • Feeling a bit stuck at the moment or are struggling to find your direction
  • Feel flat and uninspired, and are looking to find that spark and bring joy back into your life
  • You are emerging from a difficult situation and need a boost to get yourself back into the world again
  • You don’t have the time or money to spend on in depth coaching

To get your copy, head over to the product shop here