“If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either one.” –Russian Proverb

 

The Big Idea—You cannot develop the mindset of a champion without laser focus.

This old Russian proverb says it perfectly. Many people live like this. Distracted. Unable to commit. Unwilling to eliminate options.

But with great focus comes great power.

As a child I remember being astonished the first time I used a magnifying glass to create fire.

It seemed like magic, but it wasn’t. It was the natural byproduct of harnessing the energy of the sun with the right tool.

Leaders are like magnifying glasses too. Nothing will “catch fire” around them until they are focused.

Too many leaders are overwhelmed with so many goals that they are getting scattered results.

Want better results in your life and leadership?

Read on.

The greatest enemy of the modern leader

There may never been a time in all of history when we were so distracted.

We have more screens, more apps, more media—more choices screaming for our attention than ever before.

We even need laws telling people not to drive distracted!

Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote an amazing book—The Paradox of Choice—which humorously and scientifically explains why more options is not better for the human brain (he also has a great TED talk by the same name).

More choices with jeans or jams (Schwartz says) doesn’t make us happier—it just leads to analysis paralysis.

When we try to do too many things at once, we spend more time on choices that don’t really matter. But leaders need to be spending their best time and energy on the few big decisions every day that have the greatest impact.

There is another scientific reason why focus is so important to mindset—decision fatigue.

Studies have shown that the quality of our decisions generally gets worse the more decisions we make in a day.

There have been some fascinating studies on doctors and judges that clearly show the quality of their decisions with patients or parolees degrade as the day goes on. I wrote an entire post on it summarizing the research (link at bottom).

Your time and mental energy is limited. The more goals you pursue—the more the important things get watered down.

Yes, the greatest enemy of the modern era—and your leadership results—may be distraction.

Clean house, in your brain

We literally need to clean house—in our brains.

Does your home or office look like an episode of Hoarders? If so, you have probably realized the feeling of anxiety and lack of focus you feel in this environment.

The environment of your brain is even more critical.

The less clutter, the better your brain functions.

I think this is why meditation is so popular today. People are desperate to eliminate all the mental clutter we so easily accumulate these days. It causes immense restlessness. Even suffering.

Having incredible focus will cause the opposite to happen. You can let go of stuff that doesn’t matter and focus on the most important stuff. This generates momentum. It may also generate a greater sense of peace.

When you have a clear vision for who you want to be in your marriage, you make better choices.

When you have clarity about what character traits you want your kids to have, you look for teachable moments.

When you set a financial finish line and write your retirement vision, your choices with money become much simpler.

When you identify the highest priorities in your business, you start to see what is essential and what you can let go of.

If you were as mentally focused as that white-hot magnifying glass, harnessing the power of the sun—what would your life look like?

There is nothing more powerful to a leader’s mindset than extreme focus and clear priorities.

Don’t you long to be a leader with incredible focus? I do.

“Do less, but better.” –Greg Mckeown

Turn information into action

  1. Write down your priorities. I should say that I am biased after working with Building Champions Coaching for several years (I have no financial interest in mentioning them). They have all their clients write a Simple Business Plan and a Life Plan. This gives them a better sense of their highest priorities in work and life. In decades of coaching leaders, they have learned that focused leaders get better results than distracted leaders.
  2. Go on a low information diet. Once you identify your highest priorities in life and work, you need to ruthlessly eliminate sources of distraction. You may need to stop watching the news, cut back on social media, or shut down notifications on your phone. These things are necessary to protect your focus. Are these things enriching your life?
  3. Protect your margin. We need downtime to remember what’s important. A rested brain is a focused brain. Research shows the quality of our decisions degrades in a hyper-busy state. Slow down. Take breaks. Think more clearly.
  4. Keep reminding yourself what is most important. Do less, but do it better. Remember that deliberately saying No to less important things is the thing that will equip you to be the leader of your family and business that you want to be. Once you write down what is most important, find a system to review it daily and weekly. The highest achievers in the world often look at their goals every single day, sometimes more than once. This helps prevent shiny object syndrome.

Have a great weekend!

Parker

*If you have enjoyed Parker’s Blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast where Parker Co-hosts every other episode.

Suggested Resources

  1. Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
  2. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  3. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
  4. Decision Fatigue Article

 

 

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a board-certified Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Performance Coach. His personal mission is to improve the way people live and work by helping them apply science-based strategies for personal, family, and workplace leadership—in that order. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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