How – And On What – To FOCUS For Success

Christi Hegstad January 8th, 2014

In the not-so-distant past, I felt – for lack of a better term – completely frazzled.

Overwhelmed, stretched thin, pulled in competing directions, trying too hard to be too much. Remember that scene in the movie Up, where something as small as a squirrel sets them completely off-track? Maybe you can relate.
That was the first year I decided to create an annual theme, and I chose, not surprisingly, FOCUS. Focus is a critical skill for leaders to develop, and I find among my coaching clients it’s also one for which they yearn the most. I learned several strategies in my “year of focus,” a few of which I’ll share below.
Types Of Focus  
But first, in order to determine how – and on what – to focus, you need to know what motivates you. In their excellent book simply titled Focus, Drs. Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins discuss the two forms of focus that tend to drive us: 
If you are promotion focused, you act in order to maximize your gains. That might include a desire to see progress, reach goals, stand out, or receive recognition.
If you are prevention focused, you strive to minimize losses. You act in ways that will help you stay safe, secure, or to avoid mistakes.  
In other words, we either focus on winning or on avoiding loss. Which motivates you?
What Deserves Your Focus
You have oodles of things vying for your undivided attention, right? But of course, that contradicts the essence of focus: maximum clarity in a specific direction. You choose your focus in any given moment, but here are 3 areas all leaders need to develop:
  • When looking back, focus on the lessons. Often our tendency is to look for blame or focus on what went wrong. While you don’t want to gloss over reality, approach it from a “What’s the lesson here?” viewpoint. You’re less likely to alienate others and more likely to get to the heart of what matters most.
  • When looking forward, focus on the ideal. Begin with your ultimate vision. If you look only at what you think you can attain or base your future on what you’ve done in the past, you’ll only go so far. Create a clear picture of the ideal – then be willing to stretch and grow big enough to fulfill it.
  • At all times, focus on meaning and purpose. Don’t discount the importance of this factor. You, your team, and nearly all of us can act boldly, weather huge storms, and move beyond what we think is possible when we deeply connect with the underlying meaning and purpose.  
5 Quick Ways To Increase Your Focus 
Choose just one to start:
1. Remove the clutter. Close the many open tabs on your computer, pare down the paper piles, turn off any extra noise/chatter, and clear away the excess.
2. Create a daily Top 3 list. You can work from your massive to-do list, but select your top 3 priorities each day and focus on those first whenever possible.
3. Designate time to focus. For activities requiring creativity or deep concentration, block time on your calendar and honor it like you would any appointment.
4. Set a timer. Do this for tip #3, or for areas where you need to limit the amount of time you spend (email, social media, or surfing the web, perhaps).
5. Look for – then eliminate – distractions. Pay attention over the next couple of days to what tends to sabotage your focus. What are your “squirrels”? Your solutions may start with something as simple as turning off your email indicator!
The greatest benefit of focus? Without all the excess, you can pay attention to what matters most and to the people you care about and lead. Plus you’ll free up your path (not to mention your time) and find more peace, freedom, and purpose in the process.

What’s your best strategy for focusing? Share your ideas below, on Facebook, or via Twitter.
For additional support, check out our upcoming Create Your 2014 Success Plan workshop!


Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you successfully do what you love! As President of MAP Professional Development Inc., she coaches professionals to get unstuck and reach Bold Goals with clarity, confidence, and meaningful action. 

Learn more at and follow Dr. Christi on Facebook and Twitter.

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