Focus to Finish: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Your Goals
What do some of the greatest-of-all-time (G.O.A.T.) athletes have in common? When they are preparing for their next game or match, they narrow their focus. In this article, you’ll learn how to rid yourself of common distractions, myths, and behaviors so that you can Focus to Finish and be the G.O.A.T. in achieving your goals.
“Focus and simplicity…once you get there, you can move mountains.” ~ Steve Jobs
In 2005, when my daughter India graduated from high school, we held a party at our home and invited some of our closest friends to celebrate her accomplishment with us. These friends were India’s village. They had helped to raise her and had watched as she grew into a young woman. At the close of the day before everyone left, my friend Vickie gathered all of us in the kitchen to pray over India and to share words of wisdom and counsel. I remember it being an emotional experience. What Vickie spoke into my daughter that day would become India’s mantra to this day, almost two decades later.
Vickie had shared that many people may be fortunate enough to attend college, but for various reasons, they don’t finish. They get distracted by newfound freedoms, social relationships, extracurricular activities, the difficulty of the curricula, and more. She reminded India to stay focused on why she was there. She was heading to the University of Florida to receive an education, to attain her degree. Everything else was ancillary. Vickie’s three words to India are still our go-to words whenever she or I are taking on a new challenge or goal. Vickie told India to Focus to Finish.
Three Truths That Will Help You Focus to Finish
I didn’t have a mindfulness practice in 2005, but over the years as I have developed a meditation and mindfulness practice, Vickie’s charge has become more meaningful than it was 18 years ago. You see, earlier in my personal and professional life, like many other people and perhaps you too, I was taught that multitasking was a skill of high achievers. Of course, wanting to be high achiever, I committed myself to a multiplicity of projects and activities simultaneously. Somehow, I managed to keep the balls in the air for a long time, but it was not sustainable. Sure, I was successful, but at what cost? I knew there must be a better way.
Before I found the way to healthy achieving, I had to bust some myths and unlearn behaviors that did not serve me. A few of the things I learned that I’m confident will help you to Focus to Finish are:
1. Multitasking is a myth. Chris Adams, a human factors engineer, writes:
The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no. Multitasking is a myth. The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once. Low-level functions like breathing and pumping blood aren’t considered in multitasking. Only the tasks you have to “think” about are considered. What actually happens when you think you are multitasking is that you are rapidly switching between tasks. 1
Just think about the toll on your brain when you’re constantly switching back and forth between tasks. Neither task has our full attention for any sustained period. We know this in practice. We’ve all experienced, either as the actor or the recipient, a person attempting to carry on a conversation with someone while reading an email. It doesn’t work.
Expand that principle to focusing on multiple goals or projects simultaneously. Chances are, even if you can complete the projects, they took longer, they weren’t done to the best of your ability, or they cost more.
Multitasking is unhealthy. Dr. Jennifer Davis, a clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University found,
Multitasking temporarily increases stress levels which raises blood pressure and heart rate. Multitasking is also associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. These effects can be temporary, but chronically increased blood pressure and stress can have permanent effects on the brain by increasing risk for cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment. 2
2. Simple solutions to complex problems clear hurdles.
Another great quote by Steve Jobs reminds us that sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones – not easy, but simple. He said,
When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.
Undoubtedly, when pursuing a goal, you will encounter problems. The bigger the goal the more complexities you’re likely to face. As Jobs states, if your first answer to a problem is complex, keep working at it until you can winnow it down to the simplest, executable solution. Complex solutions are paralyzing and can lead to procrastination and a lack of focus. Keep it Super Simple (KISS) if you want to get it done.
3. Strive for excellence not perfection.
We all know this, but it is worth repeating. Waiting until something is perfect is a waste of time. It will never be perfect, and you will never achieve your goal waiting on perfection.
“Done is better than perfect.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg
One of the hallmarks of healthy achieving is learning to let go of perfection. You can still be wildly successful doing your best with the circumstances and resources given to you. You will make mistakes, but when you’re focused, you don’t let mistakes derail you. They become the “tools” to help you sharpen your focus.
Focus to Finish is about pursuing excellence, not perfection.
Focus to Finish: A Mindful Approach
Some of the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) athletes have shared their pregame rituals publicly. Former NFL Quarterback Tom Brady once shared that his pregame routine involved positive thinking and reciting mantras. LeBron James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, listens to music ranging from hip hop to Beethoven and meditates before and during games. And tennis superstar, Serena Williams has said that she tries to visualize the match beforehand to prepare herself mentally and then gets into a calm and peaceful state before walking onto the court.
What do Brady, James, and Williams have in common? They all take a mindful approach to achieving their goals. They perform the rituals to narrow their focus, connect mind and body to the task at hand, and put themselves in the best position to win.
Research has found that mindful individuals set better goals and achieve more satisfaction because their goals align with their authentic selves.
By setting better goals, limiting distractions, letting go of the façade of multitasking, keeping solutions simple and committing to excellence, you can Focus to Finish and become the G.O.A.T. in achieving your goals.
#yourahalife #healthyachieving #focustofinish
1. Adams, Chris. “Can People Really Multitask?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/can-people-really-multitask-1206398.
2. Davis, Jennifer E. “Multitasking and How it Affects Your Brain Health.” Lifespan, Jan. 23, 2023, lifespan.org/
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