4 Ways to Harness Greater Focus
“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
Philippians 3:15-16 MSG
Imagine you are sitting at your kitchen table. A distinguished person walks into the room with a silver tray and upon the tray is a box. They place the box before you. You have a feeling that something familiar is within it. You are drawn to it and feel called to whatever is inside. The contents of this box, you are told, are in fact the most important area of focus in your life. You day dream about it all the time. You make decisions every day based upon what’s inside the box whether you realize it or not. There can only be one thing inside.
What’s inside the box?
Bob Buford, author of “Half Time: Moving from Success to Significance” describes the moment he was asked this question by his personal coach. Buford, then running a multi-million dollar cable company realized he was stuck between two choices for his box: Money — or Jesus. He could choose only one. He chose wisely.
Choosing Jesus, Buford shares, led him to his Second Half, one focused more on serving others and impacting lives than on adding zeros to his bank account. Following the tragic loss of his son, Buford understood the importance of focusing his limited time left on earth.
The Power of Focused Intention
Buford’s story reminds us of the power of focused intention. By knowing where your focus should be you are able to concentrate your time, talent and treasure on what’s most important to you in your life. Choosing Christ as that focus doesn’t mean you disregard important commitments in your life like your family, marriage, occupation or passions. In fact, I have found that by making Christ my core focus I have fueled greater success in all of these areas.
Along with deciding “what’s in your box?” here are a few more ways to make greater use of your focus:
Put Away the Distractions
In “59 Lessons; Working with the World’s Elite Coaches, Athletes & Special Forces” Ferguson Connolly tells a story he witnessed as a trainer with Munster Rugby in Ireland. Donncha O’Callaghan, a player known for both his ferociousness on the pitch and practical jokes in the locker room, caught his eye. Donncha, arms full of carefully folded clothes, piled all of his belongings from the outside world on a shelf in the training room. This was his pre-game ritual: to be rid of any physical items that might bring distractions to preparing for the match at hand.
We can do this in our own lives by turning off notifications on our phone or computer, even if only during “focus time” with our family or at work. Be sure to put your “pile” somewhere out of sight.
I’ve learned the hard way that if we try to swallow all the details of life in one gulp we will miss out on many important particulars. Recently I made this mistake when reading a work email. In absolute haste I read only a portion of the first and last sentences sent by a vendor contact I work with. What I failed to notice was that she had referenced the reason for her slow response; an unexpected death in her family. After another colleague called this out I profusely apologized for not noticing it, yet if I had focused on reading through the original note this could have been avoided.
If we rush through things our focus is limited. As they say in the military, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Make sure you slow down to give your focus a chance to hone in on things that really matter.
A Winner’s Focus
On July 4th, 2016 Brenda Martinez, the favorite for an Olympic team spot in the 800-meters, was tripped during trials and failed to finish in the top three. She still had a chance to make the team in the 1500-meters, not her top event but one she was slotted to try out for a few days later. Instead of moping she focused on the controllables. Sleep. Nutrition. Purpose (Martinez recognized that little girls look up to her and how she handled her defeat would have a profound impact on them).
Six days later, Martinez took bronze and punched her ticket to Rio. Leaders focus on what they can control instead of their misfortunes.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
Bruce Lee 
Decide what you want in your box. Put away distractions. Slow down and stay attuned to important details. Keep your mind trained on your controllables. Do this and your focus will propel you to a second half lived with greater purpose for years to come.