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The Power of Focus

November 30th, 2008 by Kevin Ngo

In this post, I’ll examine the power of focus. As mentioned many times throughout this site, motivation is a powerful emotion to tap into when you’re working on a goal. The problem is, it doesn’t last. It’s often sporadic. Normally, your motivation is highest when you first set your goal. As time progresses, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, the level of motivation will generally decrease with upward spikes here and there, usually when you’ve noticed you’ve made progress.

So what causes it to go down in the first place? To find the answer, let’s examine what made the motivation high to begin with. Think about what you’re doing when you first set a goal, when the motivation and excitement is really high. Now think about the moment right before that happened. What made the difference?

The answer lies in what you were focusing on at the time. When we first set goals, most people focus on the results, so naturally they’ll be excited and their motivation will be high. After working on the goal for some time, many people change their focus. They now focus on the challenges they are facing or the lack of results they were getting. There are many other things they may focus on but what’s to take notice is that it reduces their motivation. Let’s look at motivation a bit closer to understand how it’s created or destroyed.

Motivation is an emotion just like any other emotion. We all experience dozens of emotions: sadness, anger, excited, happiness, euphoric, etc. Like motivation, these emotions don’t last forever. But what makes them come up in the first place. For the most part, it’s habits.

If you see yourself as a short-tempered person, chances are, the emotion you’ll experience most is anger. Even so, you’re not angry all the time. Why is that? You see, most habitual emotions are “activated” by some sort of trigger. An angry person isn’t angry all the time, only when something triggers them to. Even depressed people aren’t depressed on the time. Something has to happen in order for them to “activate” that emotion.

Several things cause you to feel a certain way at any given moment. One of the biggest factors, however, is your focus.

Let’s get back to motivation. The reason why motivation seems to decrease after the initial excitement is that we start to focus on the details. When you first set the goal, you’re mainly focusing on the exciting things. Depending on how you are, you may even be focusing on the challenges and become excited. Once we get going on obtaining our goals, we tend to start focusing on the details.

Losing the weight and looking good in a swimsuit got you excited and motivated, but having to go to the gym when it’s raining outside or having to eat healthy when you really want to eat some chocolate cake might kill that excitement a bit. Now whether or not these “obstacles” will deter you, comes down to what you’re focusing on. If you’re focusing on missing out on that chocolate cake, your motivation will decrease. Now if you focus on the extra fat it will put on your body, it’s a different story.

How you feel on a moment to moment basis will be determine in part by what you focus on at the moment. What you consistently focus on will become your reality. Think about that for a second. Reality really comes down to what you give your attention to.

For example, if your house burnt down, you can focus on how unfair that this happened to you. You can be furious that you lost all of your possessions and you’d have every right to feel that way, but if you continually focus on that, you’re going to feel quite lousy to say the least. Now what if instead you focused on how lucky you were to be alive. What if your focus was on how fortunate it was that no one in your family was hurt? Do you think you’d feel a bit differently compared to the first scenario? You bet.

So here’s what it all boils down to. If you’re feeling unmotivated, notice what you’re focusing on. Now compare that to what you were focusing on when you were excited about your goal. You may say, “well, I didn’t know there would be this many challenges when I first set the goal, so of course I was excited in the beginning, but now it’s a different story”. If you focus on that, of course you’re going to feel unmotivated.

What if instead you focus on these challenges as being tests? And that these challenges are there to test your desire for achieving the goal. That these “walls” are to keep the undeserving ones out and in order to achieve your goals, you must figure out a way to climb over them or break them down.

You can take any situation and find something to focus on that will empower you. Your other choice is to follow the masses and focus on things that will disempower you, your choice.

That means that you’re in control of your emotions, including motivation. Focus on the right things, and you’ll feel the way you want. Of course, focus is just one of the things that will determine the way you feel at the moment. I’ll write about the other ones in another post.

So the next time you feel unmotivated, notice what you’re focusing on. It would also be beneficial to notice what you’re focusing on when you’re motivated as well to use as a tool to get remotivated. Now if what you’re focusing on is killing your motivation, change it. The way you change it is by going back to your list of reasons why you wanted to accomplish the goal in the first place.

This is why it’s important to have a list of compelling reasons why you want something before you actually go out and get it. When your motivation wanes, you’ll have something to go back to remind you why you wanted these things in the first place. And by doing that, your focus will get out of the negative and into the positive.

Question: What is it about your current goals that make you excited and motivated?

See how your focused changed? More on this another time. Here it is.

Until then…


Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.

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  1. This is a great piece. i am 1 who has trouble focusing. this year i vowed to change my life cause my world was crumbling around me. i have started focusing and thus far maintaining and perservering to achieve what i have set out do. so i thank u for the inspiring passages. well done

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