Your mind is constantly operating. Myriad of thoughts and feelings run through your head every day. You experience situations, you do your best to see clearly and evaluate effectively, and then you decide how to respond.
You are continually bombarded with the messages of advertisers, and you must decipher what is true and what is merely an exaggerated sales pitch. You also receive an avalanche of messages from the media and from politicians. Social media has amplified the messaging, creating a constant feed of decontextualized sound-bites and memes.
You have conversations every day that require you to listen, process, think, and respond. You receive a non-stop flow of emails and texts that demand your attention. Some are relevant, many are simply a distraction.
The bottom line is that being effective at work and at life requires the ability to distinguish what matters from what doesn’t. Here are some practical steps that will help:
Focus on what deserves your attention, not what gets your attention.
Be aware of where your mind goes. Be aware of distractions. Be aware of the gravitational pull of stimulating and attractive things that do not deserve your attention. Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Focus on the intersection of what matters and what you can influence.
If it matters but you can’t influence it, it doesn’t deserve your attention. If you can influence it but it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t deserve your attention. Whatever you focus on and feed will grow stronger in your life.
Focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control.
People waste an enormous amount of time focusing on, complaining about, and worrying about things they do not control, which only takes time away from investing in things they can control. Give your attention to the important things you are able to influence. Make not mistake: “Control the controllables” is not a cliche, it is a necessity.
Focus on solutions, not problems.
Problems exist and are very real. But your attention, time, and energy should be invested in solving problems, not complaining about them. Don’t dwell on the problem, focus on finding and implementing solutions.
Focus on what needs to be done, not on how you feel.
How you feel is not always a good reference point for what you should do. When you fixate on what you don’t like about a situation, it disconnects you from productive action and effective solutions. Don’t dwell on how you feel. Take disciplined action, always.
What gets my attention about this list is the mental/emotional nature of our behavior. Everything in this list (the good and the bad) is mental before it is behavioral. Disciplined thinking drives disciplined action. The quality of your inner work determines the quality of your outer work.
Do the work and win the inner battle.