Focus – the hidden driver of excellence
Having a mindful beach stroll on the Gold Coast last weekend I was looking up (something I now try to do more often) and was struck by the apartment block pictured above with the word ‘Focus’ at the top.
It was a powerful reminder to me of focus as a hidden driver of excellence which Daniel Goleman has popularised. Focus as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is ‘The centre of interest or activity’ or ‘An act of concentrating interest or activity on something.’ To me focus is about recognising and being in the present moment, concentrating on what you’re doing right now (like reading this).
It’s easy for us all to step into autopilot where we’re not recognising what we’re doing. How many times have you driven to a destination and not known the route you’ve taken to get there or walked through a city centre not noticing anything around you? I know I’m guilty of both multiple times over. One way to step out of this is to bring your attention to what your body is doing, getting out of the speed of the mind helping you into a state of ‘being’ versus ‘doing’.
According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine in the year 2000 our average attention span at work was 12 seconds. In 2013 it had reduced to 8 seconds (one second behind a goldfish at 9 seconds!). Being addicted to our mobile devices is part of this trend, how many of us easily get distracted when we hear a beep or a vibration from our phone? I now try and have periods in everyday where I disconnect from my phone to allow my attention to be focussed elsewhere. It’s amazing how productive you can be responding to messages/emails/social media updates when you focus you attention on responding in 15-20 minute periods after not constantly reacting to each individual update.
Lack of focus is a problem in the workplace with Executive Attention Deficit Disorder now a real issue for executives. For those interested in reading more about this follow this link to a great article by Jeremy Hunter and Mark Sokol: Focus is Power: Effectively Treating Executive Attention Deficit Disorder
Back to the Gold Coast, my husband Owain and I were there for the Triathlon Australia Annual Awards Dinner where he was a finalist in the age group coach of the year award (#proudwife).
Throughout the weekend we watched the third ITU Triathlon World Series race as well as exploring the beautiful beaches and seeing lots of surfers.
Focus for both disciplines of surfing and triathlon is essential for performance. If you’re not in the moment and are cruising along on auto pilot that is where you can come out of the zone and get out of flow. The female and male winner of the elite races Gwen Jorgensen and Jonny Brownlee showed absolute focus and determination during the race. You can see it being lived by Jonny as he led the run in this shot, he was in each moment.
At the Triathlon Australia gala celebration of champions dinner focus was a key theme in the award winners’ speeches. Ken Murley who last year was a three time world age group champion in the 70-74 age group said the key to his success in Canada was focus. He took first place in the Sprint, Olympic and Longcourse events and said his approach was focusing on each event at the time and then the next. Not trying to think about all at once which could have been overwhelming.
Nicole Hackett who was entered into the hall of fame shared how by focusing on her initially weaker bike leg she turned it into a strength. She also approached each new race with something different to focus on. One example was working the bike after turning a corner on the course.
Reflecting on my ironman triathlon just under a year ago focus was a key component which I wrote about in my blog ‘The F’s and P’s learnt of becoming an Ironwoman.’ As I prepare for childbirth in the next few weeks it will again be a crucial component of a different type of endurance event!
Some tips to help you on your focus journey:
- Set yourself a goal for an upcoming activity (a triathlon example could be focusing on your running or cycling cadence)
- Try a focussed attention training like mindfulness practice
- Be in each moment instead of worrying/fantasising about the next – a mantra I love is Dan Millman’s “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. What are you? This moment.”
- Manage your energy not time as a way not to get overwhelmed in this fast paced 21st century
- Incorporate some digital detox hours into your day
Some other recent LinkedIn posts you may enjoy:
Our thought are not facts: Matthew Johnstone on Resilience
Conscious Capitalism: “Talkin’ Bout our Purpose”
Applying a strengths based approach to coaching
Marketing needs a seat at the Boardroom table
7 Insights to Conscious Leadership from the Master Servants