Recently I spoke with a woman who divided her time between writing, painting, picture framing, helping others, learning German, as well as taking care of her house and spending time with her husband. No wonder she felt scattered, and in the process of going after so many interests, she'd become a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. The problem was, this woman's life lacked focus.
Focus is one of 10 traits discussed in my book, The Compassionate Samurai. It's the the ability to direct your attention, efforts, or activity at a desired direction or object without being distracted. If you've ever experimented with a magnifying glass and the sun, then you understand what that means. When the sun's energy is directed through a magnifying glass, it can burn a hole in a piece of paper. The same amount of energy is there without the glass, but the results are so different when that energy is focused through the glass.
Lack of focus is a problem for a lot of us living in developed countries. On one hand it's a huge privilege to have the freedom to choose what we want to do with our lives, but that freedom also carries a cost. With the huge number of options available to us, the temptation is to get involved in so many things that we become like unfocused solar energy. How can you avoid that?
Start with asking, "What is the point of my life? Why am I here?" You only have so many minutes in a day. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you decide how to spend your time. If an activity doesn't line up with your purpose, then you might want to think twice about taking part in it.
Get rid of the good to get the best. There's such a variety of worthy ways to spend your time, but sometimes you have to say no to good things in order to get the best for your life. An example of this is a math teacher I heard about who was tops in her field. When she had her first daughter she decided to quit her job to stay home with her child. The district where she had worked missed her so much that the administrators offered her a part-time job for full pay, at the school of her choice. This was an offer that was hard to refuse. The teacher took the job. Several months into the new arrangement, however, the woman realized that even though there were many good things about this job, it wasn't the best for her life. She missed spending time with her baby, and the luxury of talking with her husband every night. At the end of the year, this teacher made the choice that lined up with her values; she decided not to renew her contract. The story doesn't end there, though. Eventually this teacher had two more daughters, but unfortunately developed breast cancer. Within 6 years this woman died. Had she not focused on what was most important to her, this family would not have had those 6 years of quality time together.
That brings up a third point: live as if every day is your last. Doing so brings clarity about what is most important to you and helps you gain the red hot results you're after.