The Power of Focus

Written by Kathy Jacobson

Nov 2, 2022

On a podcast recently (I regret I can’t remember which one), I listened to a woman describe how she won a marathon by consciously focusing on successive mini-targets, one after another, during the race. Sometimes she would focus on a brightly colored pair of shorts worn by someone ahead of her. Sometimes it would be some landmark along the way. Since I heard of this tactic, I’ve been experimenting with it when I hike – especially when my time is limited and I need to maintain my pace.

Focusing on the next benchmark

To my surprise and delight, I have observed this practice works. I pick some landmark straight ahead, such as a particular rock or tree, and keep my eyes on it. When I reach that point, I change my focus to another object directly in my line of sight and head for it. And yes, by doing this, my performance improves.

I have also applied the same approach to completing major projects, such as writing a book, building a web site, and getting my yard ready for a garden show. The first challenge, of course, is deciding what I want. I take enough time with this to create a strong picture of what I want to achieve. I fix it firmly in my mind and make sure I’m ready to set is as a priority. (Check out future blogs on setting an intention.)

So let’s return to the above example. I started out with the intention of paying off my medical bills. That goal was definitely a priority, something very necessary to both my physical and my mental well-being. So, first I established a plan for repayment, and that worked so well, I set another benchmark for myself. I would use the same tactic to become completely debt free. Then I decided to completely avoid bank fees, which meant creating a comfortable cushion in my checking account so I would automatically avoid fines or accrue interest. Then I started saving money.

In truth, I didn’t realize I was developing a strategy until I has several thousand dollars in a savings account. Now I use the concept for almost everything. First I set an intention, then I visualize potential benchmarks – sometimes referred to as interim goals. With this broad picture in mind, I turn my focus to my current situation. I look at where I am today and ask myself, “What is the next thing that’s mine to do? What do I want to accomplish today?”

For instance, when I was focused on launching this website, one of my tasks was to include the three free audio lessons that present the foundational ideas of my personal power philosophy. I knew my first “landmark,” the thing I had to focus on first, was to write the text for the lessons. Once I had achieved that, I shifted my attention to the next thing that was mine to do, and I focused on putting together a home sound studio. After that, in order, I recorded the lessons, listened to them for errors, edited the actual recordings, uploaded them to Soundcloud, and embedded them on the website.

Every one of these action steps was challenging, and each one was built bit-by-bit in a series of baby steps. Because I was starting off as an absolute novice, I could have been (often was) so intimidated by the big picture I would be immobilized. I would have to back up and identify the next baby step. Then I would have to review the big picture, and remind myself why building this new website is important. Then, finally, I would ask myself, “What is mine to do today?” and focus only on that landmark until I reached it.

What is mine to do today is the only thing I can do. I can’t redo yesterday, and who knows what may come up tomorrow. So I focus on today’s task – the next landmark directly in my line of sight. By directing my focus, I can be pretty sure I’ll make it at least that far today. And one of these days, my original intention will actually be the “done deal” I visualized when I began.

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