“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” - Qui-Gon to Anakin, Star Wars Episode I
The quote above, as cheesy as George Lucas’ writing often is, contains a nugget of Jedi wisdom that I’ve repeatedly found to be true.
Your focus determines your reality.
It’s something we don’t think about much of the time, but give it some consideration now:
- If you wake up in the morning and think about the miserable things you need to do later in the day, you’ll have a miserable day. If you wake up and focus instead on what a wonderful gift your life is, you’ll have a great day.
- If we let our attention jump from one thing to another, we will have a busy, fractured and probably unproductive day. If we focus entirely on one job, we may lose ourselves in that job, and it will not only be the most productive thing we do all day, but it’ll be very enjoyable.
- If we focus on being tired and wanting to veg out in front of the TV, we will get a lot of television watching done. If, however, we focus on being healthy and fit, we will become healthy and fit through exercise and good eating.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can use focus to improve different aspects of your life.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” - Buddha
Focus on a Goal
In my experience, focus is the most important determination of whether you’ll achieve a goal or stick to creating a new habit. Not self-discipline, not rewards, not sheer willpower, not even motivation (also an important ingredient, however). If you can maintain your focus on a goal or habit, you will more often than not achieve that goal or create that habit.
If you can’t maintain your focus, you won’t achieve the goal, unless it’s such an easy goal that it would have happened anyway. It’s that simple.
Maintain your focus on your goal, and you’ve won half the battle in achieving it.
Focus on Now
I’ve written about this before, but focusing on the present can do a lot for you. It helps reduce stress, it helps you enjoy life to the fullest, and it can increase your effectiveness.
Focusing on now, rather than the past (“I can’t believe she said that to me!”) or the future (“what am I going to say in the darn meeting today?”) isn’t easy, and takes a lot of practice.
Focus on the Task at Hand
Have you ever completely lost yourself in a task, so that the world around you disappears? You lose track of time and are completely caught up in what you’re doing. That’s the popular concept of Flow, and it’s an important ingredient to finding happiness - having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge.
Focus on the Positive
One of the key skills I’ve learned is how to be aware of my negative thoughts, and to replace them with positive thoughts. I learned this through quitting smoking and running — there are many times when you feel like giving up, and if you don’t catch these negative thoughts in time, they’ll fester and grow until you actually do give up.
Instead, learn to focus on the positive. Think about how great you feel. Think about how other people have done this, and so can you. Think about how good it will feel when you accomplish what you’re trying to do.
Also learn to see the positive in just about any situation. This results in happiness, in my experience, as you don’t focus on the bad parts of your life, but on the good things.