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Attention & Focus: The Keys To Success Or Failure In Your Life

One thing that is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve in our modern world is focusing on what really matters to us in life and making consistent progress towards it. Multi-tasking seems to rule the day and appears ever more indispensable as the complexity of our lives increases.

As we then try to do ever more within the same amount of time, things begin to unravel and it becomes ever harder to complete projects as we open more and more loops and fail to close the ones that we have already opened. Before we know it, even our most cherished projects and goals become never-ending ordeals that never quite seem to happen.

Marketer Rich Schefren coined the phrase “Attention Age” to signify that, as in the Information Age when information was the key commodity, today’s scarce resource is actually our attention, and what we give it to. We have only so much of it and there is ever-increasing competition to win it over to someone else’s agenda.

I find this challenge to my attention ever-present. Back in 1986, I completed a Ph.D. thesis in Nuclear Physics. In 2001/2, I wrote my ebook The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing The Higher Self. However, these days I admit that even I struggle with keeping my mind on a project and persisting to the finishing line. It seems as though I, along with an increasingly large number of previously normal people, struggle with some form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

It’s not just email, Facebook, Twitter, your mobile phone or a myriad other distractions that have grown up in recent years. With the rise of the Internet, there has even been an exponential growth in the number of opportunities available to everyone. In other words, unlike our grandparents whose choices might have been very limited, we suffer from having way too many opportunities to choose from. In regards to this issue, the book The Paradox Of Choice is an excellent one, wherein the author discusses how too many options in any scenario actually leads to sub-optimal performance and often failure.

In other words, we are back to that old adage that “Less Is More”. Herein, lies the beginning of the solution and the way out of the agony of overwhelm and opportunity cost. Every opportunity has with it an associated cost because it takes something out of you in terms of either time, money or resources to engage in it in preference to some other opportunity that you might be pursuing instead. Also, because every great enterprise takes a lot of time as well as energy to mature and bear fruit, we are also faced with the agony of frustration, i.e. “What if I had done X instead of what I am doing now (Y)?” And so on.

So the solution to overcoming this attention deficit that we all increasingly face is to realize that Less Is More. DO less, achieve MORE. Be very careful which project you decide to take on, but once you have decided on it, make sure that you continue with that project until it is finally DONE.

Note the use of the singular “project” as opposed to plural “projectS”. The more projects we take on simultaneously, the less likely that any of them are to ever finish. Hence, a key factor to getting what you really cherish in life done and manifested in your reality is to choose extremely carefully which project to do in the first place. Once you have decided upon it, make sure you focus on THAT project, putting aside all distractions, until you get it done. THEN, and only then, you entertain the next project.

So, when great ideas come up that could throw you off the project you are working on, put them in a little book to review at some later date. That way, you do not negate what your creativity is giving you, but you don’t let it throw you off focus either. Remember: the project you are NOT doing is always more appealing and potentially easier than the one you ARE doing; that is, until you start work on it!

Above all, if you have not been aware of this before, develop and maintain your awareness that your attention is your primary resource in this modern world of ours. It is where you place that attention, and how long you keep it there, that will determine the results you get in life for good or ill.

Copyright 2010. Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.

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About Asoka Selvarajah

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2 comments

  1. I’m not sure if I totally agree with Asoka on this but sometimes when I try to do a lot of projectS simultaneously I get to finish all of them satisfactorily and the result is that my fulfillment is doubled, tripled or even quadrupled, not to mention the cash that goes with it. But well, I guess I was able to do it (multi-tasking) because he tasks were altogether simple for me. Perhaps there are indeed some tasks that need undivided full focus and concentration and especially if these tasks involve analysis or people. And I guess Asoka’s message here is also all about discipline – which means that if you think you’re not cut out for multi-tasking then that’s not for you. Or this is a lesson for people who tend to be greedy with their tasks like doing 6 at the same time while in fact they can only do 3. Efficiency I believe goes down the moment one exceeds his personal limits. If one can do 12 tasks at the same time and very well, then I guess we should let him be. But Asoka’s post here is like telling us that once this man who can do 12 tasks starts getting greedy and does 13 (which is above his personal limits) then he might end up not getting anything done! At least, this is how I understand Asoka’s post.

  2. You are correct, of course. There are no absolute rules in life since it is different for each person. For some people, a whirl of confusion and a whole lot of activity going on at once can work just fine, as long as they are on top of it and make it all come together in the end. For most people, that will not really work at all and the more focused approach is better.

    At least one productivity teacher does teach what you mention and calls it the key to making exponential growth happen. Again though, the key is having a system behind it all that works, which you clearly do have. However, again it is attention and focus that is key whether you focus on one thing or several.

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