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Scott Peltin

One of the key Mindset concepts that always comes up when we work with clients is how they can develop more focus. This is a great question because it implicitly implies it can be learned (which is very true). From our experience working with thousands of top executives and high performers from other walks of life, it is also like a muscle that gets stronger with practice. 

When I was a captain in the fire service, we would get a fire dispatch and the amount of information included in the dispatch could to an outsider appear to be overload and scattered. In fact, it was all valuable information (address of fire, type of structure, caller information, response information, special hazards, etc.) but it required a purposeful wide focus to take it all in. When we arrived on the scene, after doing a purposeful size-up (focusing on all of the key hazards), we made our plan, stretched our hose line, kicked in the door, and went to work. At this point our focus was intentionally very focused or else bad things happened. 

For you, this exact opportunity exists. You walk into a meeting or a presentation and you may want to purposefully widen your focus to take in the participants, the hidden agendas, the mood of the room, etc. But as you begin to engage, or as you listen to a point of contention, you may want to purposefully narrow your focus to be sure you don’t miss a key point. 

Similarly, when you look at almost every firefighter fatality, the survivors tell a story where they felt something wasn’t right in their gut but they never spoke up. This is failing to purposefully turn their focus internally to what they were feeling. You may also have had that experience where you had a gut feeling about a negotiation, or a person you were interviewing, but you were distracted and never purposefully turned your focus internally. 

Recently, I saw an interview with Mark Verstegen, the founder of our high performance partner EXOS, where he was talking about their approach to the training they were doing with the German National Soccer team in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. Mark said, “We need to focus on winning today in our training. If we do this we will have our best chance of winning each game and ultimately the cup”. This is a great example of purposefully choosing to focus on the present. 

We often work with consultants and one of the traps we see is what we call the “consultant's focus”. Because consultants are hired to find fault, and to aggressively point out these faults, they sometimes by default can come across quite negative and judgmental. Police officers struggle with this as they can easily fall in to the trap of thinking that since 95% of the people they deal with are “bad people”, 95% of all society must be bad. Understanding this trap and purposefully being sure to control your focus can prevent this. 

As you work on developing your personal focus, a great question to ask yourself is: Where should my focus be placed right now to maximize my performance?  Just changing your awareness will naturally change your focus. Next, begin to become more aware of your multitude of distractions. Some of these may be the usual distractions such as emails that pop up, the many open documents on your desktop, or even your overloaded calendar. Other distractions can be the unconscious and less obvious voices from your self-talk, the pull from your habits, or even the self-doubt from an underdeveloped self-image. 

The military uses the term “mission focused” but for you the key is to be “purposefully focused”. Decide where you want your focus to be and then keep putting it there. Every time you are distracted and you purposefully retrain your focus, you are building that ever important focus muscle in your Mindset. 

As always, we would love to hear what you think.