Archive for the ‘focus’ Category

Breaking Their Attention To Focus On Something Else

August 10, 2017

We were hiking along a path in the woods and hills.

Family with 2-year-old coming toward us. Kid is cranky and letting everyone know.

We meet on the path. Kid looks at me, still trying to cry and scream. I say something to him. He looks. Breaks his attention. He stops crying. 

But, we pass and he remembers he was trying to get something out of dad–probably a ride. Back to crying.

Reminded me of the one time that one of my kids threw a tantrum at the check out lane of a grocery. She’s laying there screaming. I call out, “Whose kid is that?” Broke her attention and focus. 

I like breaking people’s focus trying to get them to focus on something else–preferably something better.

I think Jesus was a master of that. He’d say something that was on a different plane than the one his companion was on. They’d have to stop and refocus. Some were good at that, many were not.

When you study Jesus’ words, you need to keep that in mind.

Also a life tip. When you find yourself focusing on something depressing or fearful or agitating, purposely choose to think about something else. (Probably not a therapy for clinical problems, but it works for me.) Break your own focus and attention.

Strive to be a Person of Value

July 19, 2017

Strive not to be a successful person; Rather strive to be a person of value.

Do you realize we are now 19 days into the second half of the year?

Six months ago we were awash in Resolutions.

Where did those all go?

Unless you listened to me. For years I have advocated changing our focus from the famous specific goals to what sort of person I wish to become.

Rather than saying “I will lose 15 pounds this year”–which sounds specific but it isn’t, really–let’s just picture in our mind a person who is fit and toned. And then we change one habit that will move us toward our picture.

Or perhaps “I will become a person who is calm and at peace” and we develop habits–one at a time–that will move us in that direction. Perhaps meditating 5-10 minutes every morning. Or searching out a mentor.

Or perhaps “I will be a person of value”.

This is actually a by-product. We know that companies that value customers and employees become a company of value.

The same for us. The more we value others and serve others, the more we are valuable. 

So how has our 2017 worked out so far? Stuff happens, right? But we have the last half of the year to change a habit or two and move toward the sort of person Jesus would love to call a disciple.

[This meditation was interrupted at 6:04 am by the ringing of my mobile phone. I don’t know who gave that guy in India the table of time zone differences, but it was off by a few hours. He wanted to confirm who I was so that I could receive a “free” magazine. That isn’t moving that company toward a company of value in my eyes!)

The Value of Resting

July 10, 2017

It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness. –Thomas Jefferson

I’ve just finished another book. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He published a companion book basically excerpted from this one Rest In The World: My Morning Routine in Kindle.

IN THIS BOOK, I’ve argued that we should treat work and rest as equals; that we should treat rest as a skill; that the best, most restorative kinds of rest are active; and that when practiced well, rest can make us more creative and productive, without forcing us into a funhouse mirror of endless work and ever-rising expectations.

Pang is another writer from a long line of thinkers stretching back millennia who discusses the powers of habit, routine, and focus. His book is packed with examples and scientific studies. 

Structure your day such that you have specific times of focused work and then times of unfocused rest. Perhaps that is walking the dogs or just walking in the park. Put a question in your mind and then “forget” it. Go out. Walk for a while. Ideas will come to you. 

Another part of rest involves other physical activity. Most achievers have engaged in a physically and mentally challenging hobby. Anything from mountain climbing to tennis to sailing.

Writers and other creative people have structured their days to rise early and spend the first couple of hours creating–writing, painting, whatever. Then they seek release and rest from “occupation” as Jefferson puts it through some form of physical activity. Kurt Vonnegut swam–also finding that at around 11 am the pool was not crowded.

CEOs and other such leaders, by the way, tend to rise early and then begin the day with their physical workouts.

Another part of rest is to get away for a period of time. A week. Several weeks.

There is much more in the book. It is worth the read. I’ll just leave you with a discipline–rise early, prepare your morning the day before whether it be writing or exercising, take a break once in a while.

June 30, 2017

What one thing could you do today, this week, this month, this year that would have the more impact on yourself, your company, your organization?

“One of the most empowering moments of my life came when I realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.” So states the theme of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

Jim Truchard, known as Dr. T within National Instruments the company he cofounded, recommended this book last May when I was down in Austin at the company’s conference.

The journey toward the ONE Thing begins with a question. Keller says, “Voltaire once wrote, ‘Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.’ Sir Francis Bacon added, ‘A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.’ Indira Gandhi concluded that ‘the power to question is the basis of all human progress.’ Great questions are clearly the quickest path to great answers.”

Keller calls this the focusing question. What are you trying to solve? Where do you want to go in life? What sort of person do you wish to be?

Find your question.

Understand and believe it . The first step is to understand the concept of the ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don’t understand and believe, you won’t take action. Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding. Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It’s a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you’re not serious about learning the Success Habit, you’re not serious about getting extraordinary results.

Keller talked about habits, something I’ve discussed regarding Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. Or as Keller puts it, “People don’t decide their futures. They decide on their habits. Their habits determine their future.”

What one big thing will double my sales next year?

What one big thing will stabilize financing for my nonprofit?

What one big thing will be the service that defines our organization?

I have the habit of rising about 5:30 am or a little before and writing these meditations. I didn’t make it yesterday. There had been a conference in Boca Raton and the flight home took me through Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The pilot tried valiantly to get us out to the runway before the storm hit. He didn’t make it. We rode out about 2.5 hours of storm delays in the plane on the taxiway inching our way toward takeoff.

Got to say, the two flight attendants (we were on one of those little regional jets) were fantastic. There were many children on board. Naturally they all had to use the lavatory at some point. The flight attendants worked with them to get them there during breaks when the plane was stopped. Kept everyone settled. The crew had had a long day and they were tired, but they kept everything calm. 

We can’t always choose our situation, but we can always choose our reaction to it. The crew and my fellow passengers were all outstanding. Oh, and I got home at 3 am. No getting up at 5:30. I chose to sleep.

It Is Not Our Achievements That Matter To God

June 22, 2017

You pay your dues, work the extra hours, make the extra trip. You become president of the company or famous or a star.

Is God happy with you?

I don’t know. Depends.

Jesus moved easily from conversations with the rich and powerful to conversations with the poorest. He healed the children of Roman officials. He healed lepers.

He never seemed impressed by achievement or lack of achievement.

Jesus was always concerned with the heart.

How often did he say go and sin no more? Or your sins are forgiven?

Sin is a condition of the heart. It is where our attention is focused. Do we live our lives from minute to minute concerned about ourselves and our pleasures? Or, do we live in the Spirit–the type of person who is at peace, and helpful, and looks out for others?

It is not our achievements that matter to God. He does want us to use our talents well. What matters is what sort of person we are becoming.

It’s not what you are; it’s who you are.

Just A Step At A Time

April 12, 2017

Psychologists seem to be mostly trained under the influence of behaviorism. Originally it was called the science of the soul.

I think about that when I contemplate dreams. They say it’s just random neurons firing over night.

Perhaps they are a way of working things out. It depends on what you’re thinking about all day and as you go to sleep.

That is why political leaders, in the Bible for instance, had dreams that impacted the country. That is where their attention is all day and their concerns all night.

I have a long To Do list. Many things that need to get done before leaving for Germany in a little over a week. And Easter is in the middle.

Last night I had a typical dream from these periods of my life. I’m running toward a goal, but my feed seem stuck to the ground. Then I just put my head down and concentrated on one step at a time. Next thing I knew I had passed the finish line long ago.

Such is discipline. Focus on one thing at a time and you will accomplish much.

Chasing Illusions

March 30, 2017

Persistence Robin

It is nest building time in Ohio. Robin has been flying into our front window for five days. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It goes away. Then returns. The reflection from the magnolia is so bright, it is convinced that there is a better place to build a nest than in the real tree behind it.

In fact, it sits in the real tree in between bouts with the window.

At least it’s not like other birds who hit the window and knock themselves unconscious.

I was wondering. How often do we chase illusions? Reflections? Not the real thing?

We want something to be true. We are positive that what we see is much better than what we have. It is so delicious. So welcoming. It attracts us.

We chase it again and again. And we hit the wall. And we retreat. And then hit it again.

One day we hit it so hard that we are finally awakened.

That wasn’t reality we were chasing. It was an illusion. A mere reflection of the real thing.

We could have the real thing–peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, self-control–it is right at hand.

The Word is near us. Yet, we listen to the enticing whispers or illusion.

Where Do You Focus

February 7, 2017

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you.” –Stephen Hawking, physicist

So who would have thought that I quote one of the world’s most famous atheists? If you don’t know of Hawking, he is a brilliant physicist who is confined to a wheel chair. Can barely move or even talk.

But isn’t there a lot of truth to what he said?

Quick know anyone who is always complaining about themselves?

When you spend your time focusing on things that are wrong. When you spend your precious resource of time with someone projecting negativity to everyone, what is your impact on people?

Certainly you won’t be a source of growth. You are a source of destruction.

In America, but not just here but also all over Europe, and not just there but in much of the world, we are in an era of negativity.

We don’t like people different from us.

We don’t like policies of others.

Everything is a zero-sum game–there are either winners or losers.

There is a marvelous thing that God built into our brains. We can choose our focus. We can choose our response.

We can choose to focus on others. It’s not so much covering up bad things, bad health, a relationship gone sour. But by choosing to focus on the other person and building them up, we turn the entire situation on its head. Or better we turn it from being on its head to back upright.

We can, one of us at a time, change the outlook of our web of relationships. We can spread positive thinking.

Get In The Flow

January 27, 2017

They call it The Flow.

Stories have been written about great (American) football quarterbacks. They must be great leaders as well as gifted athletes. A game is on the line in the final minutes. Execute properly and the team wins. Lose focus, and loss follows. 

They are focused only on the moment. Just the next play. The mechanics have been drilled into them through ceaseless practice. The team must move the ball 10 yards on this play. That is their focus.

After the game, they may not even remember all the plays. Just the success.

Computer programmers get that. You focus so intently on coding that problem that all sense of time is lost.

Writers get that, too. You’ve done the research. The problem is laid out. It’s just concentrate and execute.

Little kids. Billy out playing baseball with the friends (if they still are allowed outside to play anymore give how overprotective Americans have become). Doesn’t even hear Mom calling for dinner.

Spiritual masters. Look how long Moses stayed atop Mt. Sinai. Jesus in the wilderness.

But not just masters at that level.

When is the last time you lost yourself in something? Remember the feeling. Was it more than a month ago? A year? A decade?

Maybe it is time to find something to lose yourself in. 

Prayer. Service. Worship. Play. Music. Writing. Work.

Try it.

Working On Yourself This Year

December 29, 2016

The real motorcycle you’re working on is a cycle called “yourself.”  — Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

There were weight-loss ads on TV yesterday. Getting ready for New Year’s Resolution season.

I bet you are contemplating a list of resolutions for next year. 

New Year’s Resolutions are great. They give you something to talk about at New Year’s Eve parties. Maybe they last until as late as January 10.

My Yoga class will double in size the second week of January. It will return to normal by the fourth week.

The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of the process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. — Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Making a list, even in classic goal-setting language, is merely a list. “I will lose 10 lbs.” “I will read more books.” Whatever. Doesn’t work.

As Pirsig discussed using motorcycle maintenance as a metaphor, you really need to change you.

Jesus knew. If you want to change, you must change your heart.

It begins with a decision.

What sort of person do I wish to be?

Write that image. Embed it in your mind–conscious and subconscious.

Each time you are faced with a decision, remember what kind of person you are.

Should I go to the gym? I am the type of person who exercises for optimum health and fitness.

Should I work on this service or mission project? I am the type of person who helps others.

Do I stop and talk with God every morning and/or evening? I am the type of person who lives with God.

Within 60 days, you will become that person you wish to be. Not completely, of course. You won’t lose 50 lbs. But the change will be noticeable to both yourself and to others.