A bright, multi-talented friend of mine asked me the other day how, with so many interests, he can know which one to focus on. He was stuck in indecision, not liking where he is, but not knowing where to go.
When you have a lot of interests vying for your attention, the idea of choosing a focus can be scary. If you perceive it as meaning you have to limit your options, to relinquish all the rest of your interests in favor of a single one, choosing a focus can feel like a sacrifice, a narrowing of your world.
But the truth is that lack of focus keeps you from fully exercising any options at all. Until you decide where you want to go, what you want to experience, achieve and contribute, you end up going only where the breezes blow you. Focus is what provides us with drive, what unleashes our passion and defines our purpose. Without it, life lacks zest and your potentials remain unchallenged and unrealized.
As I listened closely to my friend’s question, I heard another layer of concern. He seemed to be assuming there was a “right” or perfect or optimal answer he was somehow supposed to divine. He was stalled by trying to figure out what it was. So in addition to his fear that focusing on one path would limit him, he had this second, more subtle fear that he could somehow mistakenly take the wrong path. In fact, the only mistake he can make is not to choose at all, to continue to suffer from pent-up ambition and frustrated drive.
If you find yourself feeling similar fears, the way out is to decide to decide.
How? First, set a deadline for yourself. Make up your mind to make up your mind by a specific date in the very near future. Your subconscious will begin crunching through your options at high speed once it knows you expect an answer in, say, 10 days.
Secondly, to eliminate the pressure that comes with thinking you’re making an irrevocable choice, select a time frame for committing yourself to action on the focus that you choose. Decide, for example, that you’ll give 100% of your attention to the direction you select for 90 days. At the end of that time, assess what you have learned and renew your commitment or make a new choice.
As you approach your deadline, narrow down the choices you have been considering all along and let yourself be open to seeing additional options you haven’t yet considered. Meanwhile, think about what criteria you want to use for deciding. The most motivating focus will be one that provides you with a challenge and with an opportunity to develop your favorite skills, talents or interests. In addition to those qualities, ask yourself what would be the most fun? What would give you the greatest sense of satisfaction? What simply appeals to you the most?
By the time you reach your deadline, some part of you will already know what the best choice is for you. Listen to yourself and accept it. If you’re stumped, put your top three options on scraps of paper, mix them up and select one. If you sense disappointment in your selection, ask yourself which of the other two you secretly wished you would pick and let that be your choice. If you can’t choose from the remaining two, flip a coin.
Whatever method you use, the critical task is to choose, and then to commit to a focus as if your future depended on it. Because, in the end, it does. Once you have a sense of direction and purpose, your life will change in amazing ways.
Susan K. Minarik offers readers a practical, empowering path for achievement in her book, “Winning the Tomorrow Game: How to Discover and Create the Life of your Dreams, available at http://www.thetomorrowgame.com