May 22, 2022
How to Start
...what keeps us staying focused is our inner connection to what we want more than anything – what brings us a deep sense of accomplishment and, therefore, joy. That's what allows us to get into those moments of complete connectivity and flow, and what motivates us to keep going in the face of big obstacles. ↓

Our focus is growing increasingly more limited.

With the influence of 10+ years of clickbait media, 280 character snippets of life, and snapshots of experiences, the average adult can now only focus on one subject for about 3 minutes before moving on to something else.

3 minutes.

When I learned this statistic, I was shocked and yet completely not surprised. It seems everyone I know (myself included) has more difficulty resting their attention - on anything. Watching a movie can't be done without also checking social media in intervals. Reading and completing a book feels next to impossible for most. Even in conversation, how frequently do we change subjects?

When considering our longer term goals and projects that take a considerable amount of effort, attention, and consistency, this concept of staying focussed is integral if we're to achieve anything of real value. And when I say real value, I mean something that provides a deeper sense of satisfaction, is long lasting, and continues to generate contentment or reward long after it's complete.

If resting our attention on something long enough to get it going, and then to complete, is now taking significantly longer due to this inability to focus and the incessant impulse to distract ourselves, how do we even create enough focus to start? The notifications are always pinging...


I no longer believe in discipline and willpower.

Roy F. Baumeister, the leading researcher on willpower wrote, "We’ve said that willpower is humans’ greatest strength, but the best strategy is not to rely on it in all situations. Save it for emergencies."

My interpretation of what Roy was saying here is that willpower relates only to a show of real grit and strength in the face of strongly opposing forces. It's not necessarily something to be used on a day-to-day basis. So when it comes to a human accomplishment of our own choosing (such as writing a book, or building a business), I believe it more likely has to do with drive.

Drive, rather than discipline, implies momentum. Momentum requires a start up of energy. Energy comes from inspiration, passion and skill.

It's a nuanced difference, but I like to think of it as an energetic shift. Discipline and willpower require a push in order to force an expression of energy. It's that OOMPH or ARGH, kind of feeling. Whereas drive requires a build up of inspiration leading to a natural expression of energy. It can be felt more as an Ahhh or Ohhh, kind of feeling. See the difference?

Starting what it is you most want to create begins with connecting and leaning in to your inspiration, your passions, and your skills, and completion simply requires consistency. (I say simply, like consistency is no big deal...)

There are countless tricks to get someone to sit down and complete a task. Tricks such as the two minute rule, breaking down larger goals into bite-sized steps, removing all possible distractions from your space, and creating the perfect work environment - and honestly I believe in all of them. Our monkey-minds sometimes need to be tricked into focus.

However, what keeps us staying focused is our inner connection to what we want more than anything – what brings us a deep sense of accomplishment and, therefore, joy. That's what allows us to get into those moments of complete connectivity and flow, and what motivates us to keep going in the face of big obstacles, such as self-doubt, fear of success or failure, life in general...

At this point you might be asking - so how do we tap into our deepest wants, passions and strengths, in order to even know where or what to start? And then, how do we keep coming back to them in the face of challenge in order to keep going?

I hear you. Here's my suggestions:

  1. Start by recalling the moments where you've felt the greatest sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and/or joy. What were you doing? Were you with others? What did you overcome to get to the end goal or accomplishment?
  2. From those experiences, deduce what are your passions. What about those experiences lit you up and built your energy? What continues to light you up and build your energy?
  3. What can you learn about your strongest qualities from these memories? What skills did you naturally bring to the table that others didn't? What came easily to you, and how did it prove to be helpful?

If you need further validation, talk to a few of your nearest and dearest and ask them: what are they proud of you for? What do they see as your strongest qualities?

After this reflection, assess. What will bring you the most joy, build your energy, and create lasting satisfaction in the long term? This will naturally inform what is it that you want to start. It can be a new habit, or perhaps it's even a new career. But be clear - how do your passions and values apply to this new project? In what ways can your passions be infused into the development and building process of this goal? How do your strengths apply, or how can you apply your strengths to keep you going?


And then a few extra tips:

  1. Imagine that you've already accomplished this goal. Write down in detail what your life is like now that you've accomplished this goal. Write in the present tense, and read it often.
  2. Create mini alarms, or write yourself notes that have your strengths and passions all over them. Set the alarms to go off randomly throughout the day, or leave the notes in strategic places.
  3. Make the process fun. When you are ready to start your project, do it with as much fun and support as possible. Create a supportive environment with snacks, music, great lighting. Use the tools you enjoy using. Do it for an amount of time that feels good, and if it starts to feel like work - pause. Take a break and ask yourself how it can become more easeful. The more enjoyable it is, the more you'll want to come back to it.


_________


There are a million ways to trick yourself into starting your big project, new habit, or next creation. And for some of us forced discipline in this time of incessant distraction can feel like the only way to make them happen. But in my experience, the most sustainable route to moving forward and keeping your momentum going is to connect regularly to your deepest passions and strengths. Not only will you be empowering yourself in the process, but you'll be channeling what you most love and what is the most natural for you, into something of great value.

And then before you know it, you're moving on to start the next project.

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