You know, my only goal here is to make certain everyone in life has a better day then they did the last day, that was yesterday. I want you to make every day bigger, better, bolder for you because that’s what makes life worthwhile. Today we’re gonna visit for just a brief moment on some area of life that I know I struggle with, and I’m kinda bringing the curtain down a little bit. So some of you that have been listening to the podcast now for many weeks will understand I’m always just brutally honest. So there’s no perfection in life. Even though we seek to attain that. There are no absolutes in life. Even though we may work toward that.
But today I’m gonna talk to you about something I struggle with from time to time. It’s a word that starts with an F and it is a tough one. It is focus. Today we’re gonna talk about the key to exponential growth through focus. You know, today we’re gonna share about this area of life, that to me, has become increasingly difficult to attain. With the holidays fast approaching, we find ourselves with far too little time and too many tasks to complete before the years over. You know, if you look at your calendar we’re down to less than 8 weeks to the end of the year. You know, you must stop for just a moment and allow yourself to simply breathe.
Several strategies that we share today will give you the edge over your competition and enable you to truly have it all. And I don’t just simply say that. I believe it. When you awake in the morning, are you feeling empowered and ready to take on the world? If not, you will find wisdom and tactics in this episode to help you change your outlook. If you feel wonderful each morning and embrace your life daily, you’ll discover methods that will exponentially grow your passions, skills, and outlook to reach even higher in life.
Habits determine your future
The first focusing strategy is to understand that your habits will determine your future. Ut oh, did I just say that? You see, we look back and don’t realize until it’s too late that the negative unhealthy habits that we’ve developed have now got us. You know, I understand that we didn’t seek out to say, You know I think this year I’ll just grow 40 extra pounds around my midriff. No! But you know what we did do, is you know we may have failed to work out this week, and wow, one week went into two weeks, and two weeks went into three weeks, and before you know it. We don’t even pick up the old gym bag at all, but we are picking up that fork and spoon. So we have to be careful, habits are developed slowly and consistently over time.
So, first focusing strategies to understand that your habits will determine your future. Do you look in the mirror each morning and become sad by the extra weight you’re carrying around? Boy, I’m talking to myself now. But anyway, I digress. Perhaps you’ve attempted weight loss in the past and failed miserably. Now before we go we any further. I am not telling you to go on a diet. As a matter of fact, I want you to do me a favor. If you eat cottage cheese and I know I have no scientific proof of this. But I do want you, today, if you eat cottage cheese, stop eating cottage cheese. Many people think, well if I eat cottage cheese I’ll lose weight. What I want you to take note of is the only people that eat cottage cheese are fat people.
So quit eating cottage cheese. That’s a horrible joke, but I tell you, if you look around a lot of us eat cottage cheese, right? So first you must admit that life doesn’t happen to you. It’s all a matter of your choices. Your everyday choices determine whether you end up living with abundance or living in poverty. The good news is that life never completely closes the door to opportunity. A habit is not formed in one day, rather, as I said earlier, a habit is developed over a period of time. Let’s focus on a health habit for just a moment. This is an area I continually focus on in my own life.
I chased my career for many years, and I focused on growth in the area of my business at the detriment of my physical fitness. And man, I hate to brag, I was a high school athlete folks. I left high school, 6’2″, 173 pounds. I was a lean, mean athletic machine. Now I don’t know what happened in those four years of undergrad school. But I have a hint that I think I can reflect for just a brief moment during this episode. And share with you that I think about initiating a class action lawsuit against Nabisco. Whoever invented these Double Stuft Oreo cookies ought to be the one to blame for my weight gain in undergrad school. Now I’m being very funny of course. But my point I’m making at this is I didn’t take the habit of eating Oreo cookies with, well I used skim milk back then because I thought it offset the calories, but I didn’t get in a habit of doing that just simply one day in undergrad school. No! With all the work I had in the accounting and computer science areas, lot of sitting down and lot of focusing on certain subject matters that required less than, shall we say active movement. I became a little heavier than I cared for And that habit was hard to break once I got out of undergrad school.
So at this point, after focusing on my career at age 50, I changed some habits. And one of the most critical habits I changed was the sedentary lifestyle. Some friends of mine were establishing a CrossFit gym in our local city and offered me the chance to join for free. Now I don’t know about you, but for me, free is about as cheap as anything can get. So I took them up on their generous offer and immediately found an accountability partner to attend with me. Now I know what you’re saying, what in the world is an accountability partner. Now that’s the one that tells you, don’t eat the pie you picked up from the deli. They’re the ones that say, if you go to CrossFit, I’m going to CrossFit. And they would call, and I would call them the next day. Are you going today? Look what we gotta do today, let’s go have fun today. This is someone that helps keep you moving in that right direction.
Now in all seriousness. I was so out of shape, now remember high school athlete in my teens. But I was so out of shape I couldn’t do ten pushups without being worn out. Just ten. To bring our story to the current date. I am a level one CrossFit trainer now, and enjoy, yes I said enjoy, my workouts four to five times per week. I’m stronger, healthier and my overall mental state is much more positive. As a matter of fact, I am fortunate to speak all across this country. When I am traveling, some of the hotels may not have the same equipment I’m used to at the CrossFit box, so I improvise. Hey, you can do anything you put your mind to is my thought. So all I do is I put on my workout clothes. I get in that nice hotel room, I put a towel down on the floor and I do 100 sit ups, 100 pushups, 100 air squats.
Now folks, if you say, well wait a minute, you didn’t lift any weight, I’ve got news for ya, I lifted 240 pounds. So, I’m not talking about taking it easy here. I’m talking about turning it up a notch. We old guitar players believe there’s no better sounding amp than one you turn on 10, cause that’s the highest it will go. See you’ll only be successful in life if you nourish your good habits with time, energy, and love. For example, this is a little personal. But I send flowers to my beautiful wife for no reason whatsoever several times a year. I don’t want to give away my secret men, but if you’re listening and ladies if you’re listening, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. But I actually include a rather sappy note. I put words in there that I promise you if they were in a Hallmark card that thing would be dripping so wet they’d have to put some kind of sponge in there with it.
I put things in here that tell her exactly how I feel and how important our relationship is to me. Now we’ve been married 32 years this last September. That poor woman has really endured during her lifetime. I always tease her, I said you know you’re never gonna pass away on this earth, I believe the Lord is gonna take you straight up because of what you’ve endured with me. But anyway, I digress once again. So I always send her flowers, particularly if there’s no reason whatsoever and I want to do that because I stand out. In her mind, I’m hoping I stand out. She’s always surprised and understands that our relationship is vital and important to me, as I said earlier.
If you can’t send flowers, leave a little note once in a while that tells your spouse or mate how you truly feel about your relationship. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to create a positive habit to help your relationship thrive. So the excuse of, well I don’t have any money, I can’t send flowers every month or two times a year, whatever. You don’t have to send the flowers. Now ladies if I’m wrong please email me, but I would assume a kind word written that is unexpected would somehow indicate to your mate that you appreciate them. And that your relationship is vital for your life.
You do have to be committed and maintain an attitude of focus on your mate. So exercise number one today, now not while you’re driving, of course, but when you get to a moment, write down your current habits and categorize them as positive or negative. Now when I say write down your habits. I don’t mean to make this a dissertation. For example, one of my habits, I have a habit of putting my wallet, car keys, and everything when I undress for the day in the same area every evening. I don’t care if it’s Monday, Sunday, Wednesday, whatever night it is, I can wait the next day and my keys and all my personal effects are in the same spot. When I travel I do this as well. I place them on the same bedside nightstand on my left every time I stay somewhere.
What’s this really doing? It’s putting us on autopilot for things that are probably rudimentary and just elementary and you just need to have some means of not losing items in life, but write down every habit you have. Now you may say, well I’m gonna write down the habit of smoking. Now I’m not saying that smoking is bad for you, but I just don’t see any elite athletes smoking cigarettes and other things while they’re training. I don’t understand that the cost of this habit, if I could tell you this real quickly as a side note, the cost of this habit is so high that with only a year or two worth of money you would spend on this habit, you could outfit your closet with some of the finest shirts and shoes and ties that you’ve ever seen. So you are the judge for the type of action, but be honest with yourself. Remember, if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you will keep on getting what you’ve always got.
Write down all of your habits and categorize them as positive or negative. A few examples of bad habits are hitting the snooze button several times each morning on your alarm clock. Working long days with no exercise or regular breaks. Being late for meetings and appointments, having your cell phone on at all times. Oh my goodness, why do we do that one? Taking work home with you. Leaving home in the morning without hugging your wife, husband, children, or your dog. Had to throw him in there. Answering telephone during family meal times, and boy this is a terrible one, procrastinating on everything from filing taxes to cleaning out the garage. These are all bad habits. So exercise number two, exercise number one you wrote them down and categorized them, positive or negative.
Define New Healthy Habits
Exercise number two, define your new healthy habits. Now you’ve got to understand, scientists, and I’ve read this. Scientists say you cannot eliminate a bad habit. You must replace it with a good or healthy habit. So keep in mind, now I’m not asking you to simply eliminate, I’m asking you to replace that activity. So this is just the typical opposite of your bad habit. We’re gonna find that healthy habit. So for example, if you are hitting the snooze alarm multiple times each morning, your new healthy habit may be to rise each morning with the first alarm. It’s that simple.
So it’s just the opposite of the bad habit. Now it is harder to change bad habits than to simply name a healthy one. If it were that easy we would all convert to healthy habits in the next ten minutes, right? To help you make this transition easier, we developed a three-step habit conversion process. This simple process walks you from the bad habit to a healthy habit with three concrete actions. For example, regarding your issue of waking each morning you may consider these three steps: Step number one: set an alarm to inform you to go to bed at a time that will give you 8 hours of sleep the night before. Now wait a minute, Jimmy, you’re saying I need to set an alarm to remind me to go to bed? Yep. There’s a habit of going to bed at a proper time. There’s a book called Power Sleep, written by Dr. James Maas. Dr. Maas, with extensive research, has determined that if we develop the habit of going to bed at the same time every night and arising at the same time every morning we have a higher quality of sleep and a much more powerful day.
So set that alarm to inform you of when to go to bed. Number two: Set the alarm for awakening for 15 minutes earlier than you normally arise. Now I did this because I want to give you the luxury of knowing that you’ve got 15 more minutes to start your day in a powerfully positive way. And number three: Place the alarm clock on the other side of the room, requiring that you arise to shut off the alarm. You see I just laid out in three simple concrete steps what you could do tonight to alleviate your issue of striking the old snooze alarm multiple times on Monday mornings. Tuesday mornings, whatever morning it is.
You see how this simple three-step process works. For each of your bad habits, apply this process. The critical key to success is to change only one bad habit at a time. To attempt to change several will only splinter your focus and cause you to fail on all of them. Another focusing strategy is to spend considerable time developing your strengths and delegating or eliminating your weaknesses. Many people will tell you that you should focus on your weaknesses to improve them.
Let me give you an example. I have never played classical violin. However, I feel I have an ear for good music. If I were to start violin lessons at my current age and attempt to become an orchestra violinist for the Boston Pops, I would be quite old before I would have the skills before I could even audition. However, I can and have enjoyed multiple orchestras and symphonies in my life and have seen these performances that enhanced my feelings of positivity. By focusing on my strength, the ability to hear and select great symphonies to attend, I receive a wonderful blessing that I would not otherwise receive practicing violin many hours per day. To me, my passion, by practicing so many hours a day would be converted to toil. It would be like a job. Priority focus means that I dedicate my attention and talent to those habits that are my strengths. My business coach, Dan Sullivan, said it this way, if you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a lot of strong weaknesses.
We’re all blessed with some God-given talents in our lives. Your goal is to discover these areas of passion and continue to hone them to perfection. Your passion is the ingredient that keeps you from being bored or overwhelmed by the development of the talent. Do you believe Michael Jordan was born with his basketball talent? Now there is some argument, of course, he was born with some natural abilities to play basketball. But he worked on his strengths, and eventually in my opinion, became the best NBA player in history. He practiced every facet of his game to improve his strengths to such a level that his competitors did not stand a chance at holding him back at scoring.
Refine and develop healthy habits
So exercise number three: Refine and develop your healthy habits and strengths until they become natural. When they become natural, you will perform flawlessly and seamlessly with the least amount of energy necessary because now you have converted this to a habit. Not something you’re consciously making decisions, but one that they make for you by this continuing habit. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have time to stop, to even start this process. I’m gonna share a great system for freeing up time each day to help you prioritize your focus. And here it is: I learned this system from a book titled The Power of Focus. It is called the 4-D Process. The steps are simple. You dump it, delegate it, defer it, or do it. Only handle things once. In other words, pick up that piece of paper and look at it and either throw it in the trash. Give it to someone else to do. Put it in your tickler system for another day, or just simply address it. It’s that simple. Make your time more efficient for you by not handling paper and projects multiple times.
Now listen closely. If you gain nothing else from this focusing episode, this is the kernel of truth you must take with you. Learn to say NO. If you say Yes to every opportunity you encounter, you will not have enough time or energy to focus on your passions. For example, I suffered from this aliment until just a few years ago. I rationalized the yes by saying to myself that it would be good for our business if I did this or that or joined this board. If you say Yes to something you must remember that it requires a No to another task of importance. You see, you have a finite area of time. After you have defined your annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals, and I hope you have, before accepting an offer to serve on a board or join another club, ask yourself if the yes for this offer will move the needle on your predefined goals. These are those things you establish as most important for your family and for you to grow is to reach these goals.
If your vision for the newly offered opportunity does not clearly reflect the completion of the goal, the answer has to be no. For me, I am blessed with opportunities to serve. I do not take them for granted. I am very appreciative. However, my priorities of faith, family and future, and that’s just another word for business, but I needed one that started with an f, take precedence in my schedule. When I learned that I could be a better board member, club leader, etc by limiting my yes to offers, I realized why. Time is finite. You and I have only 1,440 minutes everyday. Of these minutes, you will need to sleep about 8 hours, or 480 minutes. Consider dressing for your day, meals, work, etc, and now you have utilized another 660 minutes. Now you have only 300 minutes, or 5 hours per day for family and other fun activities. This is why you can’t waste valuable priorities time on watching TV. It is just not productive. To achieve growth in your personal, financial, spiritual, and family life, you must focus on where and what you spend your time energy and resources doing.
Incorporate the 3 exercises mentioned in this episode to help you exchange your bad habits for healthy habits. Learn to become hyper-focused on what you spend your 1,440 minutes doing each day. Create your Big 3 activities that move the needle on your goals and exclude everything else that saps your energy and takes your focus off these powerfully important goals. List your bad habits and create healthy habits that give you a bigger, better and bolder life.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson represents my thoughts on life with focus: “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathes easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
The challenge for this week is to go to our website and select one book that you will read in the next 30 days. You see, all readers are not necessarily leaders, but all leaders are readers.