Every day, I wake up and ask myself, “In a space of gratitude, what does this day look like?”
This kind of focus is not easy, and it is not achieved without plenty of effort.
For me, focus used to be task-oriented. I felt the need to be all things to all people. We’ve all been there. The problem is, this leads to a life of reaction where we respond to the urgent need of each moment. It leaves us no time to do the deep work. Each day is a series of reactions to the time, the place, the day, the meeting. Inevitably, we race to meet deadlines, while accomplishing less and battling a vague sense that we’re missing something.
Because we aren’t riding our own journey.
I faced this problem a few years back. I recall the exact day with clarity: I was underwater at work. My husband called and asked if I was coming home. “I just need 10 minutes,” I said. He offered to make dinner. I kept pushing him off: “I’ll get it; I’ll take care of it.” I refused help, unable to lay down the demands of the moment and the endless checklists of everyone else’s needs and wants.
The realization swept over me: My work wasn’t feeding me. I was not being a good parent, a good wife, a good friend.
I wasn’t showing up the way I wanted to.
Finding focus as a leader
That day, I decided to journal. I started listing all of the things in my day that made me feel alive, like I was living in my purpose and contributing to the world. I did this consistently for about eight weeks and then reflected on what the clear themes were.
I went to the dry-erase board in my office and wrote the following:
- Leading: When I’m leading or being effectively led, I catch a vision and feel full.
- Inspired: Whether I’m inspiring someone else or being inspired myself, I feel whole.
- Value: When I’m giving or receiving value, I feel fulfilled.
- Empathize: When I am giving or receiving empathy, I feel my purpose.
Once I stepped back, I realized I had defined what it means, for me, to L-I-V-E.
This simple acronym has become a barometer for me. If at any point in the day I am feeling out of focus, I can immediately move into empathy, find value, seek inspiration or provide leadership. These are immediate remedies for my lack of focus, and practicing them has shifted me from reactive to proactive.
Many leaders think focus is a result of delegation. But I think the best focus comes when you have accurately identified the things that fill your heart and soul and generate authentic gratitude within you. These are the things that make you feel alive.
Nowadays, I am unafraid to time block, to say yes or no. I know the time I need to invest in the areas of my life that affirm to me that I am in the right place doing the right things.
Like success, focus isn’t a destination; it’s a practice that must be exercised and a continuous effort that keeps us grounded and grateful.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by Mike D’Avello.