The Ultimate Focus Strategy: How to Set the Right Goals, Develop Powerful Focus, Stick to the Process, and Achieve SuccessMartin Meadows
Discover 4 Steps to Permanently Eliminate Distractions and Focus on Your Goals in the Long-Term
How do you feel about investing years of your life into achieving an important goal – your time, energy, money, blood, sweat, and tears – only to give up and throw it all away?
If you constantly switch your attention from one thing to another, dabble in multiple projects, and give up on your goals whenever things get hard, you'll eventually fail – absolutely guaranteed!
Wouldn't it be life-changing to finally be able to focus on your most important goals, work on them diligently on a daily basis, and make them a reality?
Fortunately, even if you've been engaging in such unproductive behaviors ever since you can remember, you can escape this vicious cycle.
Written by bestselling author Martin Meadows, The Ultimate Focus Strategy: How to Set the Right Goals, Develop Powerful Focus, Stick to the Process, and Achieve Success uncovers a powerful strategy that helped him overcome extreme shyness, get in shape in less than twelve months after years of negligence, launch a successful business after six years of failures, release several bestsellers, learn two foreign languages, dramatically reduce his fear of heights, and travel to exotic destinations.
Here's just a taste of what you'll learn from the book:
- How to make smart sacrifices to achieve your goals. Sacrifice is a must, but it doesn't mean you have to throw your life out of balance.
- How to set the right goals, transform them into real-world actions and motivate yourself to get started. Discover when and how to start working on your goals.
- Learn how to overcome the common fears and problems of getting started, such as balancing several goals at once, overcoming a fear of failure and a fear of success (it's more common than you think, and it might be one of the reasons why you struggle).
- Discover a 4-step process that shows you how to develop deep focus on a single path. This is how ordinary people achieve extraordinary goals.
- 7 powerful ways to overcome everyday distractions. Find out how to become focused, including how to recognize and avoid laziness triggers.
- How to focus and take action when you're not motivated. A lack of motivation doesn't automatically mean you're destined to fail. Learn how to overcome this common problem and keep trucking!
- How to prioritize what to do and manage your to-do list. You'll be surprised to hear such outrageous advice in a self-help work, but you'll surely find yourself nodding as you read it.
- 3 key areas of life you have to change to get fascinated with your goal. Developing a positive obsession about your objectives can make the difference between success and failure.
- 5 powerful tips to stick to your resolutions despite hurdles and challenges, develop more patience, and bounce back after a failure. Learn how to persist, even in those challenging times when all you want to do is give up.
- 3 golden rules for sustainable progress. Learn how to make the Ultimate Focus Strategy a part of your everyday life and achieve consistent results.
- How to maintain success when you reach it. Discover the final lesson you absolutely need to heed, to stay successful for the rest of your life.
Nothing prevents you from finally escaping the vicious cycle of working on your goals in an uncommitted way. Buy the book now, study the strategy, apply it, and reap the benefits for the rest of your life.
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The Ultimate Focus Strategy How to Set the Right Goals, Develop Powerful Focus, Stick to the Process, and Achieve Success By Martin Meadows Download Another Book for Free I want to thank you for buying my book and offer you another book (just as valuable as this one): Grit: How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up, completely free. Click the link below to receive it: http://www.profoundselfimprovement.com/ufs In Grit, I’ll tell you exactly how to stick to your goals, using proven methods from peak performers and science. In addition to getting Grit, you’ll also have an opportunity to get my new books for free, enter giveaways, and receive other valuable emails from me. Again, here’s the link to sign up: http://www.profoundselfimprovement.com/ufs Table of Contents Download Another Book for Free Table of Contents Prologue Chapter 1: The Fundamentals of the Ultimate Focus Strategy Chapter 2: Step 1 — Start Chapter 3: Step 2 — Focus Chapter 4: Step 3 — Get Fascinated Chapter 5: Step 4 — Stick to It Chapter 6: Three Golden Rules for Sustainable Progress Chapter 7: The Missing Fifth Component — Maintain Your Success Epilogue Download Another Book for Free Could You Help? About Martin Meadows Prologue Jack was a penniless 18-year-old, living in his parents’ basement, when he decided to become a millionaire. “I’ll make my first million by the time I’m 25,” he promised himself. Fired up by a vision of financial independence that would allow him to travel all over the world, he started learning about ways to make money online and launched his first website. Sara was a 30-year-old mother of two who had a few (okay, a little more than a few, she’d say with a wink) pounds to lose. After hearing about a low-carb diet and the newest workout program at the local gym, she set her goal: “I’ll be back to my college weight in 12 months.” Charles had been working for the same IT company as a customer support representative for six years when he was fired due to budget cuts. The bills wouldn’t get paid by themselves, so he took up a job as a security guard while he looked for a better job. When he stumbled upon an article that mentioned that local companies were willing to offer a premium salary to people who spoke Mandarin Chinese, he enrolled in a free online language course in Mandarin Chinese. Valerie was a successful CEO of a pharmaceutical company. She had a big comfortable house in the suburbs, a supportive husband and two beautiful daughters, yet, something was amiss in her life. Ever since she graduated college, she had been dreaming about owning a small organic farm and living a simple life. Her friends considered her crazy for even thinking about quitting her job. One day, while browsing through a magazine about country living, she read an article about a couple who moved from New York to a small farm in New England. Her mind was set: she would start looking for a suitable property and make her lifelong dream come true. Seven years have passed since Jack, Sara, Charles, and Valerie set their goals. Today Jack works part-time as a pizza delivery guy. He still dabbles in online business, but the most he’s been able to earn in a single month was a hundred bucks. Sara is embarrassed to admit that she hasn’t lost a single pound. In fact, she’s added another 20 pounds. To make the matters worse, Sara’s doctor is worried about her high blood pressure and sugar levels. Charles is no longer a security guard, but his new job — phone support for a particularly despised company — is nothing to brag about. He has recently heard about a new, lucrative opportunity for Mandarin Chinese speakers. What a shame he hasn’t stuck with his resolutions! Valerie is still a CEO of the same company, living in the same house with the same happy family. At a first glance, her life is perfect, but she’s still unsatisfied. She has given up her dream of moving to the countryside, consoling herself by reading articles about country living. “It’s too late to move,” she says to herself. She’d hate uprooting her family, and besides, her friends are right — she’d be crazy to quit her lucrative job to pursue a silly dream of living on a farm. These particular stories are fictional, but similar things happen in real life on a daily basis. People set important goals for themselves, but fail to achieve them. What makes it so hard to stick to your resolutions? Why do people who care so much about bettering their circumstances fail to do so? If your story is even slightly similar to the story of Jack, Sara, Charles, or Valerie, you might be wondering what’s wrong with you. How is it possible that several years after setting your goals, you’ve yet to accomplish them or (even worse) you’re farther away from them than before? Before I answer this question, let’s pause for a second to clarify one thing: There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfectly capable of achieving your most important goals. However, what you do need to fix is your approach. If you change that, you can get completely different results and finally achieve the success you desire so much. And what exactly do I mean by fixing your approach? It all comes down to developing the ability to overcome distractions and focus on your goals over the long-term. The strategy that I reveal in this book (the Ultimate Focus Strategy, aka UFS) comes with tools that will help you set the right goal, develop powerful concentration, become fascinated with the process and stick to it until you reach your desired outcome. I used this particular strategy to overcome extreme shyness, get in shape in less than twelve months after years of negligence, launch a successful business after six years of failures, release several bestsellers, learn two foreign languages, travel to exotic destinations, dramatically reduce my fear of heights, and accomplish numerous smaller goals I’ve set for myself over the years. However, please don’t think that I have figured it all out, that successful habits run in the family, or that what we’re about to discuss is the ultimate recipe for success. I’ll be the last to say that the Ultimate Focus Strategy is a magic pill. I had the privilege of not being born in a poverty-ridden country. I was lucky to grow up in a peaceful period of time, when all of the most important tools that I use today on a daily basis (such as the Internet) spread all over the world. Lastly, I benefitted greatly from stumbling upon some self-help and business books that have been guiding me over the years. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The Ultimate Focus Strategy is by no means a “quick fix” or a miracle answer. It’s a framework that can help you achieve your objectives, but it won’t save you from effort, pain, failures, fear, sweat, and countless other things that everybody has to experience on their journey to success. If you’re looking for an easy way out, I’m afraid I can’t help you. If you’re still reading, chances are we’re pretty similar to each other. You understand that success requires sacrifice and that the only way to live a successful life is to embrace the challenges. If you have this mindset, there’s nothing that would prevent you from applying my strategy in your life and reaping the same benefits. As you’ll notice throughout the book, I won’t save you from some hard truths. I’m not here to pat you on the back and shout from the speaker’s podium that you can accomplish everything just by thinking about it. My strategy can dramatically increase your chances of success, but it still takes time, energy, and a tremendous amount of self-discipline, mental toughness, and grit. Interested in learning more? Cool. Let’s turn the page and have a longer chat… Chapter 1: The Fundamentals of the Ultimate Focus Strategy Before we dive deep into the Ultimate Focus Strategy, you need to know what it is and what it is not as well as when it will work, and when it will not work. The Ultimate Focus Strategy (UFS) is a framework I created after unconsciously applying the same process to various goals in my life. It has four components (which we’ll discuss shortly) and consists of an abundance of tools, tactics, and tips I’ve discovered along the way. It’s not a single habit that you can develop in four weeks. It also isn’t a step-by-step blueprint that fills in all the blanks for you, because each situation is different. You’ll benefit the most if you listen to your gut and take whatever you find in the book that feels like it is a good fit for you and apply it in your life. Lastly, while I can’t guarantee that you’ll surely achieve your goals (only fake gurus do that), I’m pretty sure that even if you only apply just a few tips from this book, it can make a huge difference in your life. If you’re open to experimenting and changing your approach, you will benefit from this strategy. 3 Situations in Which the Ultimate Focus Strategy Is Probably Not For You Let’s be clear. It’s possible you don’t need to change your strategy at all. In that case, I suggest you ask for a refund on this book. Seriously, if you find yourself in one of the groups I’m about to list, you might not benefit from my book and I’d rather not waste your time. Here are the three instances in which you don’t need my strategy at all, or you won’t find it as valuable as other people would: 1. You’re much closer to your goal today than when you started If you’re much closer to your goal today than when you started, your strategy is obviously working and you don’t need my book — unless you feel stuck and can’t move past the plateau. For example, if five years ago, you set out to build a business that would generate $10,000 in monthly income, you’ve recently crossed the $5,000 mark, and the business is doing well, you probably know what you’re doing. It’s only a matter of time to reach your goal and it’s better to stick to what’s working for you than to change it. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re moving in circles and you’ve yet to exceed $1,000 in monthly income, my strategy can be of great help to you. As another example, if your primary goal is to lose 50 pounds and you’ve already lost 20 pounds, feel great, and don’t have any challenging issues to deal with, my strategy is probably not for you, either. Your approach is clearly working for you, and it wouldn’t make sense to change it. If you’re struggling to stick to your diet or if you’re stuck after losing a few pounds, though, you’ll definitely find my strategy valuable. 2. You expect a quick fix As I’ve already mentioned, the Ultimate Focus Strategy is not a magic pill. If you’ve been looking for that mythical book that solves your every problem without action on your part, this book isn’t it. Also, please understand that even if you embrace the strategy, it will likely take you months, years, or even decades to achieve certain goals. My strategy will help you stay dedicated to the process, but it won’t magically shorten your journey when there’s little or nothing you can do to speed up the process. If you want to become a surgeon or an astronaut, you can’t learn it all and get all the formal credentials in a few months. Another important caveat is that this book focuses almost entirely on taking action. If you think that simply changing your beliefs or using positive thinking will make you successful, you can return the book now. With all due respect, I mean it. I’d rather set the right expectations for you than hype my approach as the ultimate answer to all of your problems. 3. You lack conviction It’s normal to have doubts about whether you can achieve something or not. However, without the most basic knowledge about how to have a success-friendly mindset, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you at the moment. You’ll benefit from this book more if you come equipped with some additional fundamental knowledge that I don’t cover here. I suggest reading my free book Confidence: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals, in which I cover the topic of self-efficacy, a necessary trait for personal development. It’s a short read that will teach you all of the basics you need to know to develop a proper mindset. You can then return to The Ultimate Focus Strategy and expect a much better return on your investment after you learn how to adopt basic success-friendly beliefs. Whether you read Confidence or any other title about developing the proper mindset is irrelevant. I only strongly recommend that you avoid reading books that only come with feel-good affirmations and little substance in the form of practical advice you can apply in your life. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s dig deep into the fundamentals of the Ultimate Focus Strategy… Four Components of the Ultimate Focus Strategy The Ultimate Focus Strategy consists of four main components. Here they are: 1. Start. This step includes an incredibly important process of finding the right motivation, choosing the right goal and preparing yourself for the journey ahead. 2. Focus. This step is the core of the strategy. It discusses why you absolutely must dedicate yourself to one path, in order to reach your goals. 3. Get Fascinated. The third step of the strategy discusses an important shift in your mindset that must take place in your everyday life in order to radically increase your probability of success. 4. Stick to It. The fourth step focuses on perseverance and staying faithful to the process even when everything goes wrong and you can’t seem to overcome all of the hurdles. I’ll cover each component of the strategy in a separate chapter. I’ll start each chapter with a general description of the given component, and then cover it in deeper detail and addressing common situations, doubts, fears, and questions to help you get your head around the framework. THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ULTIMATE FOCUS STRATEGY: QUICK RECAP 1. The Ultimate Focus Strategy is a framework that consists of four components and numerous tactics, tools, and techniques to help you achieve your most important goals. 2. There are three instances in which you might not need the Ultimate Focus Strategy. The first one is when you’re already close to achieving your goal or have made great progress. Generally speaking, if you don’t feel stuck or your strategy is generally working, it doesn’t make sense to change it. The second situation is when you’re seeking a miracle answer to all your problems. UFS is not a quick-fix and it won’t magically change your life without effort on your part. Moreover, be aware that while the strategy can help you stay dedicated, it won’t shorten your journey in cases where you need to pay your dues to get what you want, such as attending a medical college to become a doctor. The last instance in which the Ultimate Focus Strategy won’t help you is when you lack conviction or the belief in your abilities. It doesn’t mean you’ll never accomplish your goals, though. It only means that the strategy is not for you yet. Start by developing some basic success-friendly beliefs first and then return to UFS after they have become deeply ingrained. 3. The four steps of the Ultimate Focus Strategy are: Start, Focus, Get Fascinated, and Stick to It. Chapter 2: Step 1 — Start The Ultimate Focus Strategy starts with choosing a goal or goals that will become the central focus in your life. You want to choose as few goals as possible, because the more goals you chase, the more time it will take you to achieve each one. Pursuing as few goals as possible doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to do anything else besides working on them. Having a limited focus means that you dedicate the majority of your time, energy and your brain’s capacity to as few vital objectives as you can. If you have any other goals, they take a back seat or fade into the background. You can work on them when you have free time, but never at the expense of your primary goal or goals. Imagine I put an empty glass in front of you and give you three jars. The first one contains sand, the second one contains pebbles, and the last one contains big rocks. If you fill the glass with sand first, you won’t be able to fit in the pebbles and big rocks. If you reverse the order and start with big rocks, you’ll fill the glass with no problem. Big rocks are your most important goals, pebbles are your secondary goals, and sand is everything else that might be nice to have, but that you wouldn’t particularly care about if it didn’t happen. Limiting yourself to as few goals as possible is the primary feature of the Ultimate Focus Strategy that makes it so effective. Most approaches tell you how to balance your time and energy across numerous goals in your life, but they unrealistically assume that a person can be at the top of their performance when their resources are divided between five or ten different goals of varying importance. (Smart) Sacrifice Is Necessary Since you need to limit your focus to as few goals as possible, you’ll probably have to give up working on other, less important goals. If you’re afraid to do so, ask yourself if spreading yourself thin until now has produced the kind of results you’ve wanted to achieve. If not, wouldn’t it be a good trade-off to sacrifice these nice-to-have (but not really that important) goals in exchange for reaching your ultimate objectives? For example, let’s say you’re working on three main goals in your life: saving money to buy your dream house in the countryside, learning how to play golf (or any other skill you’d like to master because you enjoy doing it), and working out at the gym to build a six-pack (or any other fitness-related goal that isn’t essential to optimal well-being). If you decide that buying your dream house is the most important goal for you, you’ll have to accept that — because they cost you additional money and take time to pursue — you may have to postpone learning how to play golf and find alternative ways to develop a six-pack. Even worse, you might not be able to achieve those other goals at all while you’re working on your primary goal, because you won’t have enough time, energy or money to devote to them. This is the hard truth about the Ultimate Focus Strategy that you must accept: you must make sacrifices in order to develop a powerful focus, and the more you’re willing to sacrifice, the more focused and effective you’ll be. However, your sacrifice has to be smart. You must never sacrifice essential health-related and relationships-related goals. Once lost, health and relationships can be hard or impossible to regain. You might still be confused how a person can limit their focus, so let me give you an example from my personal life. Back in 2011, I spent a couple of months living on a small (inhabited) tropical island in Mexico. My goal was to radically shake up my everyday routine by throwing myself into a completely different culture. While I was there, I didn’t have access to proper fitness equipment and (back then) I wasn’t aware that I could train effectively by using only my body weight, so my fitness levels suffered. My finances also took a hit, as living in a tropical paradise is generally not going to give you a productivity boost. However, I gladly accepted the trade-off for the experience of living in such a radically different place. When I got back home, I vowed to focus on building a successful business, and secondarily, on overcoming shyness and getting into shape (I was obese, so this was a necessity and not just a nice-to-have objective). I worked on these secondary goals whenever I had free time, but for the most part, I was focused on building a business and I structured my life around that objective. I told myself that I wouldn’t travel again until I had started a successful business. I enjoyed traveling, but sacrifices had to be made so that I would be focused on my business instead of planning my next trip. Moreover, my finances weren’t in the best shape, and they weren’t going to improve if I continued to divide my attention between traveling and running a business. During the next five years, I didn’t leave my hometown for non-business purposes except for one weekend trip. It might sound silly that telling myself I couldn’t travel would make any difference, yet it was an important vow that kept me in check and reminded me what was important during that period of my life — not my passion for traveling, but building a business. In addition to sacrificing travel, I also spent less time learning Spanish (which had been an important goal of mine before I made that trip) — and engaged much less often in one of my favorite pastimes: reading fiction (I switched to business books). Despite setting my priorities, I still wasted the first three years before I made any real progress, but we’ll continue that story in the next chapter. What’s important for now is that I made smart sacrifices to help me focus on my most important goal. However, how do you actually choose which goal or goals should have priority? How to Set the Right Goal or Goals The goal or goals you choose to focus on have to be so important that they can transform your life. They also need to provide more benefits than neglecting your less vital goals. In other words, as an example, you have to feel good forgoing or delaying becoming a great golf player and going to the gym to develop a six-pack in exchange for moving into your dream house. Some of the most common transformational goals include: 1. Getting in shape: losing weight, exercising more, replacing bad habits with healthy ones. If your long-term well-being is in danger, no other goal is as important as following your doctor’s orders. Forgo any other goals and make it your top priority. 2. Building a business, advancing your career, or rebranding yourself. This includes learning skills and acquiring the credentials that are needed to change your occupation. 3. Finding a significant other, starting a family, taking care of your children, and other goals related to relationships. Just like taking care of your health, this can be sometimes more crucial than any other goal. Saving your marriage is more important than developing your career. 4. Learning a skill or developing a trait that will produce a profound change in your life or give you more opportunities, such as eliminating procrastination from your life, learning a foreign language, overcoming shyness, becoming a professional public speaker, overcoming a paralyzing phobia, etc. 5. Big lifestyle goals, such as traveling the world, buying a house, moving to your dream location, etc. Ensure that you can’t imagine your life without making this goal or goals come true. This is imperative; if you don’t think of your goal as a necessity in your life and an absolute must, you won’t achieve it. When I set a goal to become a successful entrepreneur, it wasn’t just a wish. There was no possible scenario in which I wouldn’t eventually own a profitable business. I was unable to imagine myself working for somebody else. If you don’t have such a deep conviction and desire for the goal or goals you want to achieve, reconsider them. The entire strategy is based on the assumption that you’ll either eventually make it happen or die trying (and “eventually” here means that you’ll try over and over, even if it’s going to take you decades). I can’t define these important goals for you — it’s your responsibility to take this important first step. 3 Techniques to Have More Clarity About Which Goal to Pursue What if you have several goals you’d like to achieve and you’re unsure which ones can wait? Here are some techniques to help you make the right decision and limit your focus: 1. Flip a coin Okay, I admit it sounds like a ridiculous gimmick, but please approach it with an open mind. If you need to decide between two goals, assign goals to each side of the coin and flip it. You’ll know which objective is closer to your heart before the coin even lands because you’ll find yourself rooting for it. Pay attention to that inner response that occurs while you’re waiting to see the outcome of the coin toss. If you don’t have a coin nearby, use an online randomizer or take two pieces of paper, write down the goals and ask another person to choose one of them without showing them the answers. Again, pay attention to what you are hoping the result will be. This approach often works better than analyzing each goal and trying to make a logical decision. I suppose it’s because when it comes to setting goals, your gut often knows best. 2. Think about your most important values Another technique that can help you narrow down your list of goals or prioritize them is to think about your key values. For me, one of my top values is personal freedom, hence my goal was to become a successful entrepreneur. What is it for you? Is the current state of things preventing you from fully embracing your most crucial values in your everyday life? For example, if excitement is one of your top values but you work in a soul-sucking corporation, it will clash with your values for the rest of your life until you do something about it. This indicates that finding a more exciting job might be a good goal to choose as your primary objective. 3. You have unusual patience for it It’s generally easy to assess whether somebody cares about something if one looks at their patience for it. If you have a history of giving up after experiencing the first failure, chances are good that the goal you’ve chosen is not your true priority. On the other hand, if you refuse to give in (even when everybody around you doubts in your ability to succeed), it’s an indicator that you’re working on the right goal. I can’t count the number of failures I’ve had on my entrepreneurial journey. As painful as they all were, I couldn’t stop and always got back on my feet. What’s important to note here is that your patience must be long-lasting. Many people go on a diet in January only to give up in February, wait until next January and start again. A person with true patience for this goal wouldn’t give up in February and wait until next January, even if they completely messed up their diet and had to start all over again. Ambitious or Realistic? Setting new goals often feels like engaging in a battle between the positive version of you (thinking you can accomplish anything you want) and the negative you (pointing out that you’d be crazy to think you can achieve such ambitious goals). Where’s the sweet spot and how do you know when the goal is appropriate for you and when it’s just a pipe dream? In his book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World, successful entrepreneur Peter Diamandis talks about the concept of “the line of credibility.”1 The basic concept behind the idea is that whenever we hear about a new idea, we either place it above the line (accepting it as possible) or below it (dismissing it). When we accept an idea without any doubts, it has (as Diamandis calls it) “super credibility.” To give you a quick example, imagine you’ve heard that an extremely successful billionaire is launching a space transport company and plans to go to Mars. In addition to his vast business experience and capital to launch such a venture, he plans to hire the world’s most renowned rocket engineers and scientists. Now compare your response to that situation with your reaction to your friend Bob telling you he plans to do the same. Unless your friend Bob is one of the wealthiest and most connected people in the world, you’d probably dismiss his idea right away, while it was easy to accept the idea of that first person doing it as viable. Now, what does it have to do with you? You can apply the line of credibility to yourself to discover when a certain goal is possible to achieve and when it’s probably too ambitious. And let’s be realistic here: some goals will be too ambitious for you. I have absolutely zero talent when it comes to creating art. Becoming the greatest painter in the world is an impossible goal for me and no amount of self-help bromides will change this fact. How do you establish your own line of credibility? Ask yourself if you have any experience in the field of your life that you’d like to change. The more experience you have, the more ambitious you can get with your goals. If you have little to no experience, it pays to be more conservative and wait with big goals until you’re more competent. Examples: 1. You’re 50+ pounds overweight and you have no idea how to eat healthy or exercise. In addition to that, you’ve never exhibited much willpower in any area of your life. Looking at it realistically, a goal to lose 50 pounds within three months is below your line of credibility (sorry to have to use “tough love”). Losing 50 pounds within a year? Now we’re leaving the magical realm and entering the real world. What if you know the theory behind losing weight and are able to exert willpower in other areas of your life? Then perhaps you can be a bit more ambitious with your goals, aiming to lose 50 pounds within 6-9 months. 2. You’ve had some success in the business world and exceeded six figures in yearly profit. Now you’d like to double your numbers within a year. You’re already among the top earners, have experience and a profitable business, so your goal is above your line of credibility and you have a fair chance of success. What if you’re yet to start a business, have no business experience, and set a goal to earn in the mid-six figures in yearly profit within 12 months? Better reassess your capabilities. You can by all means reach this goal, but your timeframe is unrealistic by all standards. 3. You’ve never tried learning any foreign languages. Forget about ambitious goals like fluency within 3 months. Instead, set a more reasonable goal to develop basic communication skills within 3 months. If you already speak another language and want to learn a third one that is similar to the one you already speak, then three months to fluency might be possible. To explain it a bit better, I’ll share with you two personal stories that will better portray the difference between realistic goals and those that are too ambitious. In preparation for a trip to an Arabic-speaking country, I set a goal to be able to carry on simple, everyday conversations in Arabic within six weeks. While I did have experience with learning languages, I had never tried learning a language with another script that was so far removed from what I had already known. I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for. I failed to reach this goal because it was too ambitious. I set my goal prior to gaining any working knowledge about the reality of learning Arabic. In other words, it was below my line of credibility. Now let’s compare that with a completely different goal. In 2016, I promised myself that I would try skydiving. While I had absolutely zero experience jumping off airplanes, I had experience with stepping far outside of my comfort zone. I suffered from a fear of heights, but had been slowly accustoming myself to heights by hiking in the mountains and rock climbing. I accomplished my goal and did the static rope jumps (meaning solo jumps, without an instructor strapped to me). That might not have been the case if I hadn’t had worked on overcoming my fear of heights prior to skydiving. Can you imagine a person who’s paralyzed by fear 30 feet, or 10 meters above the ground jumping off an airplane several thousand feet higher? For such a person, even flying in a claustrophobic, rattling airplane (with its open doors clearly displaying the horrifying drop) would be far below their line of credibility. Now, this is not an exact science and won’t always apply as easily to less quantifiable or unquantifiable goals, such as saving your marriage, becoming a great parent, or moving to a foreign country. Still, it can be of help to figure out whether you’re realistic or too ambitious with some of the most common goals like losing weight, building a business or learning a specific skill. Ask yourself if you have any resources at your disposal (experience, connections, etc.) that make it more realistic to achieve a given goal than it would be for an average person. If not, stay on the safe side and set more manageable goals. How to Find the Right Motivation I’ve written extensively about how to find the right motivation in my other books, but the strategy wouldn’t be complete without covering this topic again. The following subchapter is partly adapted from my other works, where I discuss the same concepts. The most essential thing you need to know about motivation is that there are three types of motivation. Each comes from a different source and provides a different strength of motivational effect. Let’s start with the first, weakest type of motivation. 1. Extrinsic Motivation You might have started your diet because you wanted to have a flat stomach that you could show off at the beach. Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur because of the status associated with being a CEO of your company, running a startup, or mingling with the powerful and wealthy. Or maybe you want to change your career to a more lucrative one, purely because you love seeing bigger and bigger numbers in your bank account. All these things are a manifestation of extrinsic (or external) motivation. Psychologists Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci define extrinsic motivation as “a construct that pertains whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome.”2 In other words, when you’re doing something primarily because you want to get a reward (often tangible), you’re extrinsically motivated. You’re also extrinsically motivated when the desired outcome is to avoid some form of punishment. Grades in school are a form of extrinsic motivation — you either become motivated positively by good grades (you want to get more of them) or negatively by bad grades (you want to get fewer of them). You can easily find out if you’re being extrinsically motivated by asking yourself if you’d still work on a given goal if you were the last person on Earth. Would it still matter to you to drive a sports car? To have a lot of money? To have a flat stomach? If not, you’re most likely externally motivated. While extrinsic motivation is the most common type of motivation, it’s also the most fickle one. If the reward is gone or the danger of punishment goes away, the motivation goes away with it. Moreover, if the process of pursuing the goal becomes too challenging, your desire to, say, have a flat stomach might not be enough to persist in attaining it. That’s not to say that this type of motivation is useless or that it’s bad to be motivated partly by vanity. It can still have its place in your plan; just don’t make it the primary reason why you want to achieve your goals. 2. Intrinsic Motivation Maybe you started a diet because you wanted to get healthy and feel better about yourself. Perhaps you’re learning Mandarin Chinese because you love the challenge it poses. Or perhaps you want to become a great surfer because it’s simply a lot of fun. This is intrinsic motivation. It’s stronger than extrinsic motivation because it comes from within you, and is not dependent on an external reward or punishment. Psychologists Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci define intrinsic motivation as “the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence. When intrinsically motivated, a person is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external prods, pressures, or rewards.”3 Intrinsic motivation is fueled by what you feel inside. It can be a feeling of fun, a desire to overcome a challenge or improve yourself, or the need for independence and control. Intrinsic motivation is the most common type of motivation, and absolutely has to be a part of your reason why. If possible, you should enjoy working on your goal, even if it’s difficult and comes with its share of sweat, pain, and tears. British billionaire Richard Branson once said, “My golden rule for business and life is: We should all enjoy what we do and do what we enjoy.”4 This is indeed one of the golden rules to follow. If you enjoy what you do, it’s easier to become good at it. And again, you don’t have to love every single part of the process. I most certainly don’t like everything about my self-publishing business, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still want to grow it and help people around the world improve themselves. Canadian-American billionaire Elon Musk often refers to his intrinsic motivation, also. He is motivated by challenges. In his words, “I think life on Earth must be about more than just solving problems… It’s got to be something inspiring, even if it is vicarious.” This inspiration, or a need to have a challenge in your life or make your wild vision a reality, is another good reason to work on your goal. Like Branson, Musk also believes in enjoyment: “People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.”5 Constant improvement is yet another type of intrinsic motivation that can keep you going for a lifetime. As Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) said, improvement has no bounds: “It’s clear there is a lot of room for improvement, there’s no inherent ceiling we’re hitting up on.”6 That’s what makes self-improvement such a good reason why: no matter how good you are at something, you can always become better at it. A word of caution regarding extrinsic and intrinsic motivation: Because of the overjustification effect, extrinsic motivators (such as money or prizes) can decrease a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task.7 The activity stops being about enjoyment, personal challenge, or self-growth, and becomes purely about what tangible things you can get from it. For instance, in certain sports, the performance of many professional athletes declines after signing a multimillion-dollar contract. Their “hunger” disappears overnight. For this reason, it’s of vital importance to prioritize intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation and be careful not to give too much weight to external rewards. When you compare intrinsic motivation (which is an endless source of inspiration) to extrinsic motivation, which is fleeting, it’s clear that intrinsic motivation will serve you longer and better. However, there’s one more way to strengthen your resolve and be unstoppable. It’s… 3. Prosocial Motivation If you want to grow your business because you want to support your family, you’re motivated prosocially, for the benefit of your loved ones. If you run a non-profit organization, you might be motivated by the need to help the needy, educate children, save the environment, or otherwise change the world for the better. It’s not about you; it’s about the others. In a paper on intrinsic motivation and prosocial behaviors, Adam Grant (professor and bestselling author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success) suggests that the desire to help others makes us go the extra mile.8 Prosocial behavior is more effective as a motivator than intrinsic motivation alone, but for the best results, you should combine both. In the author’s words, “Employees display higher levels of persistence, performance, and productivity when they experience prosocial and intrinsic motivations in tandem.” For instance, my strongest prosocial motivation to succeed in business was to make enough money to help my parents realize their lifetime dream of moving to the countryside. As teachers, they would never be able to afford buying a plot of land and building a house. Nothing in the world would have stopped me from helping them. My extrinsic motivators were never even ten percent as motivating as this goal. Even my powerful intrinsic motivator — a deeply felt necessity to be an entrepreneur — was still second to helping my parents, who have spent so many years taking care of me to ensure I would get everything I needed to succeed in life. Whatever or whoever you want to support, I can’t overemphasize the power of prosocial motivation. Think beyond yourself, and you’ll have one of the most powerful allies on your side. Tie These Motivations Together To have a strong reason why, I suggest tying all three types of motivation together to have multiple sources of inspiration to keep going. You can achieve your goals without a clear extrinsic or prosocial motivator, but intrinsic motivation is a must. Re-read your reason why periodically to remind yourself why you’re pursuing a given goal, particularly when you feel doubt. To give you an example of what a reason why can look like, here’s my personal reason why I want to drop my body fat percentage to below 10%: I want to drop my body fat percentage to below 10% because it will tremendously help me improve my climbing performance, thus making practicing my favorite activity even more enjoyable. Having a more chiseled physique will make me feel more motivated to maintain healthy habits. In addition to that, I want to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of my body. Consequently, I’ll enjoy a better sense of well-being overall, and that will translate to me being more positive. This will then positively affect my relationships and make for greater happiness, not only for me, but also for important people in my life. One of the most important values in my life is personal growth. Reaching this goal will help me develop more self-discipline, and that will make me a better person overall. Moreover, one of my personal rules is to always keep my word. If I never break a promise to anybody, I can’t break a promise to myself. Note that: 1. I don’t focus much on extrinsic motivation in my reason why. I generally don’t find it motivating to do something for the sake of showing off. I need an inner-oriented motivation that is tied to something important in my life — in this case, climbing. I had been struggling to stick to this particular goal (drop my body fat below 10%) until I came up with improved climbing performance as a primary reason why. 2. Even though my goal borders on vanity, I could still find numerous powerful motivators, including a prosocial reason for doing so. Since achieving any important goal in your life will likely make you happier and increase your life satisfaction, you can always count it as a prosocial motivator: a happy person makes other people happy. 3. I referred to one of the most important values in my life — growth — to motivate me to reach the goal. I need to be congruent with my personal philosophy, so referring to this important principle (as well as to my personal rule of always keeping my word) is another strong motivator. This is crucial, because as performance coach and bestselling author Tony Robbins points out in his book, Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny, “One of the strongest forces in the human personality is the drive to preserve the integrity of our own identity.9” Please be aware that while coming up with a powerful reason why is a strong aid in helping you reach your goals, it’s not infallible. Unlike some self-help authors, I won’t claim that a solid motivation is always enough to reach your objectives because it’s not. There are more factors at play, and we’ll cover them all in the rest of the book. When to Start Now you know how to set the right goals, how to prioritize them, and how to make sure they’re realistic enough for you. There are two questions that remain: when to start and how to start. Let’s start with the first question. This might sound like heresy in the self-help world, but sometimes there is a better time to start than now. The advice of “just do it” or “start now” is not always sensible. Whenever I choose a new goal to pursue, I ask myself these three questions before actually taking the first steps to make it a reality: 1. Will the current negative circumstances pose a big challenge for a newbie? More often than not, you probably won’t regret starting sooner than later. However, in some instances, waiting might be a more reasonable option. Here are some real-world examples: 1. If you want to learn how to invest in stock options, it might be a good idea to stay away from the market if it’s currently more volatile than it usually is. Even seasoned investors can have a hard time handling wild upswings and downswings, let alone complete beginners. It doesn’t mean you need to give up on the goal; just stick to investing in a demo account until the waters are safer for a newbie. 2. If you’re sick or injured, going on a diet is often not a good idea. Your body needs to recover. Creating a caloric deficit will put additional stress on you, thus prolonging the recovery and possibly making it even more difficult to stick to your new diet. Ask your doctor first before you decide to cut down on calories. 3. If you have too many responsibilities, deal with them first. Trying to, say, launch a new business while having dozens of existing obligations to attend to will be at best a half-hearted undertaking, and at worst, a complete waste of time. I understand you’re fired up to work on your new goal, but you’ll do better if you create better circumstances first. Now, please note that this rule applies to specific situations that can make it challenging for a newbie to start. This is not about waiting for the perfect circumstances. A skydiving instructor won’t let a newbie jump off an airplane if there’s a hurricane, but neither will he wait forever for ideal weather. Also, if there’s no way to create better circumstances, grit your teeth and try working on your goal anyway. 2. Have I slept on it? Many self-help gurus like to preach excitedly in their videos about how you should start it now, right away, with no thought on your part. I’ve found from my personal experience that it’s helpful to sleep on any new goal you have chosen, before taking action. First, the next morning you’ll probably see it from a slightly different perspective, which might give you better ideas on how to proceed. There will be more logic involved in your thought process and not be mostly from your emotional side. Second, if you’re not even half as fired up as you were the day before, chances are it was only a spur-of-the-moment idea that doesn’t lend itself to a long-term plan. It might sound like a good idea to give your notice on a whim and start your own company, particularly if you don’t have to support a family. However, the next day, when you realize you’ve yet to come up with a business idea, you might regret your premature resignation. That’s why you should never make any big decisions right away, regardless of what the gurus say. 3. Am I fine with the dark side of working on or accomplishing this goal? This is the final filter that you must apply to your decision-making process before committing to any goal. When you’re excited about setting a new goal and changing your life, it’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias, in which you exclusively seek information that confirms your beliefs, while rejecting alternative or contrary knowledge10. For instance, if you believe that genetically-modified organisms are the work of the devil, you’ll search exclusively for anti-GMO arguments. and discount every piece of information that goes against your beliefs. In goal setting, you might have a tendency to seek only the positives of reaching a certain goal. You imagine living in a luxurious mansion with perfect ocean vistas. You portray yourself as a CEO of a big foundation supporting children in need. You envision a perfect six-pack and women admiring you because of your great shape. You see yourself as an internationally-renowned musician or artist. You smile at the thought of working from a tropical beach, bragging about your new “office” on social media. But did you stop to research — and accept — that all of these accomplishments will require numerous (often extremely uncomfortable) changes and that reaching these objectives comes with a set of new problems? The goal of becoming a multimillionaire will most likely require you to dedicate your life to a business. Unlike being in a 9 to 5 job, your business is your baby. It will become one of the most important things in your life. Even if you go on vacation, you’ll still think about it or possibly need or want to continue working. Are you fine with this fact? Do you realize that when you finally become rich, some friends will envy your success and turn away from you? Are you prepared to deal with the dissonance between your wealthy lifestyle and the lifestyles of other people? If you want to achieve an ideal physique, are you aware that people who look like that have to pay a lot of attention to what they eat? Do you accept that you’ll no longer be able to eat your favorite treats whenever you feel like doing so? Do the benefits of having a perfect physique outweigh the inconvenience of paying close attention to your nutritional habits and potentially becoming a hindrance in your social life? If you want to become a bestselling author or musician, are you aware of the thousands of words you’ll have to write or the hundreds of songs you’ll have to record? Do you accept that as a musician, your life might be filled with touring the country for a few months each year, only to head back to the studio, record a new album and go on an another tour? Are you okay with the fact that in order to become a bestselling author, you’ll have to write on a daily basis, even if it’s the last thing you want to do? If you’re aware of all the negative aspects of the goal you’d like to achieve and you still want to continue, then you can be reasonably sure that you won’t give up soon after you encounter the first obstacle. But there’s one more action we need to discuss: taking real-world action after you complete all of the due diligence in preparing for it. 3 Steps to Get Started When I was conducting research for this book, one of the most common questions coming from readers was, “Exactly how do you start? One of my readers wanted to launch a location-independent business that would allow him to work (with a laptop and Internet connection) from anywhere in the world. It’s a common goal for many people in today’s hyper-connected world where, for many professions, it no longer matters where you do the work. Yet, he had no idea where to start. And he had every right to be confused; there’s so much information about his goal that it’s easy to get lost. This is just one example of a person who’s stuck in the “Start” stage of the Ultimate Focus Strategy. There are many more stories like that — of people who have a deep desire to get started, but are too confused as to how to actually do it. Here are some practical suggestions that will help you get started: 1. Should you have a different starting point? There’s no need to explain that the best way to start is to break your goal down into small steps and take it from there. However, before we discuss how to do that, it’s a good idea to consider whether it would be beneficial to accomplish a different goal before progressing to the goal you now have in your mind. Note that it doesn’t mean you have to change your entire strategy — it just means choosing a different starting point that will later on aid you in reaching your ultimate objective. For example, while lead climbing is the “purest” form of rock climbing (you carry the rope with you and clip it to each quickdraw along the way, risking a relatively long fall), a newbie would do better by learning how to top rope climb first (a safer way of climbing in which a rope is secured above the route and falls are short), develop basic climbing skills, and only get started with lead climbing once they can safely top rope various types of climbing routes with good technique. It might be tempting to start right away with the most exciting form of climbing, but a more intelligent and safer choice would be to focus on an easier goal of learning how to top rope climb properly first, and then progress to the harder variation. If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest, you wouldn’t start with a trip to the Himalayas, either. Obviously, you would have the ultimate goal in your head, but you’d start with easier expeditions first. If you had zero experience with mountaineering, you’d begin by simply hiking in the mountains. Likewise, if you wanted to build an eco-friendly, sustainable, off-the-grid house, you wouldn’t immediately rush to Home Depot and start constructing the house. You’d set a goal to gain basic knowledge on how to build a house, perhaps enroll in a workshop about eco-friendly house construction, assist with a few projects, and then — equipped with the right knowledge — start working on your original goal of actually building your house. At the moment that I’m writing this book, I’m also working on a goal of planting a small forest. I didn’t start by buying hundreds of saplings and planting them randomly on a barren plot of land. I set a goal to first educate myself about forestry, and only then — after equipping myself with sufficient theoretical knowledge — embark on the actual journey of designing, planting, and helping the forest grow. Think deeply about your starting point, and only take it from there once you’re sure it’s the most optimal first step for you. 2. Strip it down If you’re starting out with a new goal, you might be confused as to how to begin, especially when you discover there’s a multitude of different approaches you can take. “Paralysis from analysis” ensues and, instead of getting started, you get stuck, unsure about how to begin. Whenever I set a new goal, I try to strip it down to the one most important piece of advice, action, habit, or skill that is necessary to make it a reality. It’s easy to figure out the common theme if you spend a few hours reading articles dedicated to the subject or addressing good questions to people who know what you need to know from having made the journey themselves. For instance, if you’re new to climbing and start reading articles about how to become a rock climber, you’ll quickly notice that the number one tip (aside from climbing a lot) is to pay attention to your legs. Therefore, there’s your first step: go to the climbing gym and focus as much as you can on using your legs instead of your hands. You don’t even have to learn how to belay. Just go bouldering, so you don’t use your need to have a climbing partner as an excuse. If you want to become a great writer, it all comes down to reading and writing a lot. You can enroll in a writing workshop, read books about writing and do all kinds of writing exercises, but for the purposes of getting started, simply writing something — anything — is the best way forward. If you want to build a business, you can spend several lifetimes reading business books and researching potential business models. And while there is substance in making sure you choose the right business model for you, if you have little to no experience with entrepreneurship, your first step should be to sell something — anything — just to get a taste of how making money on your own feels. The purpose here is to figure out one simple action you can take right now and do it, instead of wasting days or weeks trying to figure out the most appropriate approach. Once you take the first steps, momentum will take care of the rest. If you find yourself in need of changing the strategy, it will be easier to readjust with freshly-gained real-world experience than if you were still stuck, researching theory. 3. Get support One of the most common reasons why people don’t get started on their personal goals is because they don’t have external pressure and/or guidance. If you start learning a foreign language by taking a class with a native speaker, you can’t make an excuse that you don’t know where to start; just follow your teacher’s instructions. On the other hand, if you try to figure it out by yourself, you easily might never start, because of being overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge you need to acquire. If you can’t afford to hire a teacher, join online forums dedicated to the goals you’d like to achieve. It can be a fitness forum, a forum for entrepreneurs, a forum about parenting, a forum for travelers, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, but if you decide to ask for it, vow to take action when a credible forum member replies to you, instead of replying with a “yes, but” and a list of excuses. If you’re so lucky as to have a person who has achieved the goal you want to achieve in your social circle, have a coffee with them and ask them to tell you how to start. Once you’re given a set of instructions, don’t question them — follow them. There’s no reason to dilly-dally if you have obtained a map directly from a person who’s been on the same journey. How to Transform Goals on Paper into Real-World Actions You’re the type of a person who loves to envision their perfect future. In fact, you’re addicted to it. You have dozens of goals, each described in great detail. You know exactly what kind of a supercar you’d like to drive, or how big your biceps will be when you finally gain 20 pounds of muscle. How fluent you’ll be in that foreign language. How great a parent you’ll be when you finally find more time for your children. Which exotic locales you’ll visit when you save enough money for a trip. The problem is, you know in perfect detail what you’d like to have in your life, but not how to translate your wishes into real-world actions. How do you break out of this vicious cycle? The primary reason why people can’t escape it is because dreaming big goals feels good, but actually working on them is overwhelming. You with a perfect six-pack abs? Sure, sounds awesome. You paying attention to your diet every single day for the rest of your life? No, thanks, I’d rather keep dreaming about it. The best way to handle this problem is to focus on tiny steps and tiny wins. As a rock climber, whenever I climb a high wall, I avoid looking down or looking all the way up. I limit my vision to the nearest footholds, handholds and the next piece of protection where I can clip in the quickdraw and rope. This enables me to focus on what’s important right now, instead of worrying I won’t reach the top or how far I am from the ground. One move after another, I slowly climb the wall — often despite paralyzing fear. In goal setting, you can use the exact same approach. If you want to learn Spanish, don’t think about how long it will take you to reach proficiency. That’s irrelevant for now. You’re not right near the top of the wall — you’re at its bottom. The handholds, footholds, and quickdraws (words, grammar rules, pronunciation rules, etc.) that you need right now are right around you. Use them and slowly ascend, instead of looking all the way up and becoming discouraged that there’s still such a long way to go. If you want to write a book, focus on the words you have on the page right here, right now. All writers suffer from time to time from the syndrome of looking all the way up — fantasizing about finally finishing the book or staring at a blank page and worrying that there’s still so much to write, they’ll never be done with it. If they just focused on their daily word quota — be it 100 words, 500 words, 1000 words or more — they would slowly get closer to their goal, just like a climber on a wall. If you want to make better financial decisions and achieve financial independence, this is not about how many dollars you still need to achieve your number. It’s about what you do today, right here, right now. It’s about producing more than you consume and saving and investing the rest. It’s about not buying that new widget that you don’t need. It’s about educating yourself today — even if it’s a short article about the fundamentals of investing — rather than calculating that it will take you 37.5 years to save your first million. To fuel your motivation when taking tiny steps, set tiny wins. In climbing, a tiny win can be clipping your rope into the next quickdraw or grabbing the next handhold (even if you fall a second later). I’ve been working on some routes in my climbing gym for weeks, and sometimes even months. A tiny win for me can even be when I climb a part of such a route more efficiently than I did before, even if I fall in the same exact spot. In learning languages, a tiny win can be successfully putting together a grammatically correct sentence. In learning how to play the guitar, it can be learning to play a new song or just a short part of it. In finances, you might count surpassing $50 or $100 in savings (or eliminating $50 or $100 in personal debt) as a tiny win. If you have a dream to start a non-profit organization, a tiny win can be having a meeting with one person who might help you make your idea a reality. It doesn’t have to be anything big. We’re talking about tiny wins that you can have on a daily or weekly basis. Ensure that you always win, even if the win is so tiny that others can only see it with a microscope. A feeling of triumph, regardless of how small it is, will keep you scaling that wall all the way up because, in essence, success is all about gaining and maintaining momentum. Doubts and Fears You Might Have at This Point Below I’m going to cover some of the most common doubts and fears you might have at this point and give you practical advice on how to handle them. 1. How to balance several goals at once In an ideal world, you’d be able to choose just one or two main goals to pursue and push any other goals to the side. You’d work on them only when you had some spare time and energy. However, not everyone has such a luxury. One of my readers is in a doctoral program to advance her career. She has two teenage children and a husband with whom she would like to spend more time. She would also like to get more involved with her church, spend more time with friends, and play more sports. Moreover, she’s 50+ pounds overweight and needs to do something about it. Where do you start in such a situation? Should she really ignore her weight gain until she finishes her doctorate or ignore her family to get more involved with her church? In the case of this particular reader, I need to be frank: her list of goals is too long. While the Ultimate Focus Strategy can work with multiple goals, there’s always a trade-off and it will take you more time to reach all of your goals than if you were to limit your focus to just one, two, or (in a pinch) three goals. Let’s imagine that you need to work on multiple goals at once. First, try to prioritize which goals are more important than others, even if they’re only slightly more important. For instance, in the case of the reader in a doctoral program, her primary goals might be finishing her doctorate, spending more time with her family and losing excess weight (this one can be coupled with playing more sports). Putting off her goal of getting more involved with her church and spending more time with friends until she finishes her doctoral program is a trade-off, but it’s better than spreading herself so thin that she probably wouldn’t be able to make good progress with any of the goals. As we’ve already discussed, health and relationships should go first because once lost, they can be hard or impossible to recover. This means that her family and losing weight should be slightly higher in her hierarchy than her doctoral program. Therefore, when implementing the next steps of the Ultimate Focus Strategy, she would apply them first to her family time and losing weight. Please note it doesn’t mean she’ll fail with her doctoral program; it just means that when forced to sacrifice something, she’d be okay with choosing her family and health over her career. According to those priorities, whenever hard-pressed for time, her most important tasks for the day would include doing at least one action to spend time with her family and take care of her health, even at the expense of failing an exam. Next, try to figure out a way to work on several goals at once. Find a common ground for all of them if possible, or at least a way to make them work together in harmony. For instance, she can spend more time with her family and lose weight. She can even play more sports or hang out with her friends by doing things like: - A monthly one-day hiking trip with family and friends. It accomplishes all things at once except for working on her doctoral program, which (in this example) is her secondary focus anyway. If it were her primary focus, though, she could ask herself if there’s any way in which she can involve her family to help her finish her doctoral program. - Practice sports with her friends, spouse or even the entire family. She can play tennis with her husband, take her kids to a climbing gym, or go for a walk with a friend. All these activities will also help her lose weight. She can also review material for exams while on a treadmill or a stationary bike. - Take healthy-cooking classes, in which she’ll get to spend time with her family and also learn how to cook meals that will help her lose weight. Then, when she’s actually cooking the meals in her kitchen, she can listen to recorded audio notes regarding her doctoral subjects. Granted, it will require more creativity on your part to combine these different areas of life and still progress with your primary goal, but it can be done. However, the more narrow your focus is, the more effective the strategy will be, so if you can, put off some less important goals while you focus on what matters the most right now. 2. I’m afraid of failure A common problem I often see among people who hesitate to get started is that they’re afraid of failure. What’s interesting about this is that most children don’t suffer from this fear. They get started, they fail, and they try again, whereas an adult will carefully consider whether they can do something or not. In addition to that, if there’s a risk that they’ll make fools out of themselves because of a potential failure, they won’t even try. I don’t need to tell you that failure is a part of success, do I? You’re deeply aware of it, yet you still feel the fear. I’d love to eliminate it for you just by writing some powerful, empowering words, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The only way to deal with a fear of failure is to repeatedly expose yourself to failure so you can get used to it and lose your fear of it. I used to be an extremely shy person, particularly among women. There was no way I would talk with an attractive female unless I was forced to do so — and even then, I tried to come up with a solution that wouldn’t involve me talking with her. This particular fear was nothing else but a way of protecting my ego from a hurtful rejection. When I set a goal to overcome my shyness, I deliberately invited failure into my life by approaching as many attractive women as I could. As you can imagine, there was no way an awkward shy guy could successfully flirt with every single female. After surviving numerous rejections, I realized I was no longer afraid of rejection and failure. Why don’t you go and deliberately fail like I did? Allow yourself to start learning something new and be willing to suck at it. I strongly suggest making a fool of yourself periodically, and deliberately making yourself vulnerable by doing things such as the following: 1. Not being afraid of asking a question — even if you think it’s stupid — when learning something new. When I was taking a skydiving course, I wasn’t afraid of asking the most basic questions if I wasn’t sure about the answer. It was my life on the line, and I’d rather be considered a fool than find myself hitting the ground at 122 miles (or 195 kilometers) per hour. 2. Embracing and acknowledging awkwardness. It happens to all of us. You say something stupid. You don’t observe a local custom in a foreign country. You mistake a stranger for a friend. You find yourself staring at an exotic meal, unsure of how to eat it. Embrace all of these situations. Acknowledge you’ve made a mistake or don’t know what to do. 3. Not taking yourself too seriously. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Be a good sport when others play a prank on you. Don’t take everything that other people say personally. They just might be having a bad day or they don’t mean it the way you take it. 4. Trying things (particularly in sports) that are outside of your abilities, just so you can fall on your butt, get back up, and try again, just to fall again. There’s something grounding (pun intended) in falling on your rear end. You can’t hide the fact that you’ve just fallen. It builds humility, and humility is a part of success. Go and fail now. A repeated exposure to failure will diminish your emotional response to it in all areas of life, making you a more resilient and persistent individual. 3. I’m afraid of success As strange as it sounds, people are often unconsciously afraid of success, and that makes them not only hesitate to start, but also to sabotage their efforts. Fear of success is in essence a fear of changing the status quo. You know who you are now, and even if you’re battling with problems, at least these are known problems. As they say, a known devil is better than an unknown angel. Getting started on a new goal is scary because you’re leaving your safe and comfortable surroundings and venturing into the world of unknowns. How will you look when you finally lose weight? Will your personality change because of it? Will people judge you? What will happen if you launch a successful business and no longer have to work for somebody else? How will it affect you, your family, and your friends? Will they support you or turn their backs on you, envious of your success? What will happen if your foundation is discovered by a well-known journalist and suddenly you have dozens of interviews to give and thousands of donations to process? How will you perform as a president of your organization then? Will you be able to distribute the money in the best way possible? What are you going to do if your screenplay attracts the attention of an internationally-recognized director and your work will have a chance to become the next big Hollywood production? Will you be able to handle the fame that comes with it? Will you be able to handle all of the complicated legal issues? Will the movie turn out as you hope it will? All of these doubts and fears are valid, but they’re not a good enough reason to stop working on your goals. Success — just like failure — is something you must accustom yourself to, and that can only happen when you have the real-world experience of it. Imagine yourself standing in front of a hanging bridge. You take the first step and feel the bridge slightly swaying. You take a few more steps and slowly get used to the rhythm in which the bridge moves from one side to another. Each step brings you closer to your destination. You gradually get the hang of walking on the suspension bridge, but making just a single step doesn’t turn you into a person who is completely capable of crossing the bridge with no fear. It’s the sum of those steps, and their cumulative effect on you as you progress through that part of the journey. In goal setting, a personal transformation also happens gradually. There’s no need to be afraid that one day you’ll wake up a completely different person and you won’t recognize yourself. All of the changes will happen slowly, on a day-to-day basis, and you’ll have plenty of time to say goodbye to the “known devil” of your status quo and welcome the “unknown angel” of positive changes. Next Steps Okay, you’ve discovered your most important goal or goals and you know how to start. Time to take a seat and wait for them to materialize with no further action on your part. Just kidding. Don’t fool yourself that finding the right goal will be enough. Deeply caring about your goal is a must, but it doesn’t automatically guarantee that you’ll achieve success. For many years, my primary goal in life was building a profitable business. I couldn’t imagine myself as an employee. I would do everything and anything so I didn’t have to have a regular job. I had the first step of the strategy, “Start” covered. I cared deeply about this objective and took the first steps. Still, despite caring so much about my goal, I wasted most of those years essentially going in circles. When I adopted the next step in the Ultimate Focus Strategy, everything changed within two years. What did I do? Here’s where the next step comes into play… STEP 1 — START: QUICK RECAP 1. The first step starts with the most important characteristic of the Ultimate Focus Strategy: you need to have as few goals as possible, so you can develop powerful focus instead of spreading yourself thin. Sacrificing less-important goals will give you more power to work on the most crucial objectives. 2. When choosing a goal for the Ultimate Focus Strategy, make sure it’s something that can transform your life. If you absolutely need it in your life, you won’t be able to give up. 3. Unsure about which goals you should pursue? Flip a coin. You’ll know which goal is closer to your heart because you’ll root for it. A second technique is to think about your most important values and think whether your goal is related to them. Lastly, if you exhibit unusual patience for a given goal, it’s probably something that you absolutely need to achieve in your life. 4. It’s good to be ambitious, but if you have absolutely no idea about how to accomplish a given goal, start small and adjust your goals when you acquire real-world knowledge. If you already have some resources at your disposal (such as some experience) that give you more credibility, feel free to set bigger goals. 5. There are three types of motivation: extrinsic (relying on external rewards/punishments); intrinsic (relying on internal rewards); and prosocial (relying on thinking beyond yourself). Intrinsic motivation is a must. Prosocial motivation can further boost your resolve. Extrinsic motivation is the weakest of the three types and isn’t really necessary to accomplish your goal, although it’s still good to have all three kinds of motivators working for you. 6. Think carefully about when to start. Sometimes the negative circumstances can pose too big of a challenge for a newbie and it’s better to wait. For example, don’t invest your money in the stock market if it’s been too volatile recently. In addition to that, sleep on your idea of setting a given goal to see how you feel about it when you’re not that excited. Lastly, make sure that you’re aware of the dark side of working and reaching your goal and ask yourself if you’re okay with it. 7. Before you get started with your goal, consider whether accomplishing another objective would be better to help you reach your ultimate goal. You can often benefit from setting a different, easier starting point. To start working on your goal, figure out the simplest, most essential action to take. Last but not least, get support that will help you to avoid procrastination and make excuses. 8. If you have a tendency to dream on paper, but you never take action to make your dreams a reality, embrace the tiny steps and tiny wins approach. Instead of obsessing about the final outcome and all of the steps that are needed to reach it, tune out everything around you but the tiniest action steps you can take now that will get you closer to the nearest tiny wins. Focus on building momentum to get yourself out of inaction. 9. If you’re struggling to balance several goals at once, prioritize them, so you always know which goals you can sacrifice and which ones are non-negotiable. In addition to that, try to combine working on several goals simultaneously, if possible. 10. You’ll handle a fear of failure if you stop avoiding failure. Deliberately put yourself in situations when you’re likely to fail, so you can get used to the feeling and realize it’s not a big deal. 11. If you have a fear of success, realize that change will happen gradually. You’ll be able to notice changes and get used to them as they happen. Chapter 3: Step 2 — Focus Now that we have covered the first step, we can concentrate on the essence of the strategy itself: focus. It’s the most critical component of the UFS and the reason why (after years of going in circles) I finally built a successful business. The overarching idea of the second step is to choose and stay on one path until you reach your destination. No matter how shiny the things on either side of your path may be, you can’t deviate from it. In the end, it’s plain old “trudging on” that will take you to the top of the mountain, not venturing into the bushes to explore all of the possible shortcuts (that rarely exist, anyway). A professional athlete won’t achieve excellence if they keep changing their coach on a monthly basis. It might take them a few tries to find the right mentor, but once they find them, a relationship that produces world-class results lasts years or decades. A person who wants to start a family won’t achieve their goal if they keep frequenting casual dating sites instead of dedicating themselves to getting to know one person better. Of course, they need to meet new people to set up the dates, but at some point, they need to focus on just one person. Dating apps can only take you so far. An entrepreneur won’t build a successful business if they keep writing down business ideas, but never turn them into real-world companies. And while it does take some stumbling and several attempts to find a business that has potential, eventually they have to dedicate themselves to just one venture. A person who wants to get fit won’t lose weight or improve their physique if they keep changing their diets or workout plans every week. They might need a few weeks to find a diet or workout plan that fits their lifestyle and unique situation, but once they discover it, it’s plain old persistence, all the way. Let’s go beyond general ideas and illustrate this step with several examples from my life. In business, the key to success isn’t launching one company after another. If you keep starting businesses, but never dedicate yourself to making one of them as big as possible, you’ll just end up with a bunch of projects taking up all of your time in exchange for little to no financial reward. You don’t get a half of a financial reward for a half-finished project — you get a big fat zero. Successful entrepreneurs become successful because they become experts about their products, services, niche or industry and dig as deep as necessary to find the gold they’re looking for. And most importantly — they finish what they start. I wasted six years of my life launching one project after another without ever fully committing myself to any of them. I could never launch anything successful because I never dedicated myself to any of those businesses in the long term. I felt they were full-blown businesses, but they were nothing but half-finished projects. Everything changed when I decided to launch a new business with a different mindset. Instead of adding another little project to my portfolio, I decided to build an actual company. In the end, I wasn’t the right person to run that business, so I sold it for a small amount of money, which made it my first successful business exit. Equipped with a new mindset, I launched my next venture — a self-publishing company — and it became wildly successful. The difference? Encouraged by my previous small success, I vowed to not launch another company until I made this one work — and it has made all the difference in the world. Several bestsellers later, I’m still here, going strong and growing my business, as I should have done with every single business before it. To illustrate the importance of focus with another story of mine, let’s talk about achieving fitness goals. This happened before I consciously started applying the Ultimate Focus Strategy in my life. In retrospect, though, it’s a perfect example of following it. When I was 21, I was more than 30 pounds overweight. I had been slowly gaining weight over the years, due to a bad diet. It took me a long time to realize that if I had stayed on this path, I would have ended up morbidly obese. But when the fact finally dawned on me, I wasted no time. I stumbled upon the Slow-Carb Diet (developed by bestselling author Tim Ferriss and described in his book The 4-Hour Body11) and went all in by following its guidelines to a T. Instead of switching my diet every month like so many dieters do, I stuck to one eating pattern and lost all excess weight within 3 months. Other lifestyle changes soon followed. I never went back to my old physique. Let’s talk about one last example from a completely different area of life — self-confidence. I suffered from extreme shyness until I was about 20. One day I realized that I couldn’t go on like that. I had to double down on this problem and put myself through an extreme therapy. I gave myself a challenge — within the next three months I would strike up 50 conversations with beautiful women. And to make it even harder, I would approach them all on the street in the middle of the day. I was going all in. To this day, I remember the paralyzing fear I had before my first approach. I knew logically that nothing bad would happen, but my body felt like it was ready to die, because of all the adrenaline that was circulating in my system. Despite this fear, I managed to act, and it forever changed my life (I even got a phone number, though nothing came out of it). The next conversation was easier to begin. Soon, my shyness evaporated and I was able to talk with every stranger — including beautiful women — with no anxiety. In each of the stories I’ve just shared with you, the common denominator was staying faithful to one single effective strategy (and usually a simple one, at that). This is often boring, but absolutely paramount to achieve results quickly. Now that you understand the importance of sticking to one path, but before you start following it, you need to know how to actually find it. Let’s talk about that. How to Find the Right Path to Follow Following a proven path will eventually take you where you want to go. However, first you need to find it, and here’s where the second step begins. There’s a simple process you can follow to test different courses of action. By following this process of testing, you’ll quickly dedicate yourself to the right path instead of getting stuck in an endless loop of testing one wrong strategy after another. Here are the steps: 1. Do your homework Start with doing your homework and researching various strategies that can help you achieve your goal. It can be reading about the ten most popular diets, exploring some of the most common workout plans, learning about the most fundamental business models, or reading summaries of the biggest bestsellers about the topic you want to master. The key here is to look for what’s proven to work. A breakout strategy is often nothing else but gimmicky marketing. Beware of any “revolutionary” claims. Aim for “tried and true.” As an example, if you want to build a successful business, stay away from any sites that describe shady “make money online” schemes and instead read books by renowned entrepreneurs or legitimate websites for entrepreneurs like Forbes. If you want to educate yourself about investing, don’t delude yourself that there exists a robot that will generate 500% monthly ROI for you. Instead, grab some books by the most knowledgeable investors with a proven track record or visit Investopedia. If you need to lower your blood pressure, don’t fall victim to exotic plants and “miracle” supplements that can supposedly bring your blood pressure back down to healthy levels within a few weeks. Listen to science, not outrageous claims invented by marketers. If you want to learn a foreign language, don’t delude yourself by thinking that this new incredible language learning software will make you a fluent speaker in a week. Instead, stick to what’s been working for people for centuries — actually talking with native speakers and learning directly from using the language in real life as often as possible. Some exceptions do exist. New strategies, business models, diets, workout plans, apps, theories, etc. appear regularly. However, it’s difficult to weed them out if you don’t know much about the goal you want to achieve. For now, it’s easier to follow a proven path and readjust later, if needed. 2. Eliminate Next, eliminate every strategy that doesn’t sound sustainable, especially when considering your own unique situation. Think of your limitations, preferences, past experiences, etc. For instance, if I had to lose weight again, I would discard every diet that recommends a low-fat approach because many of my staple, healthy, high-protein meals contain fat. Moreover, I know from experience that I don’t function well on a diet low in dietary fat. If you were looking for a business to start but you don’t understand, don’t use, and don’t care about mobile apps, you would ignore every business idea related to that domain. On the other hand, if you were into technology, this could be one of the primary possible strategies for you. Be ruthless here. If your gut is telling you that a certain strategy won’t work for you because it doesn’t play off of your strengths, discard it. However, don’t make the mistake of eliminating every single strategy just because they require some uncomfortable changes in your life. Rejecting every diet simply because they tell you that you need to eat less is not reasonable, because you’ll end up with zero strategies to test. However, rejecting a diet because it requires you to buy expensive supplements or meals that you can’t afford is a good move. 3. Research again Now that you have written down a few strategies, research them again in more detail and primarily pay attention to their cons and criticism. If you’re still interested in following them after hearing about their drawbacks, you’re most likely going to find them sustainable for you. Imagine having to deal with all the bad things on a daily basis for months or years. For instance, if you decide to consider a low-carb diet as one of the potential strategies you’ll focus on in order to get fit, can you really imagine yourself going months without eating foods high in carbohydrates like bananas, apples, rice, or whole-grain bread? If one of your possible business models is a software-as-a-service company and you’re not a programmer, will you really be able to sell effectively without knowing exactly how your software works? If you want to find a better job and one of your new possible career paths is business-to-business sales, are you aware of how long it can take to close a deal or how persistent you need to be with follow-ups to achieve anything? Can you imagine yourself chasing after CEOs day after day to try to sell them your product? You shouldn’t rush through this process. Investigate every strategy carefully and sort through them based on how suitable you think they’ll be for you. It takes time, but in the end, it greatly simplifies things because you’re getting rid of every strategy that has a high chance of failure for you. 4. Pick one strategy The next step is to pick one strategy that sounds best to you and stick to it for long enough to get some results. Exclusively sticking to one strategy for a period of at least a few weeks (or sometimes months, depending on how long you need to wait for the first results) is necessary, in order to judge whether it has the potential to be effective for you. If you’re lucky, the strategy will bear fruit and you’ll be able to commit to it in the long term. If not, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board and try another strategy. Don’t worry if it’s the latter; you won’t always get it right the first time. When do you know that you’ve found a strategy you should dedicate yourself to? Here are some pointers: 1. It starts producing results and those results can be maintained (for instance, losing a pound/half a kilogram per week) or grown further (for example, making $50 in the first month, $100 the next month, and so on) without altering the strategy. 2. You can generally stick to it on a daily basis and don’t mind its drawbacks very much (doing the same things over and over can get boring with time, but don’t confuse that with the permanent inability to sustain it). 3. You’re starting to see it as a normal part of your life instead of a burden you want to throw off your shoulders as quickly as possible (in other words, even if it’s hard, you still find it enjoyable or at least bearable). The biggest mistake you can make here is to look for a perfect strategy that will be easy to maintain, super enjoyable, and produce quick results. You’ll rarely, if ever, find such a strategy. We’re looking for the most optimal choice, but not for perfection. When do you know that you should change your strategy? Here are three indicators: 1. You don’t get any results or the results you get aren’t what you signed up for, despite following the strategy to a T, particularly if the results are nowhere near the average results a newbie can get with other approaches. Please note that you can’t judge the effectiveness of many strategies after only a few days. In most cases, it’s best to give a strategy an honest try for at least a few weeks. Example: you chose a diet that promised you would lose at least 5 pounds a month. In four weeks of following it you only lost 1 pound, even though your diet adherence was within 90-100%. This means that you should probably change your diet. Example #2: you chose a diet that promised you would lose weight slowly — 2 pounds a month. Four weeks later, you had indeed lost 2 pounds. When you decided to follow this strategy, you accepted that it’s a slow approach, so everything is fine here. Keep going. 2. You absolutely abhor following a given strategy on a daily basis. You wake up frustrated at the thought that you need to do the same things yet again. Make sure to differentiate between your temporary discomfort when making uncomfortable changes and the strategy actually not being a good fit for your personality. Example: your new business requires you to make dozens of phone calls a day. You squirm and sweat before making each call and you know that burnout is only a matter of time because you hate talking with people so much. On the other hand, if you were an extrovert and the calls would simply make you nervous, but then you’d greatly enjoy the actual conversation, this wouldn’t be a good indicator that the strategy is not for you. 3. You suffer from unexpected drawbacks of the strategy and you find them hard to sustain. Example: you started a body-building workout plan to get in shape. At first, you enjoyed all of the exercises, but then — despite using good form — some of the exercises gave you immense back pain that goes away only if you stop performing them. A visit to the doctor’s office reveals that your body is built in such a way that certain movements will always cause pain. It’s clear to see that it’s time to change your strategy, even if it’s otherwise effective for you. How to Overcome the Temptation to Deviate From Your Path As boring as staying on the same path can get, you can’t deviate from it if you want to reach your goal quickly. When I was in the early stages of building my self-publishing business, I wasn’t entertained all of the time. I didn’t always enjoy writing thousands upon thousands of words every single week. Despite the fact that I enjoy putting my thoughts on paper, I wasn’t always excited by the prospect of writing yet another page, yet another chapter, yet another book. But whether I was excited or not was irrelevant. What was important was my system of writing every single day and putting out books on a regular schedule. When I train in krav maga, an Israeli self-defense system, sometimes my instructor tells me to spin in a circle while looking down at my feet. Then he proceeds to attack me and I need to defend myself, with the entire world spinning around me. By doing so, we imitate how a real-world dangerous situation could pan out if I were hit in the face and needed to defend myself. This approach is the cornerstone of krav maga’s learning process: you deliberately put yourself in less than favorable circumstances while training, so you’re ready when such a situation unexpectedly occurs. This is not an enjoyable thing by any means, but it’s an effective training strategy. Your primary concern should be to build a sustainable process that you follow day in, day out. Imagine you’re just a cog in your system that makes everything run smoothly. Your primary focus is making the process work, not looking to it for entertainment. Whenever you feel tempted to change things before you achieve your goal, remind yourself about your priorities. If your current process works, don’t change it just because you feel bored. Despite what many self-help authors and coaches like to say, life isn’t always exciting, but if you “keep on trucking” even when you’re bored, you will achieve your most exhilarating goals. In addition, look for success stories about people like you who achieved success after following the same process. Reading “behind the scenes of success” stories regularly will help you imprint the belief that persistence and dedication do pay off, until your own success becomes fact. If you need external motivation to stick to the process, give a trusted friend a substantial amount of money (that you wouldn’t like to lose) and tell them that if you switch your strategy, they can spend it on whatever they like. Sometimes the perspective of losing something tangible and easily quantifiable is enough to tap into a powerful source of willpower. How to Overcome Everyday Distractions In today’s era of ubiquitous distractions, the ability to focus on one task at a time is crucial. Unfortunately, most (if not all) of us struggle with maintaining concentration. If your mind wanders all the time and you constantly switch from one task to another, consider it one of the most urgent challenges for you to overcome. There are several different ways that I’ve found effective to improve concentration, discard the habit of multi-tasking, ensure that your days are productive, and get you closer to reaching your most important goals. 1. Practice mindfulness Mindfulness, or concentrating your full awareness on the present moment, is one of the best exercises to improve your focus. Practicing it can be as simple as paying more attention when you do the dishes, drive, eat, drink, talk with people or play with a pet. For example, when you’re eating, try to focus entirely on the experience of eating instead of reading something on your phone or listening to music and mindlessly putting food in your mouth. Try to discern the different flavors, sense the texture, and smell your food. The goal is to become so consumed (pun intended) by the experience that — even if it’s for only 30 seconds — you don’t think about anything else but your meal. I know, it sounds esoteric and a little bit weird. However, give it a go once or twice and see what you can learn from the experience. More importantly, think how you can later apply this approach when trying to focus on the more important tasks. 2. Take up a high-focus sport Engaging in a high-focus sport is my favorite way to sharpen focus. I find it hands down the best way to improve your concentration in a fun, immersive way that later translates to other areas of life. At the time of writing this book, my two primary high-focus sports are rock climbing and krav maga, the aforementioned Israeli self-defense system. Both of these activities help me tune out the world around me and focus on only one objective, such as reaching the next hold, clipping a rope, punching the shield, or performing a technique properly. Virtually all kinds of sports can help you increase your concentration, but I find individual sports the best choice, simply because the outcome relies entirely on you and your ability to focus. If you don’t catch the ball, somebody else from your team can still save the situation. If you fail to clip your rope or defend yourself against a punch because you got distracted, you’ll be the one falling down or getting hit in the face. To train yourself to maintain focus, few ways are better than experiencing immediate, painful consequences from letting your mind wander. 3. Read and write Bestselling American writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”12 Indeed, reading and writing can be great forms of sharpening your focus. When you read — and I mean really read (not just glancing at the words while sitting in a noisy coffee shop) — you transport yourself to another world. Regularly reading in such a mindful way will help you calm down your “monkey mind” (in Buddhism, the constant chatter of the mind) and achieve more focus the next time you get distracted. Writing is another side of the same coin, but instead of immersing yourself in the world created by another person, you immerse yourself in the world created by yourself — regardless of whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, a non-fiction book, or a blog post. As with reading, the key is to tune out the world around you, tune in to the world inside of your mind, and focus on putting the words on the page. During some of my best writing sessions, I forget about the passage of time. Words, sentences and paragraphs become my sole focus — and that’s precisely what you need to practice awareness and improve your focus. 4. Be alive Speaking of writing and writers, American novelist William Saroyan once gave this advice to aspiring writers: “The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”13 This is another dimension of being mindful — engaging in every activity and emotion as fully as you can. Obviously, it’s not possible to do it 24/7. However, even if you remember it just once a day and try to engage with your entire self in whatever you’re doing, it will still help you become more focused. 5. Surround yourself with beauty Beauty — whether it’s beauty in human form, the arts, nature, or science — is captivating. If you’re hiking in the mountains and you see beautiful scenery, you can’t help but become mesmerized by the view. If you see an attractive person, you can’t take your eyes off of them. If you’re standing in front of a great piece of art, it captures all of your attention. Surrounding yourself with mesmerizing beauty is an excellent way to train yourself to single-focus. However, please resist the temptation to take hundreds of photos and never truly stop to take in the experience itself. 6. Travel Traveling — especially to a foreign country that is completely different from your own — requires you to deepen your focus. Everything is new, strange, and stimulating. Is there a better way to practice focus than by putting yourself in a situation that forces you to be present in the moment, all of the time? In addition to sharpening your focus, travel is a perfect way to expand your comfort zone, and consequently, to enjoy dramatic personal growth. When choosing a potential travel destination that would help you grow the most, think of unlikely vacation destinations. If you’re from the United States, London won’t likely be so different that you’ll be engaged all the time. However, i