My grandson entered my office and positioned a chair next to mine. “OK, Neenee, you need to quiz me on my spelling words.” He placed his spelling list in front of me and with a well-sharpened #2 pencil and pad of paper, plopped his bumper into the chair.
When Carson sleeps over on a school night, he knows a spelling word review is mandatory. Of course, he comes up with plenty of excuses to avoid the inevitable. It is no different with his math homework or anything else that requires he put forth effort and manage his attention.
Carson starts out with great intentions, but his focus becomes misdirected and he is unable to rein in his attention to focus on spelling words. He becomes a serial quitter who embraces a mindset that sets them up for failure.
Serial quitters have good intentions but lack the ability to block out distractions and stay on track. For my grandson, a few misspelled words cause him to lose focus of his task and he snaps into a defensive mode.
“I can’t do this…I am going to fail…this is too hard,” are common phrases of a serial quitter; they haven’t learned to control their impulses in view of the possible consequences and rewards. At the slightest distraction defeat is claimed and they are ready to move on to something else which eventually generates the same cognitive response as before: I quit!
As a business owner and entrepreneur, I am pulled in many directions with multiple tasks and projects going on at the same time. The desk in my office bears witness to the chaos that surrounds me and working from home brings added distractions. The following steps help me stay focused throughout the day. They have helped my grandson; perhaps they will help you as well.
I’m not talking about sitting on the floor with crossed legs and eyes closed while humming a chant. There are many ways to meditate; for me, I focus on a Bible scripture. Each morning starts with 15-30 minutes of alone time with God in prayer and thoughtful mediation to quiet my mind.
- Get Outdoors
Allow for 15 minutes of outdoor time each day. The wooded trails on my home property are a perfect retreat to connect with nature and renew my mind. To practice my focus skills, I count steps. When my mind starts to wander, I redirect my thoughts back to counting my stride.
- It’s a great exercise in training the mind to focus and center attention on just one thing. The more you do it, the more control you will have over daily attention drifts.
- Pace Yourself
I took piano lessons as a child and mom made me practice every day. The kitchen timer was set and I couldn’t get up from the piano bench until it went off. Mom knew that a specific time and place dedicated to practice was essential to my short-lived attention span, even if I didn’t.
There is a tendency to operate in auto pilot mode when multiple projects are on the agenda. We operate by rote until our attention is diverted to something else more pressing or fulfilling. It is easier to stay focused and avoid an auto pilot workday when you work in shorter, timed increments.
- Know When it’s OK to Quit and When it’s Not
The true treasure and value in life lies in choosing the right path, the right project, the right job or passion or religion. It’s OK to quit when you’ve made wrong choices; I quit piano lessons with no regrets. It became clear that piano was not the right path for me when I would sneak out from my lesson to move the kitchen timer forward to shorten my practice time.
To know when to switch directions is a key ingredient between being senseless and sensible in your decision to quit your commitment to a project or task. Obviously, to drop out of high school is not sensible but to stop playing sports because it infringes on your studies is a sensible consideration.
The next time life presents you with challenges and difficulties refrain from becoming a serial quitter. Consider the above techniques to help you block out distractions and stay focused on your goals. It is only when you take charge of your life with effort and determination that your potential to succeed is realized.