The Focus Imperative: The Life Raft With Which to Save Ourselves From a Sea of Distractions

How did I manage to earn a Black belt in Karate (training begun 4 years ago), start a successful minimalist blog, write a powerful ebook that has changed many lives already (The Radical Minimalist), written a 50,000-word novel in 18 days, started and ended a corporate career, painted over two dozen large, studio-quality paintings and read 70+ books, all in a span of less than 1 year?

Am I superhuman? A frenetic workaholic that doesn’t sleep, drinks too much coffee and is constantly on the go, iPhone always on and ready?

No. In fact, I enjoy peace and simplicity in my minimalist life.

Ironic? Strange yet fascinating? I need you to focus right here, right now, at what I’m about to say:

The difference between me and the average Joe is I have harnessed the incredible power of learning how to focus and drown out all distractions around me and within me and I’m going to teach you how to do the same too.

What This Is Not About

This post is not necessarily about goal-setting. Though it’s for a blog that is dedicated to goal-setting, my thoughts on it and methodology vary considerably, and it is only fair to you, as an intelligent and capable reader, to weigh all options before jumping upon one method as your surefire way to achieve all that you want to achieve.

What This Is About

This post is about focusing on what matters and eliminating all the rest.

The Focus Imperative

We need to focus now more than ever. Why is that?

Just listen and observe. During the few minutes you’ve spent reading this blog, your mind has probably wandered to all corners of your brain, scavenging for the forgotten tasks you were supposed to do, things to pick up at the grocery store tonight, the lunch meeting you need to schedule with your business partner, the phone calls you have to return, your kid’s football game this weekend, and the list goes on.

All the while, external distractions are calling for our finite attention. Incoming text messages and phone calls. Voicemails. New e-mails demanding a response. New tweets on your Twitter feed. Facebook messages. Coworkers stopping by to ask a pressing question. Your spouse and/or kids asking for your help.

It can get so demanding you may just want to throw your hands up and say, “Argh! I just want to be left alone!!”

Short of going crazy and pulling all your hair out, there are ways to focus, in the here and now.

4 Ways to Focus On What Matters:

1. Breathe.

Calm down and stop chasing every activity/hobby/endeavor that looks enticing. For now, focus simply on your breathing. One deep breath in. One deep breath out. If you can’t even focus on this vital act that is a necessary vehicle in order for you to receive oxygen, is it any wonder you cannot focus on anything else?

Realize your life is amazingly abundant, without your running around all the time, attending to everyone else’s needs but neglecting yourself all the while. Slow down and breathe.

2. Be in the present.

Right now is all that matters. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year.

Remember, tomorrow is never a promise made to us and next week is no guarantee. Live your life fully and as best as you can in the time that you have. Don’t fret about all your things you have to do on your massive To Do list.

In fact, rip your To Do list to shreds. You don’t need it and the world will not end if you don’t do everything that’s on that list. You will survive.

3. Let go and say no.

Let go of all those commitments which bring you no joy, happiness and value in your life.

Let go.

Do not feel guilty or pressured into doing something which you really do not want to anymore. Like that committee your coworkers are pressuring you about. Or that organization in your local school board. Or another pointless meeting at work which does not add any meaning to your current projects. It’s okay to say no.

4. Quit.

Quitting is not the same as giving up. These are two distinctly different endeavors.

Quitting means you are just re-prioritizing your attention and energy to what matters most. A habit or job which is destructive has got to go. Quit. Your life is a precious one that cannot be wasted on fruitless undertakings that don’t take you one step closer to living the full and extraordinary life you’ve always wanted for yourself.

Giving up means when the going gets tough, even though it’s part of your trials you must endure when working for something admirable and worthy (like your dreams and passions), you choose the comfortable route rather than the edgy one that will not feel comfortable (especially in the beginning) but which the rewards far outweigh any shortcomings and heartaches you may experience at the beginning.

Quit but never give up.

No One Holds You Back But Yourself

I’ve been told that people wish they can have the focus and determination that I have to live the incredible life I’m living. And I respond back to them, you can have an amazing life. Nothing’s stopping you and holding you back … nothing and no one but yourself.

Do not be your own worst enemy and critic. If you find you cannot focus right now, let it go and stop berating yourself. Take a calming walk outside. Take care of some laundry, do the dishes. Pick up a book and get lost within it. Make a nice, soothing cup of tea or invigorating cup of delicious coffee and be mindful when drinking it.

You are gifted in myriad ways. Go easy on yourself, at first, but don’t be lazy.

Focus. It is an imperative.

Nina Yau is the author of The Radical Minimalist and is the minimalist blogger at Castles in the Air. As a radical minimalist herself, Nina is leading a minimalist revolution in order to invoke positive change in our world. Follow Nina on Twitter.