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HOW TO FIND FOCUS, A CLEAR PATH AND USE THE SCIENCE TO MAXIMIZE YOUR PROFESSIONAL GOALS


Do you want to get results in your professional life this year?


Do you know that there is a lot that you want to accomplish, but you feel under pressure to know where to focus, to get the results that you want?


It’s the New Year and everyone is talking about goals and how to set them. Whether you're an avid believer in goals and New Year's resolutions, or whether you just prefer to avoid the hype at this time of year, either way, as a professional person, as a high achiever, you will want to progress this year – and let’s face it, the New Year is a good time to reflect and reset.


The whole year lies ahead. And this feels like a long time, but this is not your first rodeo. You've been here before. You know that you need to find clear focus and direction if you want to truly progress and be in a different place in your professional life in a year’s time.



So, how do you work out where to focus? How do you make the most of the next 12 months, under 52 weeks and less than 365 days and counting?


You need a clear strategy so you can make real progress accomplish what you set out to this year. This article shares with you the neuroscience-based tips and techniques that helped me, and I hope help you maximize your results.


Mapping out your clear direction

The first step is to stop and ask yourself: Where do you really want to be in one year's time. Don’t go further out than that. Where do you want to be in your professional life, in your career or in your business?


Then write down exactly what ‘future you’ is like in one year's time? What is your life like? What are you doing? Where do you live? What's the situation in your professional life or in your business? How is your health? How are your relationships? What is your financial situation? How do you think, how do you feel and how do you act? Take your time and be specific. Write it down.


The second step is to go over what you've written down and pick out up to four clear intentions or objectives. These 2 steps give you, ‘future you’, the clear direction in which you are headed.


Should you set goals?

Goals do give direction. But setting goals in themselves can be problematic.

Here is why:


  • The difference between those who succeed in something and those who don't is not their goal – their goals are usually the same. It is not the goals that make the difference. It is the underlying system that counts.

  • Once you reach your goal, what do you do next?

  • ·If you don't reach your goal, and then you feel like you’ve failed and tend to forget all the gains and progress that you made along the way.

  • Goals in themselves can be self-limiting. For example, if you set a goal to run a sub four-hour marathon, what happens if you could have run under three and a half hours?


Make sure when you set your clear intentions and objectives, that they give you a clear direction, but do not hold you back.


James Clear, the author of one of my favorite books says: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”


How to create a system and find focus:

These 3 questions will help you plan out your system to accomplish your clear intentions and objectives.


1. The 10 x question is extremely powerful: What will it take you to 10 X from your current situation? What do you need to do to 10 X from where you are currently?


This concept has been around a while and spoken about Dan Sullivan, Benjamin Hardy and Grant Cardon. But there is good reason for this. When you ask yourself what you need to do to 10 X from your current position, rather than asking ‘what do I need to do to improve?’, forces you to focus and find at least one clear and powerful path. When you are asking how to 10 X from where you are, there are limited options. But these limited options are the direct, clear, and powerful path to where you need to be.


When you do this, you may notice that this path is one that fills you with a little fear or anxiety. This is a good thing. Discomfort is where change really occurs, and where you feel the fear is usually where you need to focus most.


2. Look at your ‘future you’ and intentions. What needs to happen and when over the next year? What are the key milestones? Break them down into small steps. Be very specific. A year is not a long time, so what do you need to get done and by when? What will it take.


3. Taking step 1 and 2 into account, work out what new behavior/s you need to start undertaking daily. Get clear about it and get clear about it now.


Now you have a clear direction, you have a clear system, and you know what new behaviors you need to put in place. But come a few months’ time, how will you stay on track? How do you keep the focus?


These are my neuroscience-based tools to maximize your results:

Identity:

  • The most important factor at the deepest level of change is your identity. Your identity is what you are most committed to.

  • You need to start living in the identity of ‘future you’. You need to start being that identity now. Not when you think you’ll get there.

  • You need to live from that future identity, not sitting in the present, desperately wanting to become like that ‘future you’.

  • Start to think, feel, and act like ‘future you’ now. You want to lose weight? You need to start thinking, feeling, acting like somebody who makes healthy choices.


So, how are you going to rewire your brain so that you can start doing this? The best way is to tap into the visual system. We know that visualization is extremely powerful. In fact, repeating something through visualization is almost as powerful as actually practicing it and performing it.


E.g., pianists have been shown to visualize practicing repeatedly a very tricky passage. The following day, they wake up and their performance has improved. You can do the same and take charge of rewiring your neural circuits. You can rewire your identity and generate new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.



Visualization:

On as many days as you can, spend 5-10 minutes to briefly visualize what it would be like to be ‘future you’. When it comes to neuroscience, repetition is everything, so do this as often as you can. Picture what it would be like to be future you, how it would really feel: excitement, awe, love, joy, gratitude. Whatever elevated emotions you will feel as ‘future you’. When you visualize, really try to get into what it would be like to be future you as this energy is part of what you need to rewire your neural circuits.


As Joe Dispenza says: “Stop letting your familiar past becoming your predictable future.”


You have the power to choose to change. It just takes neuroplasticity, the repetition and working on it daily.


Begin to identify with ‘future you’ and live as future you now. Every day every action you take is either a vote for, or against future you, so make sure that you are casting your votes wisely.


Motivation and Dopamine

At the start of the year, it I easier to implement change and new behaviors when you feel geed up. But a month or two in and you know your motivation levels will begin to wane. So, what can you do about this? Harness dopamine:

  • Dopamine is the molecule of motivation. It keeps you in pursuit of your intentions and objectives.

  • Dopamine is present as a baseline level and then in intermittent peaks – from when we are rewarded through doing something.

  • After each peak your baseline will drop. This is important. You need to be careful of not having frequent high peaks.

  • An intermittent reward schedule is what works best – casinos use this to keep you playing at their tables or machines for longer. A dopamine rewards prediction error is when you do not get dopamine after taking an action you thought would reward you e.g., placing a bet. As you win intermittently, these random spikes are what keep you motivated to take action again and stay in pursuit.

  • Create your own intermittent reward schedule for the system that you are creating. Find ways to harness your dopamine to keep you in pursuit during the process, not just at the end.

  • Remember dopamine is subjective. What you choose to believe about something, or your mindset has a direct impact on your physiology and therefore on the outcomes in your life. So, if you choose to believe that the challenges and the failures that you are going to come across over the next year are good for you and that you're enjoying them it is going to help you maintain healthy levels of dopamine. Lean into those moments when you are feeling discomfort, when you're feeling fatigued, when you feel like you're going to quit and say “I am enjoying this because I know that this challenge means that I am changing. I know that this challenge means that I'm growing. I know that this challenge means that I am getting closer to my objectives.” Say, “I love doing this because it is good for me.”

When you do this, you allow boosts of dopamine intermittently during the process and this allows you to stay motivated through the year.


Selective attention:

Your brain is primed to see more of where you focus your attention and where you put your energy. If you want to build up resilience and help manage the failures and challenges that you are likely to face along the way, then you need to learn to use your selective attention and put your focus on your ‘gains’. You need to put the focus on the areas you are making progress.


Your brain focuses mostly on the gap, what you are lacking. And most high performers and achievers do this. This is because as are making progress, your gains quickly become your new normal, and you forget the gains that you made.


You must consciously decide to shift your attention and put it on where you are gaining. Because of selective attention you will see more gains. When you put your focus on what you're lacking, you will see more of what you are lacking. When you put your focus on the gains, you will see more gains and begin to experience more gains in your life.


I get my clients to write down once a week, 3 gains or 3 wins that they've had over the previous week. They then write this on a piece of paper and put it into a jar. Once a month, open the jar and see where you have made gains. You will see where you've had your wins, and this is a way of learning to put more attention on your gains.


Small changes matter

Small changes make an impact. Small changes are like compound interest. If you can get 1% better each day, by the end of the year, you will be 37 times better than when you first started.


The biggest mistake that I see people make is that they try to go too big too early and they blow out. Most Type-A personalities and high achievers want to feel like they are getting a lot done so really go for it early on. The problem is that it is difficult to maintain the creation of new behaviors that will be long lasting and allow you to be consistent enough to make real change in your life.


Try out Atomic Habits’ 2-minute rule. For any new behavior, start small and only do it for two minutes a day. And when that becomes easier, you can add on more to that behavior.


From the neuroscience point of view, what you really need is your new behavior or new task to be just challenging enough for you to require focus and attention, with perhaps a little strain and discomfort – this is needed for neuroplasticity. Focus, attention, and even perhaps mild agitation marks the cells for change.


3 questions to stay on track to your objectives

1) WIN. What’s important now? When you are sitting in a position that you're not quite sure what your next step should be. Ask WIN: what is important now?

2) Come up with a filter question like the British rowing team did years ago. To go from an average team to an Olympic gold medal team, they applied one question to everything they did: “Will it make the boat go faster?”. This one question guided absolutely everything that they did. If it didn't make the boat go faster, they did not do it. They went on to win a record-breaking number of gold medals and be an extremely high performing team. What is your one filter question you can apply to your professional life and aspirations?

3) Every single day, ask: Is what I'm doing a vote for or against ‘Future me’. Everything that you are doing, is either investment in future you or it’s detracting from Future You. This


Set your clear identity of ‘future you’ and your four clear intentions and objectives; visualize daily ‘future you’ and lean into what it feels like; design the system that is going to get you to your clear intentions, map it out and break it up into small steps; pick the new behaviors that you need to form and start taking action every single day - start small. Remember that habits are like compounding interest.


And when in doubt, ask yourself if, how you are thinking, feeling, and acting is a vote for or against ‘Future You’.

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