In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.…I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
So goes the poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, a powerful poem with the passionate message that your growth and success is not determined by things without, but from within. A sentiment that could be found within a motivational card, but thankfully, this sentiment is also true. While you may not ever have complete control over any situation, whether you are a manager, HR Leader, or an individual contributor you do have control over whether you make progress.
Knowing that you are capable of success is not the same as knowing how to reach that success. There are, of course, many ways to help yourself perform to the standards you set for yourself, but here at InsideOut Development we have a not-so-secret key to success.
Yep, that’s it. That’s all. Focus.
All right, so maybe that’s not all you need to be successful. But focus is a major element to success.
This makes sense on an intuitive level, and the psychology and science of focus reaffirm this to be true. When you get truly and deeply focused your brain will start producing a mixture of chemicals that will increase productivity, creativity, pattern recognition, and also help improve lateral thinking, all of which combine to helping you focus further.
Once you’ve experienced this level of focus once, it’s something you’ll definitely want to feel again. The level of productivity, the feelings of success, the bursts of motivation, all come from focus. And it’s absolutely a replicable experience.
The replicability of the experience is important. Focus is not a one-and-done application, rather a constant action that leads you to success. To borrow from the wisdom of fictional character Qui-Gon Jinn, “Your focus determines your reality.” After all, where you focus is where you go.
If you want your reality to be one of high performance and success, then that’s where your focus should be.
‘It’s not that easy!’ You might say, and well, you are both right and not. It really does come down to focus, but what exactly should you be focusing on? Well, that will depend on your role, your situation, your goals. Simply put, that depends on you.
But fear not, we have a little something to help you with that, too.
It’s called the GROW Model®, and it will help you figure out where you, either as an individual or an organization, should put your focus.
Well, the how may be more easily explained through the what. What is the GROW Model? The GROW Model is a model that helps individuals work through the decision-making process in an easy and replicable way.
When making decisions it’s easy to bounce between all the steps.
You have your goal, oh, and here’s an option to achieve that goal. But wait, that doesn’t work with your current reality, so maybe you’ll spend a little time commiserating over how unfortunate your current reality is, before bouncing to a way forward. Whoops, that actually doesn’t match your goal all that well, better go look at the goal again.
If you think that sounds counterproductive and like a waste of your very valuable time and energy, you’re right.
Did you know, when playing baseball there is no such thing as a base path (a specific path a runner has to take to get to a base) until a play is made on the runner (when someone tries to tag the runner out)? So, before a tag attempt occurs, the runner can establish their own path to reach the base. Yet, despite this relative freedom, you still almost always see a runner making a straight line to the next base, and then a straight line to the base after that.
Because they know that if they want to actually make a home run, they can’t waste their time and energy running around all topsy turvy, they need to take the most direct route. In their case, a straight line.
This logic is easy to see and understand in baseball, yet somehow it doesn’t always transition over into decision making. But the same concepts apply. To successfully make a decision you need to hit each of the bases, and to do this, you don’t want to let your mind run all topsy turvy on you. No, you want to go through the process in the order that leads to home-run decision making.
When you follow the GROW Model you move through the decision-making process quickly, and in the right order, so you don’t have to bounce around each of the four stages: Goal, Reality, Options, and Way Forward.
When going through the GROW Model, focus only on what step you’re currently on. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the next step or let yourself get pulled back into a previous step, keep your full focus on each step to effectively get as much out of each stage as you can. The result? When you finish going through the GROW Model you’ll have a well thought out, realistic plan for a way forward.
If you were wondering where you should put your focus, it’s right here.
As you move forward with your Way Forward put your focus on the end result, the ultimate goal, of what you are pressing towards. You make more progress when you focus on the outcome of your actions, then when you focus on the action itself. (Don’t believe it? Pull out a word document and start typing, do you think about each letter you type, or is your focus on the word as a whole, and your fingers seem to magically know what they’re doing?) This is true in both smaller actions and with bigger goals. Sometimes, your own brain interferes with your success. So, keep your eyes, and your focus, on the goal.
Now, you had this goal to start with, that is literally the G in GROW. Why did you even have to go through the GROW Model at all, if your focus is meant to be not on the path, but the goal?
With the goal as your focus, if you have no Way Forward you’ll be constantly besieged with different options, tantalizing paths that might also lead to a successful implementation. Even if you don’t take those paths, you still have to consciously consider each of those options and then decide not to take them. With the GROW Model, you’ve already considered those options and decided that the path you’re on is the best way forward, your focus won’t be diverted. You can focus on what’s important!
Of course, nothing in life is ever quite that simple. Focus is no exception. As you learn to focus on reaching the end result of your goals, you’ll notice that there’s plenty of interference. A nice word to describe pretty much anything that gets in the way.
Interference takes shape in many forms. Your technology is on the fritz, your two co-workers are having a heated debate, there’s construction on your way to work and you either have to wake up earlier or get to late work.
Or maybe it’s more internal, the malfunctioning technology has you frustrated, you’re exhausted from losing thirty minutes of sleep, you’re anxious because nothing seems to be going right, you’re starting to wonder if you are really up to the task of accomplishing this goal.
There’s no magic answer for dealing with every bit of interference that comes your way, except perhaps the same answer we’ve been giving you. Focus anyways. Remember the advice from Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, “Your focus determines your reality.” The choice of where to put your focus is yours. The choice of what to make your reality, is yours. If you focus on the interference rather than the goal, then the interference wins.
If you remember the excerpt from the Invictus poem shared above, terrible circumstance and painful chance are real, and ever present. But they don’t determine your fate, they don’t determine your success, not unless you let them.
So, to paraphrase William Ernest Henley, you are the master of your fate. So, take control, focus on creating realistic, well thought out goals, and then focus on reaching those goals.
That’s it. One not-so-secret key to unlocking your own success. Focus.