There’s a difference between active creative inspiration and bouncing from idea to idea. See, Ideas and dreams are good. Having a plethora of them is even better. What’s not good is when you try to act on all of them at the same time. Or, when each idea keeps replacing the previous one, so you never quite finish projects. If this is happening to you, let’s put an end to it. The key is to learn how to focus. And not just basic focus, but deep, uninterruptable focus, so that you aren’t tempted away when new, shiny dreams come your way.
This is important because leaving behind a scattered trail of attempted, but not quite completed dreams, may have worked for Leonardo Da Vinci (did you know the Mona Lisa is an unfinished work?), but let’s be real, here: you and I are not Leonardo Da Vinci.
Sometimes our dreams and bright, shiny ideas are just dreams. There are times when they are not rooted in true desire, or they belong to someone, entirely.
We’re going to start off with a few suggestions for building rock-solid focus. I’m sure you’ve thought about how to focus before. But today, we’re tackling it from a different angle.
When your focus is ultra -sharp, you can’t be swayed. If you have new ideas and dreams for projects, you’ll immediately know what to do, without feeling compromised.
Build your focus and know what to do when you get new ideas (whether to move forward immediately or wait).
Let’s start with a few tips on how to focus
*Give projects a container
When you approach a big project or even individual tasks, put them in a container. This isn’t a physical container, rather is the concept of the scope and framework for the project. Decide on the elements of the task, the resources/ tools needed, the research you must do, the time frame for the project and any other known variables. This gives you a framework to stick to. When you feel the project growing beyond this container, you can stop and analyze: am I getting off track?
*Know your whys
Being clear on why you are doing something (anything) helps to keep you focused on the project when you’re tempted to stray. For example, if it is a personal project and our why is rooted in a (deep) aspiration for change, this can anchor you to stay with the project and not get swayed. You’ll have a firm reason for plowing forward, even through obstacles. (And there’ll always be obstacles.)
Now that we’ve learned how to focus on one project at a time, let’s explore what to do when you do feel the call of a new dream.
When you suddenly have a new dream inspiration for a project, you need to have a system for determining whether or not to take immediate action.
Beyond your intuition (gut) feelings about something, how do you know whether to move forward or not and when to stay focused on what you’ve already got on your plate? Here are three suggestions for figuring it out:
Are you buying someone else’s dream?
There are a lot of salespeople out there. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But, do take your time before you believe everything they try to sell you, especially when it’s not even a fit for you. They are selling you their dreams, not your own.
Ever found yourself engrossed in an infomercial at 2 am for a product you’d have absolutely no use for? Yet, somehow they’ve convinced you that it’s the best thing, ever. And you need it. Now.
This doesn’t only happen with infomercials. Every day, we are inundated with messages selling courses training, conferences, webinars that promise to be life-changing. Some may be. But many are not for you. You have to have a strong sense of self-awareness and discernment to weed through these messages. Don’t let yourself get intoxicated on the perfectly executed persuasion and promises.
If I move on to the next big, dreamy idea, will everything else crash and burn?
Sometimes you can engage with a new dream and it won’t interfere with what you already have going. Emphasis, here, on the word ‘sometimes’. How are your energy levels? Are you able to make the time and space in your life to accommodate this new dream? Approach this with a serious mindset. Knowing how to focus includes knowing yourself and your capacity.
Sit, calendar in hand, and look over your schedule. If you can’t fit this new dream in with what you already have going on, what can you sacrifice that won’t affect your quality of life?
Do you really want this next dream or is it just bright shiny object syndrome?
You may not have heard of bright shiny object syndrome, but you’ve probably been a victim of it over and over. It’s just that common. Bright shiny object syndrome is a playful name for something that’s quite insidious. It’s when you keep getting distracted and tempted by new ideas, projects, concepts. When this happens, it’s as if you cannot focus on anything to completion. Everything new that you hear of sounds more appealing that what you are currently working toward.
It’s one thing to have new ideas and inspiration. It’s another thing to allow them to pull you away from your current projects repeatedly. You’ll know this is happening if you keep starting and stopping projects without making any real progress.
Is this self-sabotage?
Some of us have strange ways that self-sabotage sets in. It can sneak in via the dream of doing something new and irresistible. When you’re doubting yourself and sabotage comes out to play, is it disguising itself as that project on the horizon that you so want to do?
Sometimes it’s hard to see self-sabotage when you’re deep in it. You need perspective. You need reference points. Take time to think back to previous projects that you abandoned for something else that seemed right at the time, but later proved to just be a case of the old self-sabotaging blues. Study how that entire situation looked, smelt, felt. You want to recognize it in all its parts, so when it shows up again, you can spot it. Before it’s too late.
Knowing how to focus is one of the most powerful skills you can develop for personal and professional life. Though you’ll always have new dreams, you also have tasks and projects at hand that need focus. Know when a dream is a new undertaking and when you can let it just slide right by. Knowing how (and when) to do this is can feel even greater than the chase of a brand new dream.