Some days ago, I received this question on Quora:
How can I always stay focused and motivated towards my goals?
Hmmm… I thought… Interesting!
“This guy already has figured out the two most important keys to achieve any goal.”
Because, not everyone realizes that to accomplish any task in life, you only need these to qualities in you.
A laser-like focus on your goal and
A raging fire of motivation to continuously work on this goal.
But most of the people a) just ignore it or b) don’t know the mechanisms to it.
The first category of people are affected by “shiny-object syndrome.” Which I know most of you must be aware of by now.
In simplicity, these people think talking about focus and motivation is not that sexy. And they rather talk about the newest trend in influencer building or the recent post by James Clear on developing the successful habits.
What they forget to realize that, while all these are external tools to help you become successful and achieve your goal, these tools will only work if you apply them consistently.
And to apply anything or any new tactic consistently, you need focus and motivation!
Agreed that it’s not much exciting to talk about these things, because they are too simple.
But these are the qualities that most of the successful people are using from ancient times.
Now, this guy, who requested the answer to this question, was not from the first category.
I am happy for him that he is ready to talk about these non-sexy, but timeless and proven to get results qualities.
And I’m happy for you too, because if you are reding posts titled “How to stay focused and motivated,” you clearly understand the importance of these two.
But the problem for most of us…
Focus and motivation are fickle. Like a drop of water on a leaf.
They are there now, a minute later they’ll be gone!
You feel like you can do almost anything for a day or two. But the next morning you wake up, you’re not that motivated to jump and get started on you work.
Other than that, your smartphone constantly buzzes with notifications. Opening the door for distraction to sneak in, and focus to sneak out!
Vicious cycle, that is!
I’ve been a victim of this many times before.
Hell, I still get engrossed in my Instagram feed, once I take the smartphone in hand.
But fortunately for me, smartphone proved to be both the villain and the hero of the story.
Through a YouTube video of Jason Capital – Top 100 Entrepreneur under 30 named by White House & High Income Coach, I came to know about a little story of Warren Buffett and his pilot.
And guess what the story was about..?
It was about Focus.
So let me tell you the story…
Learn Focus from Warren Buffett
One day Warren Buffett was getting ready to fly in his private jet. And his pilot, who was working with him for the last 15 years came to Warren and asked if they can start the jet and proceed to the desired location.
Warren sat still, looking at his pilot and thinking to himself. The pilot asked again,
“Mr. Buffett, are we ready to go?”
Warren, looking curiously at the pilot asked him, “Well, Mike, you’ve been travelling with for 15 years now. You attend all my speeches and meetings, and you must’ve learnt a lot by now. Why then, are you still my pilot? You could start your own business and be your own boss. Why are flying the jets for me still, Mike?”
The pilot looked at Warren and was surprised by the question. He stammered and answered,
“Well, Mr. Buffett, I really like to fly the jets and working with you.”
But Warren Buffett was determined.
He asked his pilot to take a pencil and a paper,
“Mike, let’s do a little exercise. I want you to list out 25 things that you would really like to do in your life. That you are very passionate about and enjoy doing and if you had the knowledge and the expertise, you could turn into a profitable business. Please list such 25 things before we take-off.”
The pilot, Mike, kept staring at Warren, pencil and a paper in his hands, and completely clueless about what is happening.
He soon realized that Warren was very serious about it, so he started writing the things he would like to accomplish in his life.
After listing 5-7 things, goals of his life, he became very interested and excited, and withing 10 minutes he listed all the 25 things he was passionate about and wanted to build a profitable business around.
He showed his list proudly to Mr. Buffett. But without even acknowledging the list, Mr. Buffett said,
“Now only circle the 5 things, that are very near to you and about which you are very invested and passionate.”
It was hard for the pilot, but he selected what he wanted to accomplish and that he was very passionate about.
He circled the top 5 things he was very passionate about.
He again gave the paper in front of Mr. Buffett. Warren took the paper and holding it in his hand vertically, so that Mike – the pilot could see the things which he had listed and the top 5 things he had circle, Warren said:
“From now on, you’ll use all your energy and all your time to work on these 5 things only. Whatever you have to do to get this done, you’ll do it.”
The pilot got really pumped with motivation. He gave a very wide smile to Buffett and with exciting tone, he committed to the 5 things:
“Warren, these are the most important things in my life right now. I’m going to get to work on them right away. Actually, I’ll start tonight.”
That’s when Buffett threw a twist question.
He asked, ““And what about these 20 that you didn’t circle?”
Mike – the Pilot, replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
A brief moment of silence passed…
And then, Buffett, staring directly in the eyes of his veteran pilot, Mike, said:
“No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
What can you learn from this?
The Secret to staying Focused on Your Goals
If you really want to get down the mechanism Focus, I encourage you to do the above exercise for yourself.
When I used the exercise, here’s what I found to be the most pro-founding realizations:
- Many times, the things you’re working on are the things you don’t really care about.
They don’t get you excited and fired up enough. So, you fall victim to distractions.
This exercise forces you to get really clear on what it is that you deeply care about.
The things that are very near and dear to your heart and which you can do daily without even getting paid.
I bet, the top 5 things you’ll circle will not be the things your parents have told you. Or it won’t be the hobby you picked up from your best friend.
These top 5 things will be authentic to you. They’ll truly be the echoing desires of your heart that you’ve been ignoring for centuries of your being.
And that is why, you’ll be much more motivated and focused, working on them.
For example, we’re now 1300 words deep in this article and I didn’t even realize how I got so many words.
If it was an article about technical things in digital marketing… Well, let’s just say, I’d be eating my lunch now, instead of typing.
But I’m still going strong here. And I have so much more value to give…
So, let’s continue to pro-found realization number 2
- The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love and care about.
And eliminating these things is very difficult.
While you can get rid of things which you know are wasteful, it’s hard to say “NO” to things you care about.
Even if you realize that in the long run, they are not really going to pay off much, you still care about spending time on them.
Because they are easy to rationalize.
“I have to clear out my email folders to stay organized.”
“I personally need to check on the design part because it’s crucial.”
“The other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit.”
And I feel you guys on how upsetting it feels to not work on that awesome idea of yours right now!
It was very hard for me to give up on reading books.
Now I only refer to them for points on my articles.
Still I now realize that there are things which we care about but they are not that much important to help us progress towards our goals.
They only derail us from our consistent and focused efforts, but we still don’t realize we’re derailing. And it makes these “20 avoid-at-all-cost” things dangerous to our focus and motivation.
Consider this wisdom nugget from James Clear on being exceptional at anything:
And most of the time, we’re using these unimportant things as an “EXCUSE” on working things which are really important.
Like, checking emails v/s calling on that lead.
This is why using Buffett’s exercise is a brilliant way of eliminating these things.
When you circle the top 5 things you want to achieve, what you’re subconsciously telling to yourself is:
“These things might be important to me, but compared to my top 5 goals, these 20 things are a distraction. And I need to avoid them at all cost, if I want to achieve my top 5 goals. Or else I may not become successful at any of these.”
Who here, after categorizing the “un-circled” things as distraction, will not feel guilty if you spend even a little time on them?
And who will not feel more focused when working on your top 5 goals..?
And that is how you get the mechanism of focus dialed in!
Let’s move on to motivation…
You don’t need more Motivation, You Need Stronger Belief Muscle
Every goal setting strategy out there talks about setting up the rewards.
Charles Duhhig, in his book, “The Power of Habit” has explained beautifully the process of setting up rewards to change your behavior.
The same thing we can apply to achieve our goals.
Now, every book talk about setting these rewards and planning out small steps for your goal.
So, that’s not something what we are going to talk about here.
But have you considered why this strategy works?
In an article on Forbes.com, Lewis Howes – Founder of The School of Greatness, has shared some really powerful insights on this:
Now, do you think your BELIEF MUSCLE is as big as the GOAL you have set for yourself?
I’ll be the first to accept that mine was not. And it still isn’t perfect!
So, how do you train this belief muscle and make it as big and strong as your goals?
Lewis Howes also admits in the article that, he didn’t set out to start a 7-figure business but he set a goal to deliver ONE good speech in front of an audience without trembling behind a podium.
He encourages us to start with a small goal.
Can you break your top 5 things into SUPER small goals?
I remember when in school, I had participated in a speech competition in 7th grade.
Up until my 4th grade I was a regular participant of speech competitions and I was very good at it. In fact, I used to get prizes for my speech.
But 3-4 years after that, I completely ignored my public speaking skills and never participated in any competition.
I was more interested in sitting at the last bench and having fun with my friends.
Then in the 7th grade my class teacher forced me to take part. And it turned out, I had completely lost my public speaking skills.
I was freezed-up and nervous on the stage, trembling, couldn’t recognize who’s voice I was speaking in…
And I just spoke 3 lines from my entire 4-page speech…
Isn’t it what happens to your biceps if you stop going to the gym?
After that I set up a goal to regain my confidence in public speaking.
I didn’t realize at that time what I was doing. But I followed the similar pattern Lewis has described.
I started small.
I started reading about great speakers. And I started reading aloud to myself when no one was home.
I didn’t really get at that point what I was doing. But now I know:
I was not trying to regain my skill in public speaking, I was trying to regain my belief that I can speak in front of the people.
That’s what these small steps do – They help you to develop a belief that you can achieve the set goal.
They may or may not take you closer to your goals. But they help you make your belief muscle stronger.
And true motivation, always stems from strong internal belief!
That is why breaking your goals into smaller steps and rewarding yourself for them works!
Can you Punish Yourself for Not Taking Any Action?
We saw how setting rewards helps you to take action.
Let’s now look at the other side of the coin.
What will happen if you set “consequences” for not following through your steps?
Next time you set a goal for yourself and plan out the small steps to achieve them, here’s what I want you to do:
Deposit ₹5000 in your friend’s bank account and call him up. Here’s what I want you to tell him:
“I have deposited ₹5000 in your bank account and if I do not hit my goal within a month, I want you to go out and spend that money however you like!”
What do you think your motivation will be to get that ₹5000 back from your friend?
Is your motivation going to be like a raging wildfire or is it going to “I’ll do it tomorrow” kind of thing?
Or you can do it with your sister or brother also.
And you can do it for larger amounts also!
The bigger the goal is, I challenge you to keep the amount that much bigger.
I promise you’ll do anything, you’ll do everything, every tactic there is and every task there is to accomplish to reach that goal.
Because humans are driven more by the fear of loss!
Now the “consequence” doesn’t have to be in the money form, always.
You can decide not to go out with your friends for a month if you fail short of your goals. Or you can stop watching your favorite show for a period of time.
There are numerous ways to set a consequence for your inaction.
And the thing is, if you don’t complete your goals with focus and motivation, life is going to set a consequence for you!
“If you don’t work on yourself, someone else will hire you to work for themselves.”
You must have heard this quote already. But you don’t really get the meaning behind it.
In essence, it suggests that if you don’t work towards your goals in life, ultimately you’ll need to bury those goals aside, with your hands!
If you don’t work hard enough now, and if you don’t focus enough on your goals, some time in future, life is going to come, and slap you hard in the face with a consequence!
It might be anything… Being diagnosed from a cancer… Having your bank account freezed… Breaking up or divorcing with your spouse… Losing your business altogether…
And at that time, you will not be in a position to avoid that consequence. You’re going to have to accept it as it is.
Isn’t it better that instead of waiting for this to happen, you just go out and attack on your goals with raw energy, a laser-like focus and raging fire like motivation?
I’m never going to be the one to wait…
And I know for sure, you will not either!
So, let’s just wrap up our post here with main points and then you can be on your way to hunt those top 5 goals starting tonight!
- To accomplish any goal in life, you only need a laser-like focus and a raging fire of motivation
- But Focus and motivation are so fickle like a drop of water on a leaf
- Warren Buffett’s strategy on setting your Top 5 Goals and your Avoid-At-All-Cost list
- Many times, the things you’re working on are not the real echoing desires of your own heart
- Why the things we care about but have no importance at all are the dangerous distractions
- True motivation stems from internal strong belief
- Setting consequences, instead of rewards will motivate you more to take action
Hopefully now you’ll have your top 5 goals ready…Go conquer them!