We can divide journeys into any number of parts: the destination, which defines the nature and trajectory of the journey; the path, which shapes the texture and movement of the journey; and drive, which imbues the journey with a sense of dynamism – to name but a few.
I would argue that all these parts are vital for a journey to lead us to genuine transformation. In fact, I would argue these parts work together to move us into positive, permanent change. However, to even start that journey, you need to know where you are starting from. In other words, you need to know whether or not you have them. And if you do have them, you need some sense of in what degree. This self-assessment, as I said, then forms our starting point.
In this blog series, we’re aiming to identify that starting point. We’re assessing if, and to what degree, you know your purpose, path, and passion. Our overview started with Purpose. In Part 1, we asked, “Am I Scattered?”. Here in Part 2, we continue evaluating the level of meaningfulness in our lives, and ask, “Am I Focussed?” Parts 3 & 4 will turn to our Path and ask, “Am I Unsure?” and “Am I Firm?” to help evaluate the level of motivation in our lives. Finally, Parts 5 & 6 will address Passion and ask, “Am I Stuck?” and “Am I Fearless?” to evaluate the level of momentum in our lives.
First, let’s address the issue of American and UK/Canadian spellings. I’m a dual National, but neither or those nations are the United States. If you are an American, try to just roll with the extra ‘s’. So, what is a focussed life? We are focussed when we have clarity on our sense of purpose. That clear sense of purpose could have a number of different markers. Here, I offer three markers to give you a starting point for assessing your sense of purpose. They will help you decide if you have a destination that pulls your life together, channeling it in ways that lead to meaningfulness:
In a focussed life, a clear sense of purpose creates a measuring stick that helps us evaluate all the opportunities that come our way. We are excited about possibilities, but we’re selective about which ones we invest our time and energy in. We strive to choose the opportunities that fit our purpose and values, and that will help others (and us!) to flourish. When an opportunity comes along that doesn’t align, we say ‘no’ and let it go without guilt or fear. We focus our energy – like a firehose – on a few specific places. As a result, we begin to see significant change and growth. We might end the week tired, but we have a sense that all the effort was worth it.
At its best, intentionally ‘measuring up’ where we spend our energy creates time and space to do all the things that we’re convinced we’re made to do. We commit to different tasks or even multiple roles, but there is an overarching pattern to what we do. Consequently, effort put into one task somehow seems to contribute to the other tasks. If you regularly ask yourself how new opportunities (and present commitments) align with your sense of purpose or your values, you are probably focussed.
To evaluate yourself against the marker of aligned choices take the “Do I Disperse My Energy?” self-check quiz.
A focussed life in also one where we navigate our world with a broad sense of vision. We see how the things immediately in front of us connect-up with the bigger picture. Our circle of care is expansive. We look beyond our own ‘tribe’ and ask questions like: How do our concerns and interests affect other people? And how do we respond to the concerns and perspectives of other people? We see that our values influence what we do and how we do it. We see further and more widely, and so we have more context and emotional space to respond to new concerns/issues. The result is that we’re more hospitable and less likely to go on the defensive.
At its best, this broad vision puts our own lives and projects into perspective, generates compassion for others, and feeds a disposition of generosity. We deliberately look out to the margins, and deep into our own convictions. If you find yourself working to make space for others and integrating your values within all aspects of your life, you are probably focussed.
To evaluate yourself against the marker of panorama vision try the “Do I Have Tunnel Vision?” self-check quiz.
A focussed life is defined by its trajectory – the direction it’s going. When we’re focussed, we anchor our days with habits that keep us centered on moving closer to that chosen end. At the same time, these habits leave us flexible enough to respond to an urgent surprise. We make choices based on alignment; we connect everything up to the big picture; and we see our lives slowly drawn into a consistent shape. Further, we invest in relationships, particular jobs, vocations, or careers. As we do so, we make choices, face mistakes, and learn from failures. We do this because none of these individual things are the destination; they’re just stops along the way. And so, our lives are well paced. They are filled with important markers that express and (maybe) affirm our identity, but don’t define it.
At its best, living a life defined by its trajectory places our ultimate concerns at the centre of all we do. We wear different hats and inhabit different roles, but none of them hold on to us as being the ultimate thing. If you find yourself regularly contextualizing your daily or short-term experiences against the backdrop of your end goals and who you intend to be in fifteen, thirty, or even fifty years, you are probably focussed.
To evaluate yourself against this marker, try the “Am I Driven by the Tyranny of the Urgent?” self-check quiz.
If the description of these markers sounds familiar, or you used the self-check quizzes and the results raised some hopeful possibilities, you might very well be focussed. A focussed life certainly sound promising and even inspiring; but you might ask why is a focussed life truly significant? The answer is simple but profound:
All of us want a life that seems meaningful, a life that will count for something, make a difference, or leave the world better than we found it. A focussed life, where our choices are aligned with our values and purpose; where we cultivate a willingness to see beyond the immediate (beyond my tribe and my project); and where we are mindful of where we want to land (and the kind of person we want to be); leads to experiencing meaningful wholeness.
Of course, having focus in life is not always enough to keep us moving forward on that trajectory. If you are focussed, but you feel unsure about how to find your path toward those larger ends, coaching can help. Make an appointment or continue reading in our blog series: “The Road to Growth: Am I Unsure?”.