THE STRATEGY OF FOCUS
Setting goals that you can actually achieve.
Imagine you want to open a bottle of wine, but you don’t have a corkscrew and you can’t get the cork out of the bottle. You can try all manner of things in an attempt to get that cork out, but you could also just push the cork into the bottle. After all, the goal is not ‘to get the cork out of the bottle’, but rather to ‘drink the wine’.
The Strategy of Focus harnesses the creative energy that is released when we focus very precisely on what we want. In order to use this strategy, it’s important to make sure we continuously separate the goal from the method. In our daily lives we all have the tendency to confuse the goal and the method. We often focus on things we don’t want instead of what we do want. By sharpening our focus, and honing in on exactly what we want, the more creative we become in transforming problem into possibility. If we get caught up focusing mostly on the method, as we did with the cork and the wine bottle, our attempts will remain fuddled and amateurish.
Check out these real-world examples of The Strategy of Focus, both of which never lose sight of the importance of remembering the goal:
The Naked Professor Case
On a bright and sunny day, an English professor was once lying on the banks of a river, naked as a jaybird. Given that he was indulging his taste for nude sunbathing during England’s prudish Victorian Age, his choice to lie there naked was more than a little risky. To be discovered in his birthday suit was to greatly risk his upstanding reputation in the community. As fate would have it, the professor noticed a small group of his students heading in his direction. Instinctively he knew that he would be spotted. The only thing he had with him was a small towel which wasn’t sufficient to cover his entire body. He was in a jam and had mere seconds to respond. What could the professor do to get himself out of the situation? Keep in mind that to Omdenk a problem using The Strategy of Focus he would need to separate the goal from the method. On the surface you could say this his goal was not to be seen naked. If you look more closely though, it’s more accurate to say this his goal was not to be recognized as the professor. The result? He used the towel to cover his face. The students could indeed see his body, but none of them realized it was his body. They saw a naked man, but they didn’t see their professor. Mission accomplished.
The UK bomber airplanes WO II Case
In this second example of The Strategy of Focus, the goal and the method are a little more difficult to separate. It involves English bomber airplanes during the Second World War. When the bombers returned from missions, the planes were inspected for bullet holes. Engineers were very precise about deciphering which parts of the bombers were most often hit by bullets. Once they knew which parts of the plane were vulnerable, they reinforced those exact areas before sending the planes back on missions to Germany. Seems like a good idea, no? Well it was until statistician Abraham Wald decided to take a closer look. He proposed doing the exact opposite of what was being done: to reinforce the parts of the plane where no bullet holes could be found. Wald realized that the engineers were forgetting that they only got to inspect the planes that came back from missions. They only saw the bombers that hadn’t been shot down. The parts of the plane where they never saw bullet holes were actually the weakest. If a bomber didn’t have holes in the engine or the wings it meant that just a few bullets in those areas could take the plane down. The problem was, damage in those areas was never discovered because those planes never made it back. They crashed over Germany. The conclusion: English bombers were reinforced in exactly those areas where they hadn’t been hit. Wald’s intelligent suggestion to focus on the parts that hadn’t been hit ultimately led to less English planes being shot down.
The Five Things Not To Do
Clearly establishing your goal isn’t the only requirement to properly using The Strategy of Focus. It’s also important to know what not to do. When using this strategy, don’t do these five things:
- Don’t frame your goal in the negative.
In other words, don’t say what you don’t want. For example, a travel agent asks, “where would you like to go?” Don’t say, “well, I don’t want to go to Spain!” It’s confusing and almost always leads to a vicious circle.
- Don’t use vague, or non-specific language when framing your goal.
As the late George Harrison once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Be crystal clear about the words you use to frame your goal.
- Don’t make an unclear choice.
We have a tendency to put our chickens into two baskets as a way of avoiding risks.
- Don’t set goals in areas of our lives where we have no direct influence, such as what other people think of us.
We can’t control that situation and by focusing on it we could create emotions which are counterproductive.
- Don’t pick a goal that fails to truly motivate us.
If you don’t have intrinsic motivation to reach a goal, it isn’t going to happen. Many of us say we’d like to be a rock star or a professional athlete, but how many of us are really prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal?
The Strategy of Focus sounds simple – just concentrate hard on what you’re doing – but in reality it’s subtly difficult. If you’re concentrating on the wrong thing, no matter your focus, you won’t achieve your goal. Take your time when framing your goal. Make sure it’s clearly defined and that your heart is really in it. And then concentrate on your goal with laser-like focus.