There are two complementary aspects to focus that are productive to be aware of.

First off, the idea of focus requires an object for focus – something to focus on. When you pick a thing to focus on, you are by definition excluding everything else.

Picking something to focus on is a positive, or active decision, which by default specifies everything you won’t focus on. This sort of implies decision of what not to focus on is both negative (deciding “no” or “not”) and passive.

However, it’s often productive (in several senses) to think of it as an active negative decision.

By this I mean that, due to how our minds work, it’s often good to make an explicit decision NOT to do, or even think about doing certain things.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the following scenario – which used to be a big issue for me I know first hand is an issue for many of you.

You have a lot of interests and a lot of things you would like to do. They all seem really interesting. Thus, you can’t really pick one – so instead, when you have free time, you often just surf social media or watch TV.

This is true of a lot of extremely high achievers, by the way, so don’t feel too bad about it.

I think I may have a solution. I say think, because it’s worked for me, but my only direct knowledge of how it works for others is when I do it for them,

This solution for myself is that I made the active decision to not pursue, or even think about pursuing a bunch of my interests, at least not until my primary interests at the moment are meaningfully fulfilled and can be put on the back burner.

The solution for others (generally my coaching clients) is that we discuss the problem, I help them identify what they really want (1 or 2 things), and I give them permission to ignore everything else until those one or two things are done/realized.

That’s it, and it’s consistently what people are most thankful for.

With all that other stuff out of the picture, it becomes vastly easier to put effort towards what you most want.

Couldn’t be simpler.

Unfortunately, few realize that they don’t need someone else to give them permission.

I’m not a boss, or an authority figure (except perhaps as a moonlighting sort-of-expert), so me giving permission has no weight beyond psychological, but is nonetheless very powerful.

But, when you realize this, and the power of an active no, you can do it for yourself.

Write down everything that seems interesting. Pick one or two things that you most want, and make the decision to pursue these things, and not the others, at least for now.

It’s simple, and it mirrors plenty of advice that you’ll find elsewhere, but it works.

Give yourself permission to say no, and you’ll get clarity and energy for free.

If anyone asks, tell them I told you it was ok.

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