The art of being single-minded Okay, stay focused

Written by on February 3rd, 2016

I’m a student of human behavior, especially when it’s a little peculiar. The people that intrigue me the most are those that are single-minded. I’m not talking about people who prefer to stay single. Nor, am I talking about people who have narrow views. I’m talking about a person that likes one thing so much, they don’t like much else. We all know at least one person like this, a family member, a friend or even a neighbor; but what they all have in common is a laser-like focus on a particular thing. This obsession, which could be a cause, a hobby or, even, a celebrity, leaves the rest of us baffled.

Many single-minded people are worthy of notice, like a scoutmaster I have the privilege of knowing who’s been in charge of our local boy scout Troop 100. He’s served in this position for many years, going on countless campouts, attending workshops, holding meetings, conducting ceremonies and, as we learned at a recent Eagle Award ceremony, overseeing numerous boy scouts as they navigate the waters of earning the rank of Eagle.  I’d venture to say his knowledge of scouting and everything Troop 100 is unparalleled.

Although Tim Tindall has passed his baton to another, he still performs unofficially many of the same duties. Recently, Tim took our own boy scout, Nathan, to discover what Eagle Scout project might interest him. As they set off, I hoped that some of Tim’s commitment to service would rub off on our son!

In a time when there is so much to detract us from our focus, it is refreshing to have single-minded people among us. I’ve determined that my interest in them is truly selfish; I want what they have. If I had their same determination, I might keep my New Year’s resolutions for more than a couple of days. How is it that someone can grow their hair an extra twenty inches for “Locks of Love?” Or have the biggest collection of stamps? Or, have the same best friend for their whole life? I want to cry out, “How do I resolve to be more resolved?!”

The other day I found a picture of myself in an old album. It shows me warming up for a run, while my two-year-old is pretending to warm up with me. As I looked fondly at how cute she was, it struck me. That was twenty-six years ago, which means I’ve been running for, at least, that long. I’ve been committed to doing something most people find hard or mundane most of my life! Now, I know this is far from the picture left us by Mother Teresa and her life-long commitment to the poor of Calcutta, but maybe a little single-mindedness can be cultivated. If you’re like me (and you are if your #1 characteristic is ADHD), look below at 9 things you can do to help stay focused on whatever you choose.

Me and Jessica, about to chase the sun!

Me and Jessica, about to chase the sun!

NINE STEPS to be Single-Minded {focused}

1. Clear the noise. People who focus start by controlling their environment. Set up space that is conducive to the task at hand. Remove everything that’s not helpful to your objective.

2. Create a plan. Have a clear picture of where you’re going and how to get there. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Maybe just a few bullet points in a message.

3. Set up clear compensation. Focused people clearly understand why they’re engaged in a particular activity. Get excited about it by creating a reward for completion to help yourself become accountable and make the task a priority over all other distractions.

4. Create routine. Being disorganized can cause distraction, stress, and inefficiency. Give everything its proper place, so you can be free to deal with things that come up.

5. Work methodically. When you multitask, you accomplish less and what you accomplish is lower quality. Schedule your day to compartmentalize projects so you can give them your complete attention.

6. Live in the now. Be respectful of lessons learned and have a vision of where you’re going, but always be mindful of what’s happening now, the people around you and what they’re saying.

7. No second guessing. Everyone’s different, so don’t confuse someone’s else’s path with your own.

8. Embrace failure. Don’t let a mistake disappoint you for long. Allow it to guide you back to the right path.

9. Learn from others. You may not share the same path, but you can learn the characteristics of successful people. Make a habit of being around them, or you can read a biography about a successful person.

A much younger Greg enjoying a camping trip to Pedernales River.

A much younger Greg enjoying a camping trip to Pedernales River.

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