The Paradox of Focus

by Tanya Geisler on · 10 comments

I’m going to be hon­est. Decem­ber is his­tor­i­cally my slow­est month in terms of client ses­sions. (That’s hon­est, yes, but that’s not my con­fes­sion). So, to make good use of the space cre­ated in that time, I had fab­u­lous inten­tions to map out 2012 in a truly pow­er­ful way dur­ing the month. Well, I did set some excel­lent goals, shared them with the world (or at least, my cor­ner of the world), then…oof. (Annnnnnd, here’s the con­fes­sion). Instead of strate­giz­ing and schem­ing, I baked and dec­o­rated. I shopped and sang. I cooked and vis­ited. I hosted and wrapped. And it was bliss.

Regrets = 0. Mem­o­ries = ~ 1,000.

I’m rested, recharged, and rar­ing to go in my busi­ness. It’s already been a wildly fruit­ful cou­ple of weeks.

So as I have been refo­cus­ing, it’s not sur­pris­ing that my entre­pre­neur clients are want­ing the same. Over the past cou­ple of weeks, they’ve been com­ing to ses­sion say­ing: I want to focus on focus.

YA BABY! Let’s get started! Let’s get spe­cific! Let’s clamp down!

Ah…but wait.

The para­dox of focus, is that to be focused, we need step way, WAYYYYY back and take a meta-view of who we are and where we are going.

Who are you?

Who are you in this world? Your val­ues will tell you. They are the bricks in the glo­ri­ous and utterly unique house of you.

Know­ing what your val­ues are will help you to make soul­ful deci­sions for your busi­ness. {And soul­ful deci­sions gen­er­ally trans­late to cash.}

I’ve writ­ten before about some val­ues clar­i­fi­ca­tion tools that will help. Also notice who you admire and why. What do they stand for? Likely rooted in there are some of your values.

Once you’ve gained on your val­ues, start to notice what might be miss­ing for you right now.

Lean into the val­ues that aren’t being hon­oured in your busi­ness. Notice how excit­ing that feels. Pretty hard to not focus on some­thing that feels excit­ing, non?

Where are you going?

If you don’t know where you are head­ing, then you don’t know which way to go.

This ain’t rocket sci­ence (and yet…)

Get clear on your vision . What do you want for your busi­ness? What feel­ings do you want to expe­ri­ence? What is your dream for your busi­ness? Get as gran­u­lar as you like (say, a vision for your prod­ucts or ser­vices, your employee rela­tions, your com­mu­nity con­tri­bu­tion, etc). What­ever works for you.

Cre­ate a vision state­ment, a vision board, a manifesto…SOMETHING to keep your vision top of mind.

Now your action is inten­tional and keeps you pointed in the right direction.

So we’re fired up, we have our vision. It’s com­pletely aligned with our val­ues and we know where we’re going. We are stoked and ready to try it all! So many shiny things…where to start?!!


Action and moti­va­tion are like two bud­dies egging each other on at a frat house keg­ger. Being in action is moti­vat­ing and this moti­va­tion stim­u­lates the urge for action. We surf this pow­er­ful momen­tum and pile on the action because it’s all so tasty: new oppor­tu­ni­ties, new part­ners, new projects, oh my!

And THEN?????

OOPS hap­pens

Like another 4-letter word, it is messy stuff. OOPS = over-operational plan­ning syndrome.

Our momen­tum takes a nose­dive. Action and moti­va­tion part ways to down some aspirin and snore off the effects of the kegger.

Call it the Das­tardly Dip, call it what you will.

As a coach, my role is to be aware of that effect and help my clients to trim the wings before the nosedive.

Here’s how.

Yes’s and No’s

Mak­ing room for your vision to flour­ish, you prob­a­bly need to start say­ing “no”. Most of us do. So you can say “yes” to the bright­est pos­si­ble ver­sion of your life and business.

Ele­gant in its sim­plic­ity. (And yet…)

You may choose to get rid of the ugly chair, to make space for the stun­ning one you’ve always wanted. Is that a part­ner? A prod­uct? A supplier?

You may need to say “no” to some cus­tomers. If you find that you are not giv­ing the best of your­self, get curi­ous about why. And know that your indus­try is too small for you to not be giv­ing the best of your­self. It may well be them, or it may be you, but if there’s not a fit, the out­comes will be dire. That = bad business.

Lov­ingly and sup­por­t­ively release them into the arms of a col­league who may be bet­ter suited to them. And spend that found energy on find­ing your RIGHT peo­ple, and hav­ing them find you. Moti­va­tion restored. Back to action. But what actions?

Decision-making Matrix

A while back, I was in a pro­gram with Pam Slim and Chris Guille­beau. I was intro­duced to another ele­gantly sim­ple exer­cise. I’ve adapted it to suit my busi­ness and share (with per­mis­sion) with my clients. Feel free to email me for a copy.

Draw a table. 6 columns by 6 rows. In the left hand col­umn, list the projects that are sit­ting on your chest that may or may not want to get started. (Only con­sider projects that are in align­ment with your values…but you knew that already, didn’t you?)

Fill the next 5 columns with fil­ters that work for you. I use Vision (how aligned with my vision is this project…see why vision is crit­i­cal?) + Inter­est (how excited am I to tackle this project?) + Prof­itabil­ity (how much cash will it bring in?) — Effort (how much time and energy will it take?) = Grand Total. Swap/add fil­ters as you like (Reach may be more impor­tant to you than Profitability).

Sub­jec­tively rate each project on a scale of 1–5 (5 being high­est). This sim­ple exer­cise is intended to get you clearer on what wants to hap­pen in your busi­ness soon­est. If you need to cut a project or two, pick the low­est. If you can only take on one right now, pick the high­est. The rest can be put on a shelf with no remorse…you get to revisit them when the time’s right. So that “no” can become a “not right now”.

Buddy up

Hold­ing a vision as big of yours is pretty weighty stuff. Who else can help you to hold it? A coach? Mas­ter­mind group? Account­abil­ity part­ner? Advi­sory Board? Assess your sup­port net­work and con­sider how hav­ing some­one else help you hold your vision will keep you on track.

You are one lean, mean, focused machine.

Vroom vroom, indeed.


by Tanya Geisler

Clar­ity. Action. Achieve­ment. Joy. Tanya Geisler is a CTI-certified coach (a.k.a. “cat­a­lyst, not ther­a­pist”) and speaker who believes that life is a grand production…and it’s time for you to step into your star­ring role. And radi­ate. Right now.
Tanya Geisler
View all posts by Tanya Geisler

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra / Always Well Within January 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Just what I needed to hear today! I especially appreciated the section on vision. Think it’s time to get my crayons out and make a beautiful vision!
Sandra / Always Well Within´s Last Fabulous Post ..The Magic of OptimismMy Profile


Debbie @ Happy Maker January 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Very good Tanya. Focus and keep that vision. Dust off the dust and get rid of the junk! Great thought for the first of the year to regroup and power up for a wonderful new year.

Thanks and blessing to you,
Debbie @ Happy Maker´s Last Fabulous Post ..What You Can Do To Be Happy Right Now In Your RelationshipMy Profile


David Stevens January 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thankyou Tanya,
Vision/Game Plan…..absolute musts in my book. Your Vision has to be crystal clear, yet simple enough not to become unmanagable. When that is in place, I find that working back from the end plan & filling in the blanks & benchmarking progess, becomes simpler and more exciting. Thankyou for sharing this.
be good to yourself
David Stevens´s Last Fabulous Post ..To Love what you do…..Become your own GuruMy Profile


Jody - Fit at 54 January 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I always need this Lance – I tend to go one way & then something catches me & I head the other! ;-) THX!
Jody – Fit at 54´s Last Fabulous Post ..Gratitude Monday & Giveaway Winner & GrandkidsMy Profile


Be January 25, 2012 at 3:30 am

OOPS = over-operational plan­ning syndrome…. lol I definitely have that!!
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rob white January 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

I love your paradox of Focus, Tanya. Indeed, to focus on the big picture requires seeing where ‘we have been our own problem’ in the past, and promising ourselves not to repeat those patterns anymore. We will be pleasantly startled to find that we are remarkably creative when we allow our natural ability to flow through us. I’ve learned to speak to my mind aloud and say “I know you love to live with unfinished business of past failures, but I cannot afford this luxury any longer. We are finished with the past. Pay full attention to what I am doing right now – focus!” :)
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Anna January 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Elegant in simplicity – this is my vision and I am inspired now to get my paints and crayons and express it in some real shapes:)
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sheila January 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

I don’t overwhelm myself either. The way I look at things is… if it gets done, it gets done. I have a short list of things that are more urgent like paying bills and money deadlines for the kids schooling, but really there is nothing that is that pressing for me, that I cannot go outside and spend a half hour looking at the stars. Plus, little breaks of time for me helps me to find my calm and do what I have to do. (if I feel like doing it, lol)
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Andrew Walker February 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Well yes, I agree with you there mate. You know, to stay focus on something is not an easy thing to do, that’s first. The other thing, even if you know about focus, when you don’t know how to do it right, it won’t be possible for you to be focused on something easily.
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