How much time have you unwittingly wasted? At the end of a day, how much more could you have achieved? And how much richer and intentional could your experience have been had you only focused more?
The key to unlocking this productivity and enriched experience, however, is changing how you look at focus — that you stop seeing it as a way of achieving a goal and, instead, see your goals as a byproduct of focus. What I want to invite you to contemplate is that focus is not used to achieve a goal.
Focus is the essential and secret ingredient that helps us remain on the path of consistent attention and high-level thinking. It invites us to continue to fall in love with the process of consciousness, of “being” and embodying your purpose, rather than getting caught up in box-checking. It encourages us to abandon our obsession with unsustainable event-based successes. (I need to lose 30lbs, I need to get that Ph.D., I need to find my ideal partner).
The problem for most of us is that we use focus for evil, rather than good.
We use it in isolation to arrive at a particular place or goal. The issue with this is that once you achieve that triumph or check that box, you let your guard down and become lackadaisical. Thinking about focus this way may lead to some temporary accomplishments, but ultimately leads to reduced potential and disappointment.
The Busy Tourist
But the biggest issue is that without focus, you can find yourself moving from task to task to task, without actually achieving anything of significance. In short, you may find that you have completed a whole bunch of tasks, but done nothing to move yourself toward the life you’d imagined for yourself.
And when that happens, you become a tourist in your own life – checking off boxes and watching life go by, but not really living.
But we all know Paris is far more than taking a selfie at the Eiffel Tower with a crepe, and New York City is more than stopping on the sidewalk in Times Square staring up in awe.
When we live full-time in a place, we get to know its oddities and peculiarities — and may even come to find that they are what we love the most. We build a relationship with it and want to spend every moment there because it’s home – even when it makes us crazy!
Now I’m not dismissing your desire to selfie in front of the Ponte d’Amour — being able to stop and stare with child-like wonder is equally as important. That being said, it can be quite a detriment if you allow your curiosity to become a lack of investment. That’s the risk of being a tourist — you end up just being along for the ride. But when you focus, you invest.
Invest, Invest, Invest
But even investing is not as simple as it may seem. For instance, we may think that we consciously choose what we invest in, and with things like real estate and stocks, we do. We have a portfolio of things that we could tell people that we are invested in.
But then there are the ideas, thoughts, and philosophies that we subscribe to and invest in — often without conscious thought.
Lacking this awareness leads to mindless choices and giving in to emotionally-driven impulses. These actions, unfortunately, lead to further choices that do NOT allow you to progress towards your purpose. Instead, this mindless state of being encourages you to give into impulses and, because you become accustomed to that instant gratification dopamine hit, can lead to a lack of long-term vision and discipline.
Taking it a step further, you also need to recognize that there are two types of investment: micro and macro. Micro investments are about being totally engaged in a given moment, a given sentence, a given sensation, or even a given situation you are navigating with our spouse. But that investment is vividly different than macro investments, which are equally important.
Macro investments are about putting energy into things that are more long-term, like your financial health, your career, the future of your family, your physical wellness, and. how you want to be remembered upon leaving this world.
And these two types of investment can be at odds with one another if you think about it. The micro-investments may mean grabbing a glass of wine with your partner to talk and connector taking the day off work to attend an event with your child. But those micro investments may come at the cost of your macro investments in your physical or financial health. Both are important, and you should invest in each of them, but you must also be mindful so that you balance your investments in a way that helps you best achieve your purpose.
Likewise, the investments in the macro visions we have are essential — without that forward-thinking vision, we end up remaining impulsive, only considering the now — dismissing opportunities that we have were we to be more calculative.
So It’s A Balance.
Striking this balance, however, is hard. It’s a constant decision between sacrificing your purpose for momentary investment and sacrificing momentary micro investment for your macro purpose.
Which brings us all the way back to focus and the challenge with being a tourist. So here’s the takeaway. I am not trying to plant the seed of existential doubt and terror into your life and beliefs.
While being a tourist can be a fun break, a traveler is someone with a purpose. They come with an intention — a focus. It’s not about achieving some specific goal, necessarily, but rather a choice and a state of being. And so it can be in our lives.
It all comes down to making intentional investments. Your choices, large and small, over time help to craft your perceptions and ultimately can shift your focus — the direction you’re going. Sometimes you can intentionally be the tourist, gawking and gazing affectionately at any whim that greets you – but most of the time, being a traveler will grant you far deeper and richer rewards.