Five Things You Can Do to Stay Focused in Chaos
Anyone who has achieved the things in life that they say were fulfilling and impactful in some meaningful way will tell you that in order to do so they had to develop laser sharp focus. But what do you do when you don’t have the ideal conditions for laser sharp focus? The reality is that a lot of highly successful people didn’t have all the perfect conditions to achieve their goals. In fact, their successes have sometimes been borne out of situations of chaos and extremely difficult challenges.
Achieving focus in chaos is not simply or always about changing scenes. It might be. But more often it becomes much more critical to achieve what’s important to you by learning to how to focus and innovate in the midst of chaos (trouble, toxicity, mayhem, havoc, drama).
1. Start with Awareness
“Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere. The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself” (Bruce Lee).
Focus starts with acute awareness. But the habit for most of us is to go with the mind chatter that holds us hostage to limited and negative thinking. Your task is to stop incessant thinking, get out of your mind and focus on your breathing, your body. Become aware of your state and how you are responding to and are affected by your thoughts.
Ask how your thinking is stopping you from being aware of what’s going on for you? How is it making you feel? How is it stopping you from moving forward?
Remove yourself from all that mind chatter. Visualize yourself stepping out of your own head and body and as a bigger version of you looking back at yourself and all that thinking and thinking. Extend compassion and forgiveness to the you who has been keeping herself small.
Start with awareness. See untrue thoughts for what they are.
2. Recognize Truth and Possibility
“Everything we see in nature is manifested truth; only we are not able to recognize it unless truth is manifest within ourselves ” (Jacob Bohme).
Ironically, all we will ever see is the chaos in which we live or work if we don’t begin to notice and recognize truth from within ourselves first. The hard task here — and no underestimation of energy in what this initial practice will take — is focusing on the truth of who you are before you can glimpse and manifest the same in your environment.
You may see only chaos outside you. You may have overwhelming evidence that nothing much more than chaos is truly present. But you begin to see more evidence of truth and possibility when you hold the thought of your greatness, worthiness, intelligence, creativity, adaptability, resiliency, strength and wonder, and keep revisiting and spending time with the thought. Seeing truth and possibility is critical to moving forward.
Be present, be aware, spend time with the truth of who you are.
3. Stop Staring at the Chaos
“Where attention goes, energy flows and results show” (T. Harv Eker).
Where are you putting thought, time and effort? If an environment, place, thing, person, or whatever, is in chaos or is disruptive, expending your energy focusing on it, thinking about, and trying to force it to change will prove ineffectual.
In fact, you might want to ask yourself, is focusing on such and such going to enable my goal or is it a distraction from something that is so much more meaningful to me? Often, focusing on the problem or problem area doesn’t help solve anything. But shifting your focus to what feels good and is good puts energy behind your focus.
Practice greater awareness, get to know your truth some more, and refocus your attention from chaos.
4. Take a Step Back
“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
The truth is that being in chaotic environments can be energy depleting, if not in some ways destructive to your health and well-being. I try to remind myself to see such situations as opportunities for learning, growth, resilience-building and a means to innovating. But in order to make such work we need to take a step back.
Taking a step back to me often involves literally changing environment as strategy for pause. It can mean a variety of things, like going for a jog, skiing, playing with my kids, or reading an inspirational book.
Taking a step back can serve several purposes: getting some clean air, renewing energy to focus even more sharply, and importantly, enjoying life’s precious moments.
Perhaps you will refocus to what really matters in the midst of chaos.
5. Don’t Do It Alone
“What you want in a mentor is someone who truly cares for you and who will look after your interests and not just their own. When you do come across the right person to mentor you, start by showing them that the time they spend with you is worthwhile” (Vivek Wadhwa).
This is probably the most important thing you can do when surrounded by chaos. Unfortunately, many of us are in a culture in which we’ve learned to to compete, to compare, to excel, and excellence is an individual endeavor.
However, the highly successful will almost always divulge they had someone to rely on, who inspired them on the journey to their goal or their excellence — a mentor, a coach, a parent, a partner. They never roughed it alone and could not have gotten through the thick without that critical care.
I don’t believe I could ever have kept the focus I have to do the things that are truly important to me if it weren’t for mentorship and the critical people in my life.
A mentor can see through the chaos from experience where you cannot. A mentor can catch you when the chaos overwhelms. A mentor can remind you of your truth and possibility.
And while mentorship and critical support for me has been essential, I don’t think that the type of focus it takes to do the things that have been most meaningful to me could be possible without at least these five things.