Variety is the spice of life. But if you – like me – view the world as an exciting buffet of opportunities to learn, try and create new things, you know that variety can be dangerous.
The problem is that it’s easy to get distracted from the goals and commitments you’ve already made. Rather than seeing things through to completion, you abandon the goals and projects you’ve already started to chase after whatever new thing has just caught your eye.
I call this “shiny object” syndrome, and it has derailed the success of many people who could be very successful – if they only could maintain their focus long enough to complete a goal.
If you frequently abandon commitments in favor of new interests and projects, here are five techniques I’ve found helpful in evaluating new opportunities.
Postpone Your Decision. It’s easy to get swept away with excitement when you stumble across something new and exciting. Try waiting a few days before making a final decision about whether or not to commit to the new opportunity. During this self-imposed cooling-off period, you’ll probably find that your enthusiasm wanes and you’re better able to evaluate whether this new opportunity will move you closer to your goal.
During your waiting period, make a list of all things you could possibly do with your time, including both the new opportunity and your existing commitments. Ask yourself where you would schedule time for the new activity or project. You’ll quickly see that there’s not enough time for everything you want to achieve, and you’ll see exactly what you would have to give up to squeeze the new opportunity into your schedule.
Review Board. I’m constantly coming up with new projects that I want to do, as well as fielding exciting joint venture proposals from colleagues. Rather than making the executive decision to take on a new project and then delegating the work to my staff, I now seek my team’s buy-in first. If they say that taking on a potential new project would require sacrificing a more important existing goal, the idea is put on hold.
If you don’t have a staff or co-workers, create your own review board. Ask people you trust and who understand your goals for input before you commit to taking on any new projects or work.
Inner Board of Advisors. Create an imaginary group of mentors that you can turn to for advice. Simply create some quiet time, close your eyes and ask your board for advice about the opportunity you are considering. Your inner board of advisors can include anyone – alive or deceased, famous or not, people you’ve met and people you’ve only read about. Mine includes author and activist Helen Keller, as well as President John F. Kennedy. Although both are deceased, I get very distinct guidance when I ask for their help and open up to their wisdom.
Forced Choice Technique. Write a list of all of the things you want to do. Then prioritize your list using a forced comparison. With this technique, you compare items one at a time, from the top of the list to the bottom. Start by asking which you would rather do – item one or item two. Take the winner and compare it to the next item on the list. Then compare that winner – let’s say it is item three – and compare it to item four. Once you’ve done a forced comparison with all items on the list, you’ll have identified your number one priority.
Now go back to remaining items on your list, and start the forced comparison process again with the first two items. Repeat the entire process until you have prioritized the entire list of activities. This will help you gauge the importance of the new activity or project you are considering in comparison with everything else you have already committed to.
Finally, ask yourself the following two questions: “What is the most effective use of my time now?” and “What’s the most important thing to do today?” This will help you maintain focus in a sea of choices.
Muscle Testing. When in doubt about your enthusiasm for the fun opportunity you just discovered, simply ask your body for its input.
The easiest way is to use the standing body lean. With this process, you stand and ask your body to show you a “yes.” After a few seconds, your body will start to lean forward or backward. Then ask your body to show you a “no,” at which point it should lean the opposite direction. Once you’ve calibrated yourself, ask your body whether you should act on the opportunity. The answer you receive in the form of a simple lean will reveal what truly is in your best interest.
Maintaining the focus you need to complete goals can be difficult when the world offers so many exciting things to learn, do and experience. Use these five tips to ensure that any new opportunities you choose to pursue will support, rather than detract, from your existing commitments. By resisting the adrenaline rush that comes from starting something new, you’ll find it easier to complete more of what you start – delivering a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat.
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
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Image courtesy of Michael.