On a scale of one to ten, how motivated and driven do you feel today?
Maybe you’re firing on all cylinders, laser-focused on what will move you closer to your goals. If that’s you…hurray! Keep going.
Perhaps you’re tooling along just fine. You’re not setting the world on fire, but it’s good enough for right now. Great! Good enough is a perfectly acceptable standard to aim for sometimes.
Or maybe you’re struggling to focus on the goals you’ve committed to. You have lots of ideas, but often feel overwhelmed about which ones to prioritize, and the drive needed to push through the hard, boring aspects of the work just isn’t there. Maybe there’s some head-trash slowing you down too. If this resonates, nothing is wrong or broken, we ALL feel like this at times.
But no one feels great when they’re overwhelmed and unfocused, right? Happily, there’s a lot we can do to redirect toward our desired outcomes. In this post, I will guide you through a process that will transform a low-energy state into focused, forward momentum.
I will share:
- An overview of how focus, motivation, and drive actually work
- How to identify the 3 things that matter most to you (because not everything deserves your full attention)
- A simple framework to help you remember what to focus on (because that’s a thing too!)
Ready to channel your focus, motivation, and drive in the direction of what you want?
Step One: Understand how focus works
I used to think of focus as a somewhat fixed entity and that folks who thought and took action in a more linear, consistent way were “good” at focusing, while the more visionary, non-linear, creative thinkers were not so good at it.
Pretty binary, right?
So, when Dr Amishi Jha described focus as a flashlight of attention, it expanded how I thought about and engaged with focus. Let me share an example she used. Imagine you’re walking home from the train station, it’s dark and your senses are on high alert. You have a flashlight trained on the pavement in front of you. Suddenly, you hear a noise behind you. Is someone behind you?!!! You swing around, taking the flashlight beam with you. Once you establish it’s not an ax murderer and just a cat stepping on a twig (great news as long as you’re not scared of cats, LOL!), you turn around, training your flashlight back on its original focus – the pavement in front of you and getting home.
That’s what your focus is like. Sometimes you get to choose where it’s trained. Sometimes it temporarily gets yanked in a different direction. That’s a feature, not a bug. How long your focus remains elsewhere is another matter, but just thinking about it this way is pretty liberating, right?
Here’s another thing I learned while adding “certified ADHD coach” to my business coaching toolkit – focus, motivation, and how we feel, have everything to do with one another, and in turn how good we feel about the progress we’re making in business and life.
Enter the oft-misunderstood neuromodulator, Dopamine. Contrary to popular belief, Dopamine is not just about reward (the term “dopamine hit”, while catchy, is inaccurate), but determines our levels of motivation, desire, and drive. For folks who experience lower levels of Dopamine (ADHD, which is in my coaching wheelhouse, is just one reason for this), connecting desires with the motivation and drive to see them through can be enormously challenging. My neurodivergent clients share that the more tedious aspects of being a creative freelancer or entrepreneur such as administration, bookkeeping, and filing taxes are a constant struggle. Relatable?
A silver lining to all this. When we understand our unique Dopamine baseline, and how we focus, we can tinker with our habits and strategies to maximize and direct that focus to the things that matter. Kind of cool, right?
*For those of you interested in taking a deeper dive into Dopamine, I highly recommend looking up neuroscientist Andrew Huberman on YouTube and searching “Dopamine” for awesome science-backed information and tools.
Step Two: Identify the 3 things that matter MOST to you
As a creative entrepreneur you will always have more ideas than the capacity to make them happen (sad trombone noise!). In Step One, we established that each of us focuses differently. We also care about very different things, which is one reason why comparing ourselves to others is so futile. Where one creative business owner may have the desire to build a full-service agency with staff, a physical office, and high-ticket clients, another may want to build a highly profitable service-based business-of-one. In each of these scenarios, the goals you identify and actions you take will be VERY different, while being perfectly on-point for each person.
How do you figure out what’s right for you, sift through all of your ideas, and drill down to just three? I wrote an entire blog post on this topic so check it out!
Step Three: The Four C’s focus framework
A funny thing happens when I’m doing personal and professional development work. It made SO much sense at the time, I think I’ll never forget it. And then I forget it!
I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, which is why I came up with the Four C’s focus framework to help creative freelancers and entrepreneurs remember where to direct, or re-direct their focus (regardless of their unique goals).
Creative ideas need time and space to develop. And that time is not something our productivity-obsessed culture will grant you – you’re going to have to take it and defend it. It took me years to stop feeling guilty about swimming laps (where my brain comes up with ideas and solves problems) during “work” hours.
For a creative entrepreneur or freelancer:
- Looking out of the window is working
- Walking the dog is working
- Reading a novel is working
What are your non-work creative activities?
Action item: Instead of fitting these activities around your “work”, place them front and center for a couple of weeks and see what happens.
As creative freelancers and entrepreneurs, it can be very easy to become isolated. Whether you’re extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between, people need people. As Brene Brown says: “We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to”.
I’ve joined, created, and led communities for as long as I’ve been in business. From group coaching, business retreats, and the monthly community boost Creative Mornings provides, I need other folks to bounce ideas off, co-create, and share support. What about you? Who’s in your arsenal of professional and personal supporters and cheerleaders? If you can’t easily come up with a few folks, might I suggest you think about starting to reach out and build those relationships? You won’t be sorry you did!
Capacity is simply the resources you have to complete the things that are on your plate. I love Charlie Gikley’s acronym, TEAM (Time, Energy, Attention, and Money). Capacity is also fluid. For example, in this season of my life when I still have young kids, time is my most precious resource.
“Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays.” Morgan Housel
Everything I take on has to be within my time capacity, otherwise the wheels start to fall off. Be honest with yourself about your capacity and focus your resources accordingly.
No one’s riding for free and whatever your dreams are, they need funding. Sometimes you’ll be flush, and sometimes things will be a little tighter. But keeping an eye on your cash is what enables you to play the business game of business long enough to be successful.
OK, we covered a lot here, so feel free to pick and choose what area you’d like to focus on (pun intended!). There is no right order and you can’t get it wrong.
Do you need help honing your focus, and distilling what matters to you into a clear and actionable roadmap? I’d love to help! If you believe an industry veteran who is equal parts invested / non-judgmental / lovingly honest can benefit you, we should talk. Click here and let’s get your complimentary introductory call on the calendar.