Do NOT focus on the future... Focus On Today.
Updated: Jul 26
12 Things NOT TO DO...
Do NOT focus on the future... Focus On Today.
There is a song called Cats In The Cradle, written by Harry Chapin. It describes a son that absolutely worships his dad and only wants to spend time with him, but his Dad is always to busy with work, life, etc… As the son grows up, the roles reverse. The father is older and retired, and lonely, and he really longs for a relationship with his son. But by this time, his son has turned into his father and is off working hard and living busy. In both situations the one would say to the other, “I can’t right now, but we’ll get together soon, you know we’ll have a good time soon”.
This song is tragically sad and as both a son and a father I have lived this situation. My parents divorced when I was 5, and I missed my father very much growing up. And I now have 2 boys 10 and 12 and the first 1/2 of their lives I was traveling like crazy and I missed so much. Even now as I have retooled my life to be able to be there with them, there are times when I catch myself saying, “I can’t right now, but maybe later this week.” Oh what a tragic thing! As parents we only have about 18 short years where they live with us and even want to spend time with us. The time where we are their whole world and they love only us and want to spend time with us is even shorter. Their opinion of how we feel about them is shaped forever but he time they are about 14. As parents, we have such a fleeting set of moments in life to spend “special time” with our kids. I define “special time” as the magical time when we are still the only thing in their world. They just want to sped time with us. When we tell them yes, it is like Christmas morning to them, and when we say no, however gently, whatever the reason, it is like we crushed their spirit and told them, “I don’t want to spend time with you, you are less important than other things, I don’t love you”.
"Thinking about today is what achieves your goals tomorrow."
Whoa! This article is supposed to be about helping you focus on today, why am I telling you this whole parent story? It’s because it is the perfect analogy to explain the reason and the value of focusing on today. For the parent, if you can focus on your child today, they will be so much more balanced, self-confident, full of love, and able to love others TOMORROW, than if you do not. Therefore “thinking about today” helps achieve the goals we have for our children tomorrow. Remember, thinking about today is what achieves your goals tomorrow.
Get Passionate First
Now, there is a balance to considering the future, like say a college fund. I'm not saying "don't plan for the future." But that falls under what we discussed in Issues 1-4 about creating a proper Plan. I have spent a lot of time explaining to you how to figure out what makes you happy, how to set goals, how to create a plan for those goals, and how to make sure that plan is passionate. Today I'm taking for granted you have done this already, now we’re starting to discuss how to think and act, while living the plan. The plan and its metric measurements will focus or “think” about the future for you. You need to have your mind on today. Fulfilling today’s goals, todays passionate purposes, according to that plan.
Many self-help messages will tell you to visualize your future so clearly and so often that it is all you can think about. And the thought of not having it will give you so much annoyance, anger, rage, that it will motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve it. If you bought into that in the past, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that method is a dud! It will not work.
Let me explain why. I spoke in the issue 4 about setting Passionate Goals. We discussed that you can NOT find the intense motivation needed to see a process through without Passion. Big goals, like being debt free, being wealthily, having a successful company, having a great relationship, these are all HUGE things to accomplish. Less than 5% of humans ever accomplish them in business and less than 25% in relationships. And the reason is” They do NOT know how to set Passionate goals”. No amount of future visualization can replace action today.
Passion, not anger, is what will give you enough motivation to actually succeed. Being angry that you do not have money or cars or stuff, can be temporarily motivating, but it is more the kind of motivation that will drive you to rob an ATM, than the kind of motivation that will drive you to get real with yourself about what you really want, be honest about how you really want to accomplish it, put in the years of hard work it takes to research and execute the method you choose to take you there. You need the kind of motivation that will push you to NEVER quit, NEVER stop, NEVER give up, until you reach that goal. Success requires passion, and not losing that passion is a key. (see Issue 4)
Focus On Today
So how does that relate to today? Well, we’ve established that focusing on, or dreaming about the future can help you create your end goals, but after that it is time to get to work. That requires focus on today. Let me give you some examples.
Do you think that when Tom Brady throws the winning touchdown for his latest Super Bowl he is thinking about the big ring, the magazine covers, the talkshows, the salary bump, and the interviews for the Super Bowl afterparties, or do you think at that moment he is thinking about how the current play is evolving, the layout of the field, where every receiver and their defensive cover is, who is closest to the end zone, with the best chance of catching the ball safely?
Do you think that when Tiger Woods is hitting the last putt on his latest PGA comeback match, that he is thinking about next years Nike endorsements, or do you think he’s focused on the distance to the cup, the sun, the wind, the humidity, and the lay of the grass?
Do you think that when Kyle Busch is on lap 200 of 400 at Pocono, he's thinking about being in the winners circle later getting sprayed with champagne, his NASCAR standings, his sponsors, his private jet ride home, or do you think he puts every ounce of thought into the performance of his car, the feel of the track, the cars around him, the voice in his headset, and the strategy of his passing? Do you think at 200 miles per hour he's thinking about anything but every exact moment of that race, as it was happening?
I just gave you 3 professional sports analogies. In each one, as I am writing this, these are top performers in their field. In each instance, these people have set very large, long term goals. They have throughs about their future. They have created dreams. But then they got to work. In fact all 3 of them are currently living IN their thought about, and dreamed about future. But the real question is how did they get there? Well they got there by focusing on the moment. By thousands of hours of practice and study in their industry. By thousands of hours of practical work in their industry. By failing, and getting back up again, learning from their mistakes, starting as square one, adjusting their plan, and doing it all again. And WHY are they still on top? Because they continue to live in, to perform in, and to focus on THE MOMENT. Today. Put simply, “They have thier tomorrow, because they focused on today.”
"Success tomorrow will ALWAYS be because of work done today."
Success tomorrow will be because of work done today. Because of you following the plan today. Because of you not giving up, not slacking off, not deviating, but by hammering out your plan, day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes year after year.
(these are generalities, but pretty good numbers to go by)
It will take you 30 days to form any habit. (same to break one)
It will take you 6 months to see any results from working your plan.
It will take you 1 year to be able to measure how your doing and make real adjustments.
It will take you 5 years to really reach your larger goals.
You will FAIL at achieving your goals if you FAIL to focus on today's actions.
There are 2 Reasons to Focus On Today
In the end, there are two reasons to focus on today. The first is that by focusing on today, you have a greater chance of taking the actions possible today, that will help to achieve your long term plan. If you figure you plan at 5 years, that is 1824 days. That is 1824 times you need to say yes to your plan. 1824 times you need to say yes to discipline, yes to your method, yes to the 1,2,3,5 or however many things you need to do today to accomplish you plan. And just because you did the last 10 days in a row, does not mean you’ve “earned” a day off. You can have a day off 1824 days from now, when you will have earned some big things. (celebrating little things along the way is ok, if you included them in your plan) But STAY FOCUSED until you are actually done. That does not mean don't enjoy the moment. It means don't slack on the work.
The Second reason you MUST focus on today is what I Call SYTL, or SpendYourTimeLIving. That means don’t wait for the future to be happy, enjoy happy monuments, give others happiness, take in a sunset, send time with your kids, etc.. You MUST live for today. If you have created a proper, balanced plan you will have time in there to live today. If you do not follow your plan, you will either end up not working the plan, being lazy and not happy, or you will work 24/7 because you're not working smart and you will miss out on life and burn out before your goals are met.
You must balance career and personal. That does NOT mean equal time. During a career build time you may have less personal time and visa versa. But do that ACCORDING TO YOUR PLAN. Remember this. If you don't make a plan for success, your are planning to fail. However, if you can stick to your plan, work hard, focus on the moments of today and making them count, making them the best they can be, in both life and business... If you do that you will accomplish a Hat Trick (hockey term meaning accomplish 3 positive things at once)
1. You take steps forward to your long term goals every day.
2. You enjoy the journey because you are following your chosen method and plan.
3. You balance time with work and family, so you don’t miss out on family time, rather you maximize it while pursuing your goals.
Focusing on Today allows you to be here and now for business and personal. And all those people in both will recognize it, love you for it, and it will help you succeed.
Your homework is as follows:
1. Go back through Issues 1-4 (if you have not already). Find what makes you happy, determine your personal and business goals, choose a method to reach them that aligns with what makes you happy, write out a proper plan, and begin.
2. After you are done with that, list all the things you need to do today (according your personal and business goals) and make sure you do them for 30 days straight, no break. Form that habit!
That’s it. Simple homework this issue. A little reading and writing, then just 30 days doing what you need to do. In Issue 6 we'll be discussing Living On Purpose.